If you are like most people, you're probably thinking... "Why would I fight for my marriage when things are going great?" In one sense, the word "fighting" doesn't sound like a great word to be used in conjunction with the word "marriage." On the other hand, it depends on your definition of the "fighting."
noun: fighting; plural noun: fightings
1. the action of fighting; violence or conflict. (ex. "terrible fighting broke out in the streets")
Synonyms: Violence, hostilities, conflict, action, combat, warfare, war, battles.
1. displaying or engaging in violence, combat, or aggression. (ex. "he was a fighting man")
Other definitions go from "to quarrel or argue" to "struggle or campaign against."
Let's narrow the focus a bit. Another definition is "endeavor vigorously to win (an election or other contest)." In plain words, this means "to try with the best of your ability, with unwavering consistency, and ultimate determination to win."
Fight to win.
This sounds much better. So now that we have context, let's talk about fighting for your marriage even when things are good.
If there is one thing that I know, it's that true winners are legacy minded. They keep their eyes on the ultimate goal and perform the necessary actions day in and day out to achieve that goal. True winners know that daily sacrifices of time and energy are the required ingredients for achieving true success.
Winners fight the good fight. They fight against evil and stand for what's right. They fight for their families and for their marriages, not against them.
Offense + Defense = Winning
If you think about a warrior (No, not the Golden State Warriors), you may have an image of a strong individual with a shield on one hand and a sword in the other. When going into battle, the warrior must use the shield to block the attacks of the enemy and the sword to attack the enemy. A good warrior is skilled in both offense and defense.
You can also use the example of a boxer or MMA fighter. In order to survive in the ring, they must defend against their opponents attacks, and also land blows in order to win the match. Without a clear strategy both offensively and defensively, they risk not only losing the match, but ending their careers with one blow. With the warrior in the previous example, the consequences aren't just ending their careers, but ending their lives.
Preventative VS Reactionary Models
If you know me, then you know that I have been in the senior healthcare industry for most of my career. One of the things that I truly believe in (especially for seniors 65+ years old) is preventative healthcare. I have seen firsthand how doctors discover conditions early and treat them before they get worse. In order for this preventative model to work, the patient must show up a certain number of times every year to get their blood drawn, get their preventative screenings, and receive their annual wellness exams. In most cases, doctors are able to catch things right away which prevents the patient ending up in the hospital, or worse.
This is a much better model than the alternative model. I call it reactionary healthcare. In the reactionary method, the patient only shows up when they are already sick. Many times, the patient hasn’t seen the doctor in a very long time and they may have developed chronic conditions that have gradually gotten worse over time. Sometimes, when the patient finally shows up, it’s already too late. Their conditions are far too advanced to treat and they have to live with those conditions for the rest of their life. Sometimes, because of these conditions, the rest of their life isn’t that far off. It’s not the ideal kind of care that you would want for your parents.
This got me to thinking, what if more marriages did the preventative work beforehand? What if couples paid enough attention that they discovered issues early on, and decided to treat these issues before they get worse? I would think that in order for this model to work, there must be an intentional investment in their marriage. I feel like there are many life-giving resources for marriages that aren’t being used enough, such as marriages retreats, conferences, books, and Bible studies. These are all practical things that successful marriages implement as preventative measures against the enemy. Adding some of these life-giving activities to your relationship will introduce you to a whole new level of love and intimacy. Oh, and if you are wondering what is usually prescribed to these couples, it’s Jesus. He’s the only one who can heal our hearts.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that many have it backwards and operate out of the reactionary style. Far too often, couples find themselves with chronic heart conditions that have been unnoticed and untreated. These conditions of the heart lead to infidelity, lack of intimacy, disagreements and much more. Too many times, couples who are already on the brink of divorce finally start looking for solutions when they are already sick. They skip the retreats and Bible studies, but find themselves with a Christian counselor instead. This is because they allow things to get bad before they take action. The issue compounds when they aren’t dealing with just one issue, but multiple issues. Sometimes, their issues have gotten so bad that they don’t even want to fight for their marriage anymore. At this point, it seems that they have developed their own autoimmunity. For many, this is the sad end to a relationship that should have worked, for others it takes deep, soul-cleansing healing.
This healing comes from the one who can raise us from the dead, who can give us life, and who can heal our broken hearts.
So why don't we do more preventative work in marriages? I mean, we do that in so many other places.
We go to the dentist to prevent cavities
We exercise and eat good to stay healthy.
We gas up our cars so that we don’t end up on the side of the road, and we get regular oil changes so that our cars don’t break down.
How can we see the importance to prevent disaster in some things and forget to prevent disaster in our marriages?
Top Reasons for Divorce
Not too long ago, I sat at my computer and Googled, “Top reasons for divorce.” I read article after article on divorce and thought to myself, “If these are the most popular reasons for divorce, shouldn’t more people actively safe-guard their marriages against these?”
I took out a blank sheet of paper, drew a line down the center of it, then wrote “problems” on the left side of the page and “solutions” on the right side. In the problems section, I listed all of the marriage problems that I found online that caused the most divorces. On the right side, I wrote the best possible solutions to these problems that I could possible think of. My goal was to establish preventative care for my marriage.
After finding many different reasons for divorce, here are the top 5 reasons that I found:
Lack of Communication
Lack of Intimacy
From Problems to Solutions
1. Infidelity: From Empty to Refueled.
This isn’t a surprise to be at the top of the list. What I know from it is that for most couples, it doesn’t usually happen instantly.
Safeguard Against Emotional Affairs:
Infidelity usually begins as an innocent friendship that turns into an “emotional affair” and then ends up as a “physical affair”. So rule #1 is to safeguard your marriage by being cautious with relationships from the opposite sex. Selina and I have a very conservative approach that we believe more marriages should implement. We have a rule that we will not go out to lunch or dinner, one-on-one, with anybody from the opposite sex. Actually, Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, received a lot of heat for doing the same thing. Apparently many people think that this is a huge overreaction and claim that this conservative approach is absurd.
Contrary to these critical views (and political beliefs aside), I stand with the Vice President and have even implemented it into my marriage. The truth of the matter is this... If the #1 reason for divorce is infidelity, and if infidelity mostly occurs from innocent friendships, then we must actively safeguard our marriages against these things. Naturally, the more time that you spend with someone, the closer you get to them. Setting limitations and boundaries is a critical defense from the slow and seemingly innocent attacks from the enemy.
Seek Out Crazy Couples:
Selina and I have been blessed to have great relationships with great people whom we can learn a lot from. One of those relationships is with Pastor Randy and Kelli Ayres, lead pastors of Cross Mountain Church in San Antonio, TX. They once shared with Selina and I one of the things that they have applied in their lives when it comes to their marriage. They told us, “Surround yourselves with couples that are absolutely crazy about their spouses.” Such a simple concept, but so profound.
I have seen firsthand how surrounding yourself with the right people can help lift your marriage up to a new level. When you are doing life with other like-minded, Christ-serving, madly-in-love couples, it will not only motivate you, but it will keep you accountable.
I remember having a conversation with an old friend of mine over lunch. He was recently married and seemed absolutely excited about his new journey of marriage. He told me about how much he loved his wife and how she has helped him become a better person.
I was so excited to see him so happy, until I saw him look over my shoulder and whisper, “Wow… check out that beautiful blonde at the register.” That was all he said, but his eyes told the rest of the story. I saw him look her up and down several times and then get up to go pretend to refill his drink cup. I was shocked.
He got back to his seat with a grin on his face, when I asked him, “Weren’t you just talking about your wife and how great she was, and how she’s made you a better person?”
He fired back, “There’s nothing wrong with admiring God’s beautiful creation.”
After that day at lunch, I realized that this was not the type of friend that I could do life with. He wasn’t the type to help me keep my eyes on God, and for that matter… my spouse. It reminded me of what Paul says in the New Testament about bad company, “Don’t be fooled, bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t cut him out of my life. I will simply continue reach out to him and preay that God changes his heart. All I know is that for myself and for my marriage, it was not healthy or wise to pursue deeper friendship with him.
If this kind of thing happens with a close friend of yours, you may want to have a conversation with them about this. It’s a tough conversation to have, but it may go something like this.
“Hey, I just want you to know that I have enjoyed our friendship so much. As your friend, I want to tell you that God is calling me to lead better at home, and that starts with my marriage. I want to be the best version of myself and the best possible spouse that I can be. I hope that you’d consider joining me in this. I’d love to grow alongside you.”
2. Money: From Divided to United:
The issue of money is huge. We work our entire lives to make enough money to live comfortably. That is until your spouse isn’t on the same page as you financially. Maybe it’s a power struggle between big spenders and big savers. Whatever the case, all I know is money makes people funny. It’s an uncomfortable topic of conversation anywhere you go, and that includes within marriages.
