Healthy Individuals

“Marry two half-people and oh, shouldn't one make the other whole?"—"Bouquet," by Steve Taylor

Marriage encompasses the spiritual and physical act of two lives becoming one. But can that union truly thrive if one or both of the individuals involved is feeling unfulfilled? Insert your favorite analogy here: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” “United we stand, but divided we fall.” “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.” You get the idea!

A thriving marriage can only be as strong as its component parts – namely, husband and wife. Even within the “one flesh” context of marriage, there’s an important place for appropriate self-care and self-improvement. This includes spiritual pursuits that help ensure that a Christ-centered marriage is comprised of two Christ-centered individuals. As a husband and wife move toward the goal of becoming more like Christ, they also grow closer to one another.

But spouses need to be concerned about preserving their individuality in other areas as well. The marital union is a blending, not a cloning. It is a partnership in which differences – not just the difference between male and female, but the distinctions between two separate and unique individuals – come together like pieces in a puzzle. These differences should be affirmed and celebrated!

That’s why it’s important for spouses to take time for self-nurture. They need time alone with the Lord, with friends, and with their hobbies and interests. Husbands and wives can’t be everything to each other. That’s God’s role. It just makes good sense: by investing in your spiritual and emotional health as an individual, you’ll inevitably strengthen your marriage as well.

Date Night

Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Open a window into your world.

What kind of activity helps you “recharge your batteries” – not as a couple, but as an individual? Take turns sharing one of those activities with your spouse. For example, she may feel rejuvenated after an energetic Zumba workout. He may achieve spiritual and emotional peace through fly-fishing. Think about creative ways to combine two individually enriching activities (one for him, one for her) into your Date Night!

Remember, the purpose here is not to embrace an activity that you both enjoy. It’s to allow you to help each other better understand what makes the other “tick.” If you’re having trouble coming up with a combined activity, you might consider simply going someplace quiet to discuss what God has been teaching you individually through your devotional life, prayer times, etc.

Step 3: Relax and unwind. Ready for a few questions?

After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation . Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?
  • How can I help facilitate your own growth as an individual – spiritually? Emotionally? Physically? Professionally?  How can I encourage you and give you the freedom to pursue your own personal growth?

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

On your way home, spend time planning your next date. Think about additional ways you can help spur one another on to personal growth in the days ahead – and consider how that can, in turn, strengthen your marriage. Then, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

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© 2012 Focus on the Family.