Listen to a broadcast about choosing to love your spouse with Ron and Deb DeArmond.
I engaged a photographer to take photos on the beach at sunset during a family vacation a few years ago. We asked for pictures of each son and his family. My husband, Ron, and I were to be photographed last.
When it was our turn, the photographer asked us to face each other. As I turned to look at Ron, he fell to his knees in the sand. I thought he was having a heart attack or a stroke. I realized my concern was misplaced when he smiled and produced a ring box from his pocket.
"Would you do it all again with me?" he asked, opening the box. "If I proposed to you today, knowing what our future together would bring, would you still choose me?"
I was stunned. Our kids and grandkids whistled and clapped. I negotiated the lump in my throat and found my voice: "Yes, sweetheart. I'd do it again. I still choose you."
He beamed. I cried a little. Then I reached for the ring.
Later we had dinner at a favorite restaurant overlooking the Pacific. "What on earth gave you the idea to do this, Ron?" I asked.
"Do you remember the girl who asked how I'd proposed to you?" Ron asked. He reminded me of a speaking engagement with a group of young married couples. We had answered questions at the end of the evening with them.
I said, "I told her you really hadn't proposed. We knew quickly that we were supposed to marry and began making wedding plans."
"That's right." His voice became husky. "But it bothered me to hear your answer. Every girl should have a proposal story. This is yours, even if it's a little late."
I love him fiercely as he does me. Deeply. Completely. But love is not just a feeling, and a strong marriage isn't built only on emotions. Sustaining love is a choice — one that must be made every single day, even if it's spoken through gritted teeth in tough times. And it's God's grace that makes that choice possible.
At any time between "I do" and "I don't anymore," the choices we make either deepen the relationship or deplete it, potentially damaging it beyond repair. A decision to make purposeful choices is a key to successful marriage. Let's explore three important choices.
The over-the-top romantic love seen in movies often leads to unrealistic and unmet expectations that accompany everyday life. But love is a vital component of a happy marriage.
The Bible encourages us to anticipate — and embrace big love: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised" (Song of Solomon 8:7). This kind of love must be renewed daily by making choices to sacrifice for your husband or wife, to forgive and cherish him or her. Loving each other with authenticity revitalizes our connection and confirms our covenant.
One of our greatest needs is to be understood. Being known, which comes through listening and understanding, is the pathway to intimacy in marriage.
Listening is never accidental. It requires setting aside our emotional and mental baggage to focus our attention elsewhere. A genuine listener chooses to invest in the life of the talker. This breathes life into their relationship.
Recognize that it's not always easy or convenient to listen. So, ask before you start downloading, "I want to discuss something. Is this a good time?" If the answer is no then ask, "What time will be better?" Remember: When you're the listener, don't interrupt. It translates as, "Stop! What I have to say is more important."
Challenge each another
We have another important choice to make, individually and as a couple: Will we grow up in Christ together or simply grow old? Maintaining the status quo might be easy, but lovingly challenging your spouse to grow spiritually and emotionally supports development and the maturity the Lord calls us to.
"Iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17). That can cause sparks to fly. And because challenge can be uncomfortable, it's more likely to be accepted when offered by those we trust and love, such as a husband or wife.
Even couples that boast 20 years of marriage will struggle in their relationship if they're not growing. Don't let that be you. Challenge your spouse in love and welcome challenge from him or her. A successful marriage is all in the choices you make.Deb DeArmond is the co-author of Don't Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight.
Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting HopeRestored.com.