Finances can cause stress and arguments. For some families, one person controls the finances, and for other families, the finances are a dual effort. The bottom line is this… The number one cause of stress in marriages is finances, and when we say that, we mean debt.
Formulate A Game Plan You Can Agree On:
One of my favorite things about the Dave Ramsey Organization is how they have not only helped families formulate a plan to get free from debt, but they have also helped families become free from financial stress and have helped couples approach money with a single plan that helps unite their decisions. I love the debt free message, but something that is not often talked about is something that you can’t but put on paper. The single fact that couples all over the country are being united on money decisions has been extremely powerful for so many people. The moral of the story is that without a clear plan or vision for your families financial future, money will start disappearing with overspending. But setting long-term goals and creating an action plan around money will help you, or your spouse, think twice about that big purchase.
I truly believe that if more couples sat down and created a plan that they can both agree on, they would see that they are arguing a lot less. But many times, everything is left in assumptions, or buy now and ask forgiveness later.
Make The Decision Beforehand:
The best thing that you can experience financially is that when you are faced with a big decision of “should I purchase this item or not?” You have already made that decision beforehand, so there is not as much of an internal battle, because you’ve already made the commitment to yourself, to your spouse, and have a foreseeable financial goal that you are aiming for.
3. Lack of Communication: From Disconnected to On The Same Page:
I feel like this is a huge one that causes a lot division in marriage, family and relationships. I will be honest with you, I still at times struggle with this and feel like I can always get better at communication. I know of a few times where I am upset about something and when Randall asks me about it, I tell him I'm fine. Then, I take it a step further and think that he should be able to read my mind. Have you ever been there? In this scenario, the only one communicating is Randall, and I am not doing our marriages any favors by hiding my feelings.
We must communicate well with each other. Communicating well will prevent many arguments before they ever happen. Talking to your spouse about upcoming plans well in advance vs. forgetting about them until they are here will create problems. I know, because we have been there a time or two.
I vividly remember this time early in our marriage where this happened. Cole was about 4 months old and I was still performing with my group on the weekends. One night, I had a late performance that ended around 8:45 PM and all I could think about was getting home, taking a shower, and cuddling with my boys (Randall and Cole) but when I got home Randall told me that we were going to dinner with some friends. Instead of expressing my feelings and how I felt, I decided not to say anything.
That worked for a few minutes until we were already half way there and I exploded in the car. I was feeling sad because I worked full time throughout the week, gigged on the weekends, and all I wanted to do was have a relaxing night with my family. If I would have communicated that with Randy I am sure we would have explained to our friends and stayed home that night.
No one can read minds, and if we don’t talk about what we feel then no one will know. We can’t expect them to and we can't put our hope in them to do so. If this is something that you feel is hindering your relationship then I suggest doing something that Randall and I have done.
1. Create A Joint Calendar.
We share a family calendar (you can use iCloud or G-Mail) so that when special events come up, we add it to the calendar so that it automatically notifies the other person. Then we have the option to accept or deny it. We even schedule our days off, our “me” time, and family time weeks or months in advance. If someone wants to do something with us we check our calendar to see if we are available and that has helped us be better communicators.
2. Set Daily Time Aside
Setting time aside to talk is very important especially when you have children and busy jobs. One thing that works for us is that we put our kids on a sleep schedule. They are in bed at 7PM and then we have the rest of the evening (until about 10PM) to be with each other. During this time we talk about our day, plan our date nights and family activities, and sometimes just rest in the comforts of each others company. Making this a habit has been a game-changer for our marriage, our communication has gotten so much better with just an increase in quality time.
3. A Quick Communication Exercise
If you have problems with communication with your spouse, try this little exercise. Each spouse grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write “things I can do to communicate better”, and on the other side write “things my spouse can do to communicate better.” Do this separately, don’t look at each others answers.
The goal isn’t to call each other out. The goal is to see if you independently come up with the same answers. If you do, great! Write down three ways you can rid yourself of these communication issues. If you have different answers, great. Now you realize what you can get better at.
4. Constant Arguing: From Kerosine to Extinguisher:
Proverbs 15:18: "A hot tempered person stirs up conflict but the one who is patient calms a quarrel."
Maybe spouses feel disrespected. Maybe they feel like the other is not contributing in the ways they would like. When we are not good communicators then we are constant arguers. The reason we argue is because we want others to see our perspective and if they don't, then they are wrong. It can be the way they did the dishes to the way they talked to us that can set us off.
There is a difference between arguing and having a discussion. Discussion would involve listening to the other and allowing them to express their point of view and arguing would be to overpower the conversation and not allow them to have a say in it.
