Nothing of real value just happens. You don’t drift toward a finely tuned athletic body, a million-dollar retirement fund, or a successful career. Then why do we think a lasting relationship will just happen? You get more of what you invest in. If you want it to be successful you’ll need to proactively invest in your marriage.
One of the myths about marriage is that if you marry the right person it will be “happily ever after.” You always marry the wrong person. And you are also the wrong person when you marry. Marriage is the union of two sinners; there are no other kinds of marriages available!
The wonderful news is that by making regular investments you can become the right person, and so can your spouse. And just like your million-dollar retirement account, your relationship becomes one you can gather strength and nourishment from for years to come.
Here are some important areas in which to invest in your marriage.
Learning About Each Other
You probably thought you knew your spouse when you got married. But you only knew the person they wanted you to know, and your spouse only knew the you that you were letting them see. True intimacy continues to grow in a healthy marriage by continuing to learn about each other throughout life.
Neither of you fully knows yourself, not to mention each other, when you first say “I do.” You come to know yourself much more deeply as you see yourself reflected by your spouse. And the best gift you can ever give to your spouse is truly seeing, knowing, and understanding them. You do that by continuing to study your spouse.
Friendship and Memories
Relationship bonds are built by actually doing life together. Entering each other’s world is a necessary part of friendship. You take the initiative to invite your spouse into your world and seek to show interest in theirs. Develop joint interests even if you didn’t have many previously. Find opportunities to do things together and intentionally make some memories.
Going through hard things together can bring you closer. See yourselves as sitting on the same side of the table looking at a problem and working to find solutions together. Research supports that couples who persist in working through hard things develop stronger bonds and greater satisfaction than they ever had before.
Neither of you started out knowing all you needed to know about doing this thing called marriage. Some of what you assumed was faulty or incomplete. The friction of marriage is God’s laboratory in which you learn to love well. And we’ve all got a lot to learn!
Relational skills can be learned. Some of these include communication, feelings, sex, intimacy, and conflict. You may think you know those things, but how’s that working for you? Every marriage needs to keep investing in learning relationship skills just like you might continue to invest in continuing education for your job.
It’s been said that every successful marriage is the union of two good forgivers. You will let your spouse down, and they will do the same to you. Forgiveness in marriage does not mean putting up with bad behavior. (There are toxic marriages, and you can’t fix that by being “nicer!”) Forgiveness does mean you let go of the past and don’t hold it over your spouse.
Forgiveness does not equal trust. Once broken, trust takes a lot of effort to rebuild, but it is possible! This is the important step after forgiveness, and it takes time. To forgive well includes each of you learning to get your internal validation from God Himself, since your spouse can never be enough. Then you can both come to the marriage looking to give rather than for what you can get.
God’s Presence in Your Marriage
You can’t do this on your own! Marriage is a setup for disaster every time–but for God. Neither of you can become the spouse God needs you to be without His continuing input. You will need to invite Him to be at the center of your relationship not just once, but daily, weekly, often. Neither of you can be the source of love. You need His love flowing into you and your relationship in order for that love to show itself between you.
You need God in your marriage bedroom. Learn to pray together, and for your spouse. Prayer is a primary way you fight the enemy of your marriage rather than against your spouse. And if your marriage is troubled, you need His input more than ever.
Like with daily exercise or monthly deposits in your retirement account, you don’t always sense the results quickly. But compound interest works in your relationship just like it does in other places you invest.
Couples who have made these regular investments report that they are experiencing even better intimacy, satisfaction, joy, and connection into their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s than they did in earlier years. Living long brings challenges, but those very challenges can be opportunities to work on things together and thereby grow the bond between you even more.
And it’s never too late to start. It’s like the saying about trees: The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.
The future returns on these marriage investments will be worth it. Just do it!
Your Turn: Have you been making the kinds of investments in your marriage that will bring the returns you desire in the future? Are there some investments you can start making now? Leave a comment below.
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