My husband and I just celebrated 19 years of marriage. And now as I sit in the space of time between our anniversary and Valentine's Day, I can't help but think about how INTENTIONAL we are about maintaining a solid union.
As parents of a special needs child, the odds of us staying together are stacked against us. I have heard divorce rates for families like ours hover close to 85%. How accurate that is, I'm not sure. But I do know it's higher than the average divorce rate. Which is already sadly elevated. The stressers and pressures can be daunting - but so are they for every marriage. Whether your spouse is a challenge or a delight to live with, successful marriages take work. So I'm sharing with you the top 4 things my husband and I do to be INTENTIONAL in our relationship:
1. We are INTENTIONAL about carving out time together. We still regularly date each other. We try not to let more than a couple of weeks go by without getting a babysitter or sending the kids to spend the night with grandparents so that we can be alone. The dates are often simple. Sometimes just dinner. Sometimes just a movie. An occasional concert. A short day trip with lots of built-in car time. Once we even just drove around and looked at houses in a different neighborhood. The point is, we get out of our pajama pants and out of our normal routine to remind us that we enjoy being together.
2. We are INTENTIONAL about intimacy. We aren't newlyweds anymore. And we are a little longer in the tooth. We are tired. We are busy. And our kids are demanding. If we waited for spontaneous, romantic moments to have sex, we would qualify for a convent. But knowing that it's both enjoyable and important for a healthy marriage, we look for the most conducive opportunities and plan our rendezvous. And because we have been faithfully consistent in this aspect of our relationship, I believe there will again be a day (after the kids are out of the house) when spontaneity and romance will again be a sweet part of this equation.
3. We are INTENTIONAL about giving each other what we need the most. Ephesians 5:33 commands, "each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." NIV A woman's #1 need is to feel loved. And a man's #1 need is to feel respected. There is much research to support this. So my man tells me and shows me he loves me in a hundred different ways. And I do my best to avoid undermining or discouraging him. He hears me tell others that he is the best man I know. And I mean it. I could tell him all day long that I love him, but he will never believe it if he feels disrespected. Hear me say that our sinful nature gets in the way and we fail each other from time to time, but the right message is consistent enough that we know where we stand with each other. For more on this I recommend the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich.
4. Lastly, we are INTENTIONAL about protecting our unique bond. It's my belief that most people don't jump into an affair like they jump off a cliff. One minute of high ground and the next in the pit. It's more like a gradual slope down a hill. Many affairs start out as innocent work colleagues or friends. But when you allow yourself repeated alone time with a member of the opposite sex, you are opening the door for an unhealthy relationship to develop, whether or not you are looking for it. My husband and I have no desire to be alone with anyone else, so we set some guide posts around that. We don't have lunches or dinners, take car rides, or have closed door meetings alone with a member of the opposite sex. And if either of us is unwittingly thrust into such a situation, we notify the other immediately. It shows our desire to honor the spirit of the promise. It may sound strict, legalistic or maybe even silly to you, but our relationship is worth any inconveniences that this may cause. Better safe than very, very sorry.
As we near Valentine's Day, I would love to hear the ways you are INTENTIONAL in your marriage. Comment on this post so we can all learn from each other.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV
I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Intentional”.