Try to listen more in your conversations with your spouse. Try spending more time with one another, good quality time, you will share things that may have been bottled up and it will allow you feel more comfortable with your discussions. Many times we are too busy doing all the talking and not spending enough time listening.
2. Shut Up and Pray
One last bit of advice that I have tried is to shut up and pray! This has been the best advice that I have ever been given. I read it in a daily devotional and have used it in our marriage. I have seen it work right before my eyes. So allow me to be vulnerable for a second.
I am a little sarcastic at times, and I know just the right buttons to push, and for some reason if I haven’t had quality time with Randall then I start an argument (I have no clue why, I guess I just like the attention). Well, I stumbled across that line “Shut up and Pray” and it hit me because I had never just done that, I always have to say something and its not always at the right time. (By the way, one of my strengths is input but it can sometimes not be a strength)
Anywho, it was one quiet afternoon and we were all upstairs. The kids were in the playroom, Randy was on his computer and I was folding laundry. The kids started to fight, my hands were full putting the laundry away, and Randy didn’t seem to budge. He was working on some work, (side note: Randall loves his work and loses track of time every now and then). I am grateful he loves his work, but man... I looked at him, bit my tongue, went to the other room and prayed. I said “Jesus, control my anger and take hold of this situation, allow Randall to help with the kids, and play with them, strengthen their relationship, Amen!” I then went back to the room feeling much better.
That night after we put the kids to bed, Randall came up to me and apologized for what happened, and that he noticed that he was more into his work rather than helping me and playing with the kids, that he wanted to be better and was praying for God to strengthen their relationships. I cried! And I told him what I had done. Now, If I were to say something right then and there I don't think he would have received it well, He would have felt attacked and distracted. It was better that I kept quiet and allowed God to fix it.
5. Lack of Intimacy: From Slow Drift to Quick Action:
Sometimes couples may feel more like roommates than lovers. If you feel this way, this is a red flag. Intimacy can mean two different things. What we are talking about here are:
1. Having Fun:
When was the last time you had some fun together. I mean real fun, like laughing all night, genuinely enjoying time together. Do something out of the norm. Go download a Groupon and do something you've never done, eat at a new restaurant you haven't tried before, create new experiences. If you have kids, find an overnight babysitter every now and then so that you can be out late with each other and enjoy each others company. Yes, you can do this at home, but a change of environment creates memories.
2. Intimate conversations:
Being a great listener also applies to this. One time I listened to Selina talk about something on her heart for a whole hour, I barely got in any words to that conversation. When we were done, Selina said, "That was the best conversation we have had in a while!" I agreed. On one end I was thinking, "If you say so, I didn't even talk," but on the other end I also was thinking, "Although I didn't get to say much, I felt very intimate just listening while you shared your heart."
Asking the right questions, digging deeper and reaching the deepest parts of their soul. Intimate conversations can usually happen when the right questions are asked. Sometimes asking simple questions like, "Why?" and, "How?" will do the trick. Of course, deeper questions require deeper answers, so don't stay stuck here.
3. Intentional Words:
Speaking words of encouragement, words of prayer, and words of truth to your spouse are very important. Letting your spouse know the reasons you love them verbally, writing those reasons down on an index card and leaving it somewhere for them to find, or writing them a full blown love note are a few practical ways. A few other ways are sending them an encouraging text message, or leaving them a voicemail that they can save to listen to later.
Additionally, another safeguard to protect against infidelity to ensure that you are filling your spouses “love-tank” with the passion that they desperately need. When you were first dating, can you remember the butterflies that you felt? When you were first married, do you remember the strong commitment that you made? Well, whatever that you did you GET the marriage, is what you need to do to KEEP the marriage. Make sure that before your head hits the pillow at night you ask two easy questions in relationship to your spouse, “What did I do today to win my spouses heart today? What can I do right now to win my spouses heart?"
Ecclesiastes 9:9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love. GWT
True winners are legacy minded. They keep their eyes on the ultimate goal and perform the necessary actions day in and day out to achieve that goal. True winners know that daily sacrifices of time and energy are the required ingredients for achieving true success.
Winners fight the good fight. They fight against evil and stand for what's right. They fight for their families and for their marriages, not against them.
This is why we believe that we must fight for our marriages, even when things are good. We must play both offense and defense in this fight, protecting our marriages from attacks and also fueling the passion that we need to ensure the success of our marriages.
What are some other helpful tips and advice that you can give on some of these topics? We'd love to hear from you.