The 3 Keys to Cultivating A Winning Marriage
"We don't have all the answers. We are not perfect, our marriage is not perfect and our family is not perfect. We still argue and we still want to strangle our kids at times (only kidding), but we simply want to share what we've learned. We want to share things we are trying… or know we should be trying.
Studies show that as the average couple gets older (and their kids grow older), the satisfaction level of the marriage gets lower and lower. The only time this changes significantly is when the children leave home. At that point, the satisfaction of marriage will rise somewhat but still remain lower than when the marriage first began.
We wanted to break each of those down and talk about cultivating each of those in our lives, in our relationship and in our marriage.
1. Cultivating Commitment
This is the bedrock and foundation of marriage, everything is built on this.
In order to cultivate commitment in our marriages we must stay spiritually fit and spiritually healthy. I truly believe that this is one of the greatest gifts that we can give our spouse, our families, and ourselves.
When I stay spiritually fit - spending time with God and evolving my life around Him - I see the benefits. I become a better version of me, I'm nicer, more patient and my words are better. It's an all-around better thing. I am also stronger for whatever it is that I'm going to face.
Here's a startling statistic... 70% of men will cheat on their wives and 60% of women will cheat on their husbands.
The only way not to fall into this trap is if I stay spiritually healthy.
We also must surround ourselves with the right people. There's a big difference when others surround themselves with friends that are crazy about their spouses. It's uplifting, it's motivating, and it keeps couples moving forward together. When you see another couple loving each other, many times it's only natural that we try harder to foster a closer relationship with our own spouse. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. When you surround yourself with the wrong people who complain about their spouse and talk about other people in the wrong way, it creates a slow separation in families.
It's also important to protect the conversation that you have with yourself. If we can work to maintain Godly thoughts about our spouse even when times are tough, we will have focused our mind on God's view of our spouse. Philippians 4:8 says, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
One of the hardest things that couples can do to help their relationship is to be the first. It's often said that the four hardest statements you can make in a marriage are, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Forgive me. I need help." This is not just a strong message point... but God had to deal with me on this topic.
There was a season when I didn't want to be the first anymore, but God got a hold of me and made me realize that this was not Christ-like. I was reminded that God was the one who made the first move and Jesus was the one who sacrificed first. So let's walk that out and live in that image.
Here is a great question to ask ourselves... How does my presence change things?
We can either be the kerosene or an extinguisher. We can either bring chaos or peace into our homes. If we decide to show honor and grace to our spouse, we become more attractive to them. Grace and kindness are truly the "best look" that we can give our spouses.
Lastly, never give up. Sometimes arguments last way too long and we get stuck in places where we should have just moved forward. At the end of the day, decide till death do us part. Decide you are going to put away your pride and do this together with the help of Jesus because He makes us better.
2. Cultivating Intimacy
The type of intimacy we are talking about is friendship and closeness, which is extremely important.
Marriage Counselor David Clarke, author of "The Total Marriage Makeover" wrote this concerning the significance of time together…
"Without time together, you have no marriage, and you have no way to build or rebuild your relationship. Without time together, you can’t communicate (except to say, “Be sure to pick up Johnny this afternoon,” or “The garbage has to be put out today”). If you can’t communicate, you can’t create intimacy of any kind. You can’t be emotionally intimate. You can’t be spiritual intimate. You may have sex, but you can’t be truly intimate.
Without time together, you’ll end up roommates. Parents. Business associates. But not lovers. Definitely not lovers.
Without time together, you can’t work on and improve any area of your relationship. You’re stuck, and you’ll stay stuck. Actually, you won’t stay stuck. Your marriage will get worse and worse, less and less fulfilling, the longer you are without time together."
Ann Landers said…
"Neglect the rest of the world if you have to,
But don’t neglect each other."
What you did to GET the relationship is what we have to do to KEEP the relationship. Many times we pursue what we don't have. That's not all bad - that got us the relationship and marriage we have. However, the important key is to make sure that it doesn't stop after the wedding day.
The best marriage books and the best marriage counselors say to take at least 30 minutes to connect everyday. This time should be free from distraction. We must guard this time and enjoy it together.
If we are unable to have a daily connection time we must begin to identify the culprits. For many people, it's being overly busy, TV, social media, laziness, or even kids. We have adopted a rule in our home that says our kids can only be in one activity or sport per season. This helps us have margin in our lives to keep our marriage as top priority. Too many marriages suffer because they have been pushed to the side.
When marriages are pushed to the side, fights begin. When fights happen, and they will, make sure that you fight fair. Take responsibility for you, be a good listener, be intentional with your words, and work to resolve the issue... not to win.
3. Cultivating Passion
If we are going to have face to face fun and side to side fun... then we also must have belly-button to belly-button fun.
"It's good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality - the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to "stand up for your rights." 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 MSG
Sex is good. Sex is for marriage. If you are living together or in a sexual active relationship… I just want to encourage you to make the necessary changes so that you walk in and live in the full blessings of God. There is no judgement here… I just want God’s best for you. But we will do whatever we can to help you make that right.
Haggai 1:6 You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! NLT
We must be intentional about developing physical and sexual intimacy in our marriages because the benefits are far reaching. It blesses us physically, it establishes legacy, and defeats temptation.
I believe that when we cultivate commitment, intimacy and passion, we will begin to establish a winning marriage.
A link to their sermon series entitled "Relationships" can be found here.