3 Things You Must Know To Thrive In Marriage
My spouse and I are very different. Maybe you can relate? I sleep hard and get up early. She has trouble sleeping and stays in bed longer. I like cheddar; she likes velveeta (not real cheese). My popcorn should have lots of salt, hers should have lots of butter. I’m steak, she’s pie. I’d like to stay up till midnight; sometimes she is ready for bed by 8:30pm. I forget about my birthday, don’t care about getting presents, am not big on holidays, and am usually unimpressed by fireworks…my wife on the other hand: birthdays are huge, presents are necessary, holidays are time-stopping events, and fireworks are king!
Is this thing on? Can I get an amen??
If you’re anything like us, married life can be challenging simply on the basis of differing preferences. How can two people who have such different preferences end up together? I suppose a more relevant question would be: How can we thrive together? No one gets into a marriage intentionally planning to fail. But as the adage goes, “Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.” So, let’s plan to win in our marriages! I’m not saying that this list is the Holy Grail of marriage advice, but I do believe these are three critical pieces of knowledge that a marriage must have in order to thrive.
1. Know Yourself
Socrates, the Ancient Greek philosopher, said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Before we can truly love others, we must love ourselves. If we cannot love ourselves, then the spring of our love for others will be tainted. Furthermore, we cannot really love that which we do not know. I may claim to love a person I do not know, but the truth is that I love only what I see in that person. However, if that person’s closest confidant, the one who knows them at their best and their worst, claims to love them, that means far more than what I can express. The same is true for ourselves: in order to love ourselves, we must know ourselves. Make it a priority to learn about yourself, and encourage your spouse to do the same (share this article?). A few great tools for this are the enneagram, the 5 Love Languages, or something like a few days alone and disconnected from the world.
2. Know Your Spouse
It has been said that a husband or wife should become a student of their spouse. If there is one thing I must be able to admit in marriage, it is this: I don’t have this figured out. Now say it with me, “I don’t have this figured out.” Once you can say that out loud to your spouse, you’re in a good place to begin. