Do you ever feel stale in your marriage? Or maybe just stuck with a hunger for something more? If you are in the season of raising little kids, two parents with careers, or caring for elderly parents, it is normal to be emotionally and physically exhausted and just plain numb. Many of us are simply trying to get through the day. Added to our lives is the overabundance of opportunities that we feel we “have” to take advantage of, either for ourselves or our children!
In the midst of these challenges, it’s easy to neglect our own marriage. We don’t intend to do this, but it happens. We simply put our marriage “on hold” until life calms down. But life will not calm down. Instead, it tends to get more complicated.
We’ve been married for 54 years, and even now, it’s easy for us to unintentionally settle into a bit of a rut in our relationship. After all, we are simply tired.
But God doesn’t want us to “settle.” He has something so much better!
Marriage is a lifelong commitment that requires constant attention and innovation.
Recently John and I had a week’s vacation in the Colorado Mountains, just the two of us. It’s rare that we get away alone for time like this. For the first 48 hours, we could hardly speak. We had just hosted our annual “Family Camp” with 33 of us at our little farm, and we were exhausted. We didn’t want to talk to anyone, including each other. We only wanted to sleep and to be left alone- with no one asking us to do anything or for anything! Once we had some rest, we were able to be more intentional in refreshing our souls and our marriage.
As I’ve thought about the ease with which we tend to “settle” in our relationship, I have realized 6 simple things that enable us all to “hit refresh” in our marriages rather than becoming stale.
6 Hints to refresh your marriage:
- Ask God to give you a new Vision.
As I was praying about our time away, I sensed a new vision for this getaway as I read Psalm 145:7.
“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
I prayed, “Father, I long for our time away to be one of celebrating your abundant goodness.”
- Plan new experiences.
At our stage, it’s easy to do the same things over and over. But we need to be creative and plan new things to do together. A new experience has a way of pouring fresh energy into a relationship. On our vacation, we took a jeep tour high into the mountains. We’d never done something just like this before. It was bumpy and scary at times, but we loved it, and we learned much history about miners in the late 1800’s. I have come home with a fresh commitment to plan new experiences in our life–a hike that we’ve never done, a visit to a museum, a trip to some local gardens, a time at night laying on sleeping bags in the yard to “star gaze” while favorite music plays. My friend Barb is the queen of fun, so I’ll also ask her for ideas.
- Take time to share what God has been teaching you.
Each morning we took time to share some things that God has been teaching us individually from His word. We rarely have time to do this at home.
What was something we learned from our Quiet Time? What insight, thought, or question is on our mind?
And we took time to pray together more intentionally than we ordinarily make time for.
Turning to God individually and together pours refreshment into our relationship. Ultimately, our marriage is not about each other; it’s about glorifying Him, together.
- Learn to ask good questions.
One evening as we ate in a restaurant, we noticed a couple sitting nearby. They appeared to be middle-aged. During the whole meal, they seem to speak only once to each other. Another couple spent their meal glued to their phones, hardly looking at each other. How easy it would be to become like this!
We’ve learned that it’s helpful to be intentional in asking one another good questions.
Some questions we asked:
- Looking back over your life, who has inflenced you and how?
- What have been some of your favorite books?
- What scriptures have been most helpful to you throughout your life?
- What are your special vacation memories with our kids?
- What character traits of God the Father or Jesus or of the Holy Spirit are most meaningful to you?
It can be fun to have a question of the day. We chose one each day and discussed it as we hiked. One day we reflected on Heb 12:28 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God with reverence and awe.”
We shared, “What does the fact that God rules and His kingdom cannot be shaken have on me today?”
With our kids and grandkids, we’ve learned that it’s helpful to learn how to ask good questions. It’s a way of getting to know one another at a deeper level. It’s a way of focusing on someone else, of loving your neighbor as yourself.
Check out my blog on raising good conversationalists here.
- Choose to believe the best and overlook the irritants.
When you first marry, you have no idea of the little things that will irritate you about your spouse. And when you are exhausted, these little things tend to become bigger. John leaves cabinets and drawers open in the kitchen. It bugs me. I’ve told him, and he tries to remember, but there’s usually something open. One day I asked myself, “Susan, does it really matter?” In the scheme of things, the answer is no. “Does it really matter?” Has become a good question to ask myself.
It’s easy to assume that he is in a bad mood, and it’s my fault. It’s more likely that he’s stressed about something. Or he hasn’t paid any attention to me or appreciated me lately. Doesn’t he care? He does; he’s just got a lot on his plate. (Hint: Kidnap him and plan a fun date for the 2 of you!)
It’s all too easy to assume the worst. We must be very careful with our assumptions and choose to believe the best rather than imagining the worst.
- Recapture laughter.
One thing I’ve been realizing again is how important Laughter is in our marriage. Sometimes in a moment, we have a choice: become frustrated or burst out laughing. I long to choose laughter more and more.
One of the main prayers I pray regularly for our own marriage and for those of our 5 kids is that they will be marked by laughter.
We don’t want to become a grumpy old couple. Laughter and silliness infuse a sense of fun into our relationships.
While on our vacation, we stumbled onto a large jazz and blues festival. A security guard found out we were celebrating our anniversary, let us in for free, and gave us a little tour. He then videoed us.
This is to make you laugh!
May this next month bring more moments of laughter into each of our marriages.
If your marriage is in a serious place, please get counseling. Ask your pastor for a recommendation for a good counselor. God loves to heal.