Marriage gets a bad rap these days. Most people don't expect monogamous relationships to last a couple of decades, let alone a lifetime. Call me old-fashioned, but I am still convinced that marriage can be the place of our greatest growth and joy, if we can get over the way it confronts us with the things about ourselves we'd rather avoid ... and often try to avoid by focusing on what our partner needs to change!
Last night a lovely friend texted me over WhatsApp. She's been dating the guy who seems like he might become her husband, and she asked for my thoughts on building long-term, healthy relationships. At first I baulked at the idea of communicating anything useful in short text messages, but somehow I came up with 10 coherent thoughts. These are far from comprehensive - after all, that's why there are endless books on the market offering relationship advice and making their authors the big bucks - I completely glossed over communication and listening skills, personality differences, family-of-origin stuff and forgiveness, for example. But hey, for what it's worth, read on for my 10 off-the-top-of-my-head tips after 25 years of learning on the job (which, as with parenting, is all any of us can do when it comes to marriage).
1. Learn to share your spiritual journey together by asking good open questions about what you are each processing with God.
2. Learn to discern your decisions together with God.
3. Articulate your shared values and allow them to shape your priorities.
4. Have fun together! Having shared activities that remind you why you love spending time together is invaluable.
5. Encourage one another to have your own friends and your own pastimes. Separate time allows you to enjoy the elasticity of the bond, giving one another space and enjoying the return to closeness.
6. Celebrate whenever you can: milestones, achievements, anniversaries, small steps forward.
7. Remember that even from the early days together you are establishing what will become the foundation stones of your relationship. Be intentional.
8. Be one another’s greatest champions: learn to get a real kick out of the other one doing well.
9. Recognise that you are both on a journey of personal formation and that Holy Spirit will likely use elements of your relationship to get your attention and to invite you to change. Learn to see those ‘rubbing points’ as a sign that something right is happening, not something wrong. Support one another in the process of change, which is the most important thing happening at any one time.
10. Be intentional about developing a rhythm of work, rest and play that syncs with one another. Schedule downtime, holidays, and busy seasons together as far as possible. Learn to put boundaries around connectivity so that you’re not always available to everyone else and therefore less available to one another.
Ok so I came up with those off the bat. What did I miss that you would consider crucial?