Maximising your Marriage and Moving Beyond Mediocrity
It is ten years to the day when my husband asked me to be ‘more than friends’ when we were walking along a remote windswept beach. And today we have been married for eight and a half years. Our friends will tell you that he and I are very different people. Isn’t it funny how two very different people can complement each other rather well? Like any married couple however, we will tell you that marriage is no picnic in the park. The differences that once attracted us can become little frustrations over time. Marriage can be beautifully messy, just like real life is beautifully messy. While we have been fortunate to bypass significant conflict in our marriage, the one pitfall that we have had to guard against is mediocrity. This seems to be a common scenario when couples have ben married around seven years or so. If you were to take an inventory of your marriage, how would it rate? On a scale of one to ten, would you describe it as a 1? maxed out (on the rocks, full of conflict, stress and pain), to a 10 (maximised, fulfilled, strong, happy) or would it be around about a 5 (mediocre, ok but room for improvement). I know from our marriage that there is always room for improvement.
Mediocrity can also be a common scenario for couples that have a menagerie of young children at home. Children are indeed a wonderful blessing. They contribute richness, joy and beautiful mess to our lives. However many spouses report feeling maxed out, and like they are running on empty whether they have littlies or older children. Couples with babies and toddlers especially can feel like they are in survival mode. Between sleepless nights, nappy changes, household management, work demands, and bills, many couples can feel like they are ships passing in the night, just communicating about the necessities. And when they are older life becomes busy running here and there as a cash dispensing taxi driver, not to mention the addition of work and other commitments. Where is the time to oneself as a mother let alone time for one’s spouse? When my husband comes home from work late, he often gets the crumbs left over. I have little left to give. Does this sound familiar? From Okay to Outstanding, Good to Great
Busyness and the pressures of life can really squeeze a marriage over time. Are your schedules running the show? When we are in the busy years of parenting, how do we maximize our marriage and guard against mediocrity?
Maintain a sense of individual identity: Be your own person and cultivate separate friends and different interests, but always prioritize your marriage above other relationships.
‘Mom and Dad Time’: We laugh now that when the children were small our date night simply consisted of watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and then we would fall asleep on the couch. That was the extent of our date night! Now we have a proper date night at home or we might arrange a baby-sitting swap with another couple so that we can have an evening out. But it doesn’t have to be grand or lavish. Find things that you like to do together that aren’t child centred. Our society can be so child centred today, however it is a lie of our culture that we should put our kids first. Perhaps the best thing we can give to our children is a strong marriage. We need to find ways of prioritizing quality time together where we can share our hearts and listen attentively. And when you do have a date night, try not to talk only about the kids!
Don’t take your spouse forgranted: I want to be grateful for the spouse God has given me. And I want to put him first. Marriage reveals how self focussed we can be, especially in the ‘selfie’ society that we live in. Date nights are key for spending quality time and this builds intimacy, but we also need to evaluate how we treat each other during the rest of the week. Am I behaving like a Mrs Grumpypants or a Mrs Gracious?
Rediscover the Romance in your Relationship & Pursue Passion: Prioritize your intimate relationship, because this is a good indicator of the health of your marriage. Try beginning a conversation. What are his needs? What are your needs? And if you are fatigued because of caring for your children, ensure that your husband knows that your reason for not wanting intimacy is because of fatigue and not a rejection of him.
Prayer: There are many pressures on families today, and marriages are really under attack. The cheesy one liner ‘couples who pray together stay together’ really has some truth to it. Keep Christ in the centre of your marriage, remembering that ‘a chord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12) I’m not much of a gardener, however I’ve written before about the garden of marriage. I often joke that if I neglected my marriage as much as I neglect our garden, it would be in a sorry state! But are we as married couples watering? Are we feeding? Are we pruning? These are essential if we want our marriage to flourish.
The Music of Marriage I also like to think of marriage as a duet. When we as spouses sing the song of life together, we need to ensure that we are singing from the same song sheet! Even though the duet may not be singing the same note, there are harmonious intervals of tone and pitch. Changes in dynamics and tempo add interest. There may also be some intervals of dissonance, but as in the compositionof music, in the composition of marriage the aim is to conclude with a harmonious tonal chord.
Let’s aim for consonance in communication if we want maximise our marriage, especially during the busy season of raising the next generation.