I get to witness a lot of wonderful weddings. Months of planning, dreaming, and getting ready for the day two people become husband and wife. SO much goes into planning a wedding. But how much time & energy goes into preparing for marriage? Its easy to fix our eyes & attention on the wedding day, rather than on the many years that follow.
Whatever you feed will grow, and whatever you starve will die. I absolutely love photographing weddings, but I love watching my couple’s grow in their relationship with each other as the years go on. But this doesn’t happen by accident. No one has a healthy marriage by default. It takes work, intentionality, and time. You have to feed your marriage good things in order for it to grow.
My husband and I attended our first ever marriage conference last weekend at Newspring Church called Tighten the Knot, and let me tell you, it was knock- your- socks- off amazing. We got to hear from Clayton King, Jefferson Bethke, Chelsea Smith, Jim & Nancy (who have been married 50 years!), and Derwin Gray. We were drinking in everything that was taught & all the wisdom that was poured into us. So I figured I’d share the top 3 things that I learned and found the most valuable, and hopefully this will encourage and challenge someone out there on how to make your marriage an even healthier one.
#1: Express the feelings I want to experience. Marriage is two selfish people in a covenant together. If all I’m doing is expecting my husband to give, serve, and love me, I will find myself absolutely drained and empty. Yet, if I give, serve, and love my husband, I will find myself fulfilled and satisfied. Sometimes, when I am having a crummy day and really need some encouragement in my life, usually if I go and encourage someone else, I find myself feeling encouraged in return. Proverbs 11:25 says, “…whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Jesus also says it is better to GIVE than to receive. So start giving more to your marriage, to your spouse. And in return, you’ll find joy. If you both have this mindset, both your needs will be met.
#2: Establish rhythms into our marriage & lifestyle. Jefferson Bethke did this session and I’m not even going to do the paraphrase justice because it was one of the BEST sermons I’ve ever heard but I’m gonna try anyway. Rhythm is something that the Lord has designed for us to live in, for blessing in purpose in our lives. However, our culture is very good at trying to remove rhythms or meaning from everything. Especially in marriages and families. He talked about the lifestyle of Amish & Jewish families, and how well they implement purpose, rhythm and identity into their daily lives. He said the retention rate of kids who grow up in Amish homes is 95-97%, while the retention rate for kids who grow up in Western/Christian homes is only 20%. What are the Amish doing right?! They have a high value of the table. Gathering together around the table as a family & couple helps anchor them to their homes & in their identity. They have daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms that have purpose and that propel their marriages and family forward. They aren’t just living life, meaningless and visionless. They value time together, time in the Word, and time growing their marriages and families. He mentioned how well businesses are run, and how they have weekly meetings, monthly goals, and yearly recaps. They are run by vision and establishing habits and rhythms that produce success. Don’t let the business down the street run better than your marriage. Resist the culture and be a part of God’s rhythm, story and purpose. Do weekly date nights & Sabbaths, quarterly getaways, or yearly holidays that will make your marriage healthy.
#3: Thoughts & words are small things that have a big impact. Little things can become big things. Like our thoughts & words. First, our thoughts can build and build until they blow up. Its crazy how I can think about all the negative things my husband does or doesn’t do, and the second he walks through the door after work, I’m already mad at him. Yet, we have the power to fix our thoughts on positive things. For every negative thought, there are probably 34 positive thoughts you can think about your spouse. Fill your thoughts with THOSE things. Also, vocalize your expectations. So many times we have these expectations in our minds, never voice them, and then are disappointed when they dont happen or our spouse doesn’t do them. Voicing them will eliminate so much disappointment in our marriages. Second, our words either kill or give life. Negative words don’t ever bring change. Nagging never makes our spouse jump for joy. There is so much power in the tongue. My husband always tells me that my words cary so much weight to them. He says that his friend could tell him something, and I could tell him the same thing, but it would matter more coming from me than one else. Thats really humbling and slightly scary to hear. Our words have power, whether good or bad. What is in your heart comes out your mouth. Fill your heart & mind with truth from God’s word that will flow out of you into your marriage.
I was challenged, encouraged, and ready to go and implement some of these things in my life and marriage. Newspring gave everyone a little booklet, packed full of date night ideas, conversation starters, an outline for goals and dreams, and challenges to do for your spouse daily. REALLY thankful to Newspring for hosting and all the speakers and volunteers who made it a success. They will be putting on another one in March of 2020! Id definitely recommend every couple do something like this, at least every year. Maybe it can become one of your yearly habits ;)