Friday, September 5, 2014

10 Ways to Keep JOY in Marriage

A Christian girl’s guide to wives & wives to be



This article was originally published in September 2014. It has been reprinted here with edits. 

Ten years ago, before the Lord and a small congregation of people, my husband and I said our "I do's" and committed our lives to each other. It was truly a joyful beginning.

But really, it was only that, a beginning. Around the same time, many others we knew also got married. Since then, we've watched too many marriages fall apart. We've seen others still married, but struggling through. We've realized how blessed we are. Sure, we’ve been through our own share of conflicts and frustration. Through deaths and births. Through disagreements, disappointment, and debt. We're still raising toddlers and kiddos and we lack many years. But in these first years, the Lord has shown a few things along the way, things I wish someone had told me a little earlier. Some are little things, some are much bigger … and obviously, I’m leaving many things out. But these are lessons that come back to me again and again, learned firsthand, through many failures, much forgiveness, and much grace. I love my husband. I thank God for my husband. I thank Him for such a blessed marriage. It is the most joyful thing to be married. Not without work, and sacrifice, and a deep giving of yourself. But aren't those things that we give the most for the things that become the most precious to us? God has blessed us greatly, so I share here, a few lessons learned along the way. 

1) Seek opportunities to say, “thank you for…”, “I appreciate you because…” and “Ohh, you look good today” 

Of course be real. Don’t make stuff up. But also don’t assume that he knows it. If you say, “I love you”, tell him one reason why, it makes it mean so much more. Don’t assume he’s strong and okay and already knows. Don’t think it will make him proud or cocky or conceited. He faces a whole pile of junk as soon as he steps out the door and goes to work. All the pressures of this life, all the voices that yell at him and make him feel like junk. So affirm him. Let your words bless him, and let him know that he is truly appreciated.

2) Pay attention to his likes and dislikes.

Pack his favorite snack when he goes off to work. Make a surprise late night treat and bring it to him as the end of the day. If you know he likes it when you wear a certain shirt, or he dislikes it when you leave your hair in the bathtub (guilty), try to make a mental note of these things. Some of these may be hidden little things that he may never directly notice, but they are little things that make a difference.

3) When he starts talking, stop what you’re doing. 

Forget about your agenda or the 1000 things you have to accomplish. Just stop. Keep your mouth closed. And listen. It takes a lot for a guy to open up. If he does, treasure this rare moment and keep quiet, otherwise he might not share the treasures of his heart with you next time. (or be hurt and just shut up quickly)

4) And while you’re at it … Hold your tongue.

Not just when he’s talking, but especially in an argument or when you’re upset about something. Give anger a chance to pass. If you hold back that last spiteful remark, you will save hours (or days) of agony for both of you, and chances are, you will forget you were even angry within a few minutes.

5) Pray for him everyday. 

The Bible talks about men being won by their wives, “without a word…” (1 Peter 3:1). Sometimes it seems like something is off or not right with your husband. Maybe you see he is down and depressed and discouraged. It is natural for us to want to fix it and make it right and pester him until he pours out his heart. But sometimes he doesn’t want to. Or can’t. Or even shouldn’t. Besides, it’s not for us to fix our husband, that’s for God to do. So pray for him often. If you do see a fault or notice something seems wrong, don’t broadcast it to your family or friends. Don't go running to him right away. Take it to the Lord in prayer. And wait. And pray. “Love is patient." Another translation says, “love suffers long” (1 Cor 13:4a)
  • It is wonderful if you can pray together daily and read some portion of scripture individually and together. But don’t pester. You can ask gently but if this isn’t something he is into, just pray for opportunities and be faithful to pray and read the bible daily on your own.
  • If you are so blessed to have a husband who wants to retreat for prayer and escape for some healthy cave time in prayer and in the word. … oh let him. If he values this time more than you, if he wants to retreat by himself for a few minutes after coming in from a grueling day at the office, count yourself blessed. And let him. There is nothing in you that can revive or strengthen your husband more than him having precious communion with the Lord. So if you are blessed to have a husband who wants to retreat and be by himself for a little while, let him. He will be a better husband and father for it. Let him love God more than you. You’ll reap the blessing. Really, I promise. 

6) Don’t deprive him.

Did I really include this? Yes *blush* I did. You’re tired. You have many tasks to do. Your mind is thinking about all of the chores of tomorrow. But if your husband wants to have some intimate time, can you deny yourself and take a few extra minutes and bless Him? I know this isn't stuff we usually talk about. But since we're talking about marriage, we wives really all need to all ditch the “I’m tired” excuse. Do you know what Christ has done for us? How he laid down his life for us? Yes, I may sound crazy, but I think it applies to the marriage bed too. Deny yourself from your tiredness. Deny your thoughts from yourself and all that you think you deserve at that moment. And bless your husband with a joyful response to his desire. If you really have no strength, then ask the Lord for strength to bless your husband at that moment. He will answer. There is an ugly world out there. There are many images that would seek to steal your husbands eyes. And other girls that will appreciate him. Bless your husband in the bed. Make it a bed he wants to come to at night. Fight for your husband in your marriage bed. Fight for his eyes. Fight for his heart. Of course marriage is more than sex. But a healthy, joyful marriage should include sex. Bless Him. Honor Him. Give yourself to Him fully in the marriage bed. A healthy marriage bed is a wonderful defense against all that the world wants use to distract your husband. I wouldn’t have included this if I didn’t think it was truly important. A joyful marriage should include sex. And often. 
   

7) Don’t make a small thing into a big thing.

Maybe you don’t have an extra $20 to spend, but he wants to take a friend out to dinner. Maybe he said something that made you cringe. Maybe he was short with you on his way out the door. Maybe he forgot to call you at work one day. These are small things. These are not things worthy of a fight. You may be hurt. But your response can either turn this into nothing, or a gigantic fight. Learn to let small things go. Learn to let go of hurts. Learn to pray when you see something that should change. But these little things are truly that, little things. Don't let your response make it a huge fight. If you do feel there is something that needs to be brought up, wait. Pray. Wait. Pray. Wait. Pray some more. Sometimes, the Lord will fix it without you saying a word (Remember #5?). If you do need to address a problem, wait until another time when he knows you care and love him, when it isn’t a reaction to something. Then, with kindness and gentleness, prayerfully share with him your concern.

8) Let him lead, with much prayer.

This somewhat goes with the one above. Yes, we the Lord are called to submit. The Lord has created men and women differently (That's another post for another time). But submission is not passive. It doesn't mean you are a blanket who has no opinion or will and just do exactly what your husband says. You are his heart. You are the one who brings the kindness and the gentleness when all he sees are the facts. You are meant to work together. Yet, he is meant to lead. And each time you let him lead, you strengthen him as a man. So when he says, "lets move here" or "why don't you consider this ... ?" Or, "can we talk about ...?" Let him lead the way. If you think your husband is not a "leader type", perhaps it is because you have been a little too loud or a little too bossy. Perhaps you need to be a little slower to speak. Many men have been so beat around by today's society that they have forgotten how to lead. But they can learn again. If we can learn to submit again. 
But submission is ACTIVE. It is not passive. If you disagree, share with your husband with a heart of love. If you think he is going the wrong way, get on your knees and pray. Let him make the final decision. But don't think you are excused. Seek the Lord. Pray for your husband. And do not withhold your heart. 


9) Don’t withhold forgiveness. 

In a strange way, sometimes I think we like the “feeling” of being mad. We want Him to KNOW that we are mad and that HE made us mad. Doesn’t he realize what a jerk he was? Doesn’t he know how hurt we are? Maybe, but often times no, he doesn’t. And you know what. It’s okay. Let go of wanting to be mad. Forgive him before he says he’s sorry. Forget he hurt you, even if he never apologizes (really, he may be ignorant). Whatever you do, don’t ever keep a list of wrongs to bring up and explode with the next time he hurts you or makes the same mistake.

10) Be a joyful wife, not a nagging, “drippy faucet”. 

When a woman shows her husband that she loves, esteems, and enjoys him, she strengthens him to be a better husband and daddy. When she shows him she appreciates him and compliments his successes - instead of pointing out his failures, she makes him want to be helpful around the house. When she listens and encourages his good ideas, she makes him want to come home after work and spend time with her and listen to her heart. To the naysayers that say this is old-fashioned, Maybe. But this is beauty. This is a successful marriage. No marriage is successful without a spouse being willing to deny themselves and bless the other. But when you deny yourself, and try to bless your husband, it almost always comes back to bless you. This is a truth that has stood the test of time. Enjoy your husband, laugh with your husband (in the marriage bed too), and he wants to be with you.  But if we nag, and nag some more, list things he’s doing wrong, or all the things you think he could be doing better, he probably will just feel like running away. So try not to be that “drippy faucet” (Proverbs 19:13, 27:15). Rejoice in your husband. Seek to be the joyful wife that receives him home each day and sends him fun notes and pictures of the kiddos (if you have kiddos) during the day. When a woman really gives her heart and her life and her joy to her husband, he longs to be with her and please her. He may even start doing some of those needed things without us even asking. 
And what about those things we want to nag about? That project he said he'd finish two months ago? Relax, they’ll get done eventually. It’s better to have a happy marriage that a house that looks like it came out of a magazine. And really, if he doesn’t take out the trash, would it hurt to do it ourselves, in joy, glad that we can come alongside and help our husband through his busy day? 

Final thoughts.

Girls, this isn’t stuff we can do on our own. We can’t forgive. We can’t love. We can’t let go of our own ideas and ways and wants - except by His strengthening. You can try. And these are probably things that would help any marriage, even those who don't have a relationship with God. However, you can’t sustain it. Without Christ, we will come to a point where we can’t forgive. Without Christ, we will remember every wrong. Without Christ, we will get so frustrated at repeating sins and circumstances that don’t disappear overnight … we will give up.  

But with Christ, all things really are possible.
In Christ, a broken marriage can be restored.
An unbelieving spouse can be won to Christ.
A faltering spouse can be brought back from the error of his ways.
And a tired, weary, couple … can become passionate and joyful and full of first love again.

Give yourself wholly to the Lord, to live according to what He has asked of you in marriage. Give yourself to prayer, to travail for your husband, and I can almost guarantee you will see things change. 
 “…but what about my husband? What if he doesn’t change right away?”
What does the Lord say to John? “What is that to you, you follow me.”
You do what you feel like the Lord is showing you. Start by praying. Begin complimenting and looking for areas to praise. Don’t be fake, but ask the Lord to give you a fresh appreciation. Forgive. If you can’t, go and get on your knees in desperation and cry with the Lord until He answers. You change first. And then, as the scriptures says, “so that the man may be won, without a word, by the behavior of his wife” (1 Pet. 3:1).

And “the husband is sanctified by the believing wife” (1 Cor. 7:14)

So that as it is written, “let God be found true, and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4) His word says it, it must be true. So let’s be in prayer, until what He says is manifested true on this earth and in us and in our marriage. 


This article was originally published in September 2014 on www.chroniclesofmomia.com. It has been republished with edits February 2018. Copyright Katherine Pittman, chroniclesofmomia. 

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