Remember the excitement you felt when you first got married? No matter how many years have passed since then, it's never too late to renew the thrill and wonder of marriage. Through the years of joys, sorrows, successes, failures, fun and hardships, you can find that loving each other is the great adventure you'd hoped for from the start.
Sometimes you just need to revisit the simple things. After being married for several years, it's easy to shift into survival mode, especially when children arrive. What you had learned about meeting each other's needs and assessing each other's wants gets overlooked, and you end up merely surviving rather than thriving in your relationship.
To help your marriage thrive, make sure your spouse's needs — and wants — don't get lost in the busyness of daily life. That would include the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs that ebb and flow through the years of marriage. For example, a mom of a preschooler may need time to have social interaction and a dad of a tween may need to be affirmed in his parenting efforts.
Let's be honest. In the adorable chatter of baby talk and the craziness of school schedules, a couple can tend to forego the meaningful communication — and conflict resolution — that strengthens intimacy. Surface talk about schedules and kid challenges can replace loving words exchanged between each other.
In our book, Countdown for Couples, my husband and I apply the principles found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 to communication between couples: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."
At any stage of marriage, it's important to use words that are patient and kind, words that resist envy or pride, words that aren't angry or selfish or that don't rehash old grievances. Yes, all of us say unloving words at times, but guarding your heart so that these don't become a pattern will keep your marriage intimate and strong.
Finances, chores, roles and responsibilities can be all-consuming. But if you tackle them as partners, using your individual strengths and compensating for each other's weaknesses, you'll be a winning team.
It's all in the attitude. Being positive, unselfish and adaptable can turn those mundane duties into a way to serve each other and build your relationship — and maybe even have fun in the process.
Never too late
Just before my friends Paul and Heather went on their 45th anniversary trip, I sent them a copy of Countdown for Couples. My husband and I wrote it to help premarital couples, and we had expected that Paul and Heather would pass the book on to an engaged couple. Instead, they read it on their anniversary trip. I knew their 45 years together had already been an adventure, so I was surprised when they told me this premarital book helped them remember that it is never too late to invest in their marriage.
"Our trip was relaxing and inspiring," Paul says. "The book reinforced the principles of marriage that had gotten lost in the chaos of our life."
"It was so helpful!" Heather adds. "We were reminded of some of the basics we'd forgotten — and actually learned a few things, even after more than 40 years of marriage! The truth is, it's never too late to strengthen your relationship."
Marriage can have its twists and turns, but the detours don't have to lead you off course. The 12 essential elements outlined in the Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage are biblically based and chart the course for a romantic adventure that will last a lifetime.