In our Staff Huddle this week I reminded our team of some inspiration I'd received recently: "Leaders solve problems. Followers bring problems that need to be fixed." In light of yesterday's post on "Fighting for Marriage", I don't just want to point out a problem - I want to help people fix this. And I don't want to just give people some tools or advice to "fix" something, but more importantly, to PREVENT it from needing to be fixed! In light of this, I wanted to turn the conversation toward steps we can take and tools we can use to proactively, intentionally, assertively, and head-on fight for our marriages. In this post I want to center in on premarital advice - tools and principles for those who are not yet married. So if you're engaged, dating, or thinking that at some point in your life you might tie the knot, say "I do", take the Big Plunge - you get the idea - this post is for you. The fight for your marriage starts NOW! Here are some important things to consider:
The stigma that used to go along with "counseling" is deservedly vanishing. More and more people every day are realizing the enormous value in getting emotional, spiritual, mental, relational, social, and psychological assistance from someone trained to give it. For a couple considering spending the rest of their lives together, this is crucial. Here's WHY. A professional (Christian) counselor can help you understand your own personality, your fiancé's personality, and how those personalities tend to operate together. They can also look at your backgrounds, family histories, and personal experiences and let you know if there are potential roadblocks, bumps, potholes, or even land mines ahead. The bottom line: If a counselor is objective and honest, they can cut past your "feelings" and tell you very realistically what your relationship is potentially going to look like down the road. And if you really want your marriage to work, this information is priceless.
Marry Your Friend
Don't get me wrong - I believe you should be physically attracted to your spouse. For me, I still come alive and light up when I see my wife walk into a room. I feel like I fall more in love with her all the time! But while our "attraction" is important, so is our friendship. There is no one on earth that I have more fun and laughs with than my wife. We love doing many of the same things - and just being together. There's no person I'd rather just hang out with than her. She is without a doubt my best friend. So, if you don't enjoy spending time with the person you're considering as a mate for life - if you don't absolutely LOVE just being with them, laughing with them, and doing life together - it's not going to work. Because if you don't enjoy them now, while you're not even living under the same roof or sleeping in the same bed, it's not going to magically happen when you get married.
Don't Cross the Line
As I just made the statement "...if you don't enjoy them now, while you're not...sleeping in the same bed..." For some people, this statement doesn't apply. Because even though you're not married, you're living together. Sleeping together. [And BTW - Anyone who says they're living together because it just makes better financial sense (or) because it's just more convenient is either seriously deceiving themselves (or) is totally full of crap. It's almost always about sex.] And besides the fact that this goes totally against the Word of God and the principles He's set for us as His children, the other reason this is so dangerous and harmful is because it's further skewing your idea and perspective of what marriage will be like. Think of it this way: If you're not going to seek God together now - if you're not going to live by His standards now - you're not going to do it later. And if your relationship is that dependent on sex, what are you going to do when the sex doesn't satisfy? Don't misunderstand me: In a healthy, Christ-centered marriage, sex is beautiful. But if your relationship or marriage DEPENDS on sex - if it REVOLVES around it - it won't last.
Get Ready to WORK!
Morgan and I have never pretended we have the perfect marriage. In fact, we are in a constant state of working on our marriage. But this is the reason why I think we would both say - as our 15th anniversary is coming up this summer - it's getting better all the time. We WORK on it! We TALK about things we can do to serve each other better. We (often) have to lay our pride at the foot of the Cross and humbly say, "I'm sorry".
Learn Their Love Language
I remember the first time I heard about "The 5 Love Languages". I have to admit, I laughed. In fact, I think I even sneered and winced! But then I read the book. WOW! This was like moving from trying to find a contact lens in the dark to looking for the water at the beach. Eye-opening! To begin to grasp that your spouse (and everyone in your life, for that matter) RECEIVES love in very specific, particular ways is life-changing. The most common thing people discover is that we are usually trying to love others the way we desire to be loved. This doesn't work very well. Morgan and I have taken this a step further than just our marriage. We've worked hard at understanding our kids love languages. The craziest part is that all 4 of us are completely different. I won't grovel on about that, but just encourage you to check it out for yourself by taking the Online Quiz: 5 Love Languages
If you don't start fighting for your marriage NOW, you'll eventually wind up fighting against it later. Do NOT let that happen! Put the gloves on, lace up tight, get busy and do the work.
If you're married, what other advice would you give to someone headed in that direction?