Four things I’ve learned over the years to cultivate a R. I. C. H. marriage.
(My notes from talk given at the Colorado Wholeheart Mom Conference 1/13/12)
Respect – In Ephesians 5:33, Paul writes, “a wife must respect her husband.” I begin here because I wish I had known the value of respecting my sweet husband earlier in our marriage. I had been taught that respect was something you must earn. I wanted Jon to be the “spiritual leader” as that is what Christian husbands were suppose to be ☺ Ladies, do you know what it takes to be a leader? A Follower. And I honestly struggled with following. Many times I found myself running ahead of Jon.
I thought disrespect was yelling, belittling, hitting, or treating someone in a horrible way. However, some of the ways I showed Jon disrespect was challenging his decisions, correcting him in front of our girls, and always having an opinion. In my best efforts to inspire him I would often lecture on how to be healthier, how to be a better father, how to run his company better, the need to be involved with the girls schooling, the need to not work such long hours, etc… Many times I didn’t have to say a word to show my disrespect simply by giving him the look, crossing my arms, pouting, and slamming a door. Basically, whatever Jon was doing was not good enough. Unknowingly I was withholding respect thus he began withholding love so ever so slowly we began drifting apart and isolating. We finally went to counseling in 2005 because our older daughters approached Jon to say they felt our marriage was loveless. They noted that we rarely laughed, held hands or were affectionate towards one another. Marriage should be a reflection of Christ’s love & relationship with the church. We are called to be His image bearer. Obviously we were not bringing glory to God through our marriage. We got along very well but operated more as business partners than marriage partners. During a counseling session we had to confess ways we felt we had offended the other and I was convicted I needed to share the topic of disrespect. Jon was surprised, as he never really thought about his need for respect. I now believe that deep within all men is the need to be respected. After all, why would Paul say to wives “respect your husbands?” I listed all the ways I felt I had disrespected Jon over the years and he was emotionally overwhelmed. This was a huge turning point in our marriage.
Respecting Jon means affirming, noticing, encouraging, honoring, preferring, and esteeming him. Do I bless, praise, love and admire him? Respect means to value his opinion, to admire his strength, intellect, wisdom, and character and to appreciate his commitment to and involvement with our family and me. Wives should ask their husbands what respect looks like for them.
Investment/intentionality – We should be intentional. The more you are willing to invest the more you will get back. Make your marriage a priority. Our pastor once said, “you shouldn’t date to get married, you should get married to date!” When Jon is in town we try to have a date night/day weekly and an occasional weekend get away without the children.
o We purposed early in our marriage to invest every other year into our marriage. Some ways we have done so have been:
o Attending a marriage conference/seminar. It’s better to be proactive than reactive.
o Reading a book on marriage together.
o Praying together.
o Finding ways to serve one another.
o Participating in a group study related to marriage.
o These days we lead other couples through pre-martial counseling. We are responsible to share what God has taught us.
o Being mentored by an older/wiser couple.
o KEY: preventative maintenance is less costly than legal fees. Don’t let pride or your ego get in the way of asking for help. Godly counsel with accountability is invaluable if needed.
o Divorce was never an option. Adopt the attitude that until death do us part. Never use the D word. This understanding has helped us during the hard times. We are helpmates. As we have weathered the various storms of our marriage we realize that it was during the storms we grew closer to God and to each other.
Contentment – Paul said “I have learned to be content in Philippians 4:11” Contentment is a process that one must desire to learn. Would you like to live a life that isn’t dictated by your circumstances? Would you like to be able to say as Paul did, “”I too have learned to be content?
My remedy for contentment is cultivating gratitude. Several years ago I realize that Jon has the job he has, as it is a gift from God. His work is part of his mission field. Cultivating a heart of gratitude has greatly helped me to be content when he has to travel and/or work long hours.
Have FUN – Find new activities to do together. Some of our favorites have been biking, walking, and doing ministry TOGETHER. We are passionate about sharing with couples what we have learned. We enjoy doing ministry together and enjoy serving WholeHearted Ministry by attending their conferences and serving on the Board.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Lila Trotman, widow of Dawson Trotman, the founder of Navigators, which truly resonates with me. “Your husband will never truly be yours until you have first given him back to God. He is yours only when you are willing to let him go wherever God calls him and do what God wants him to do.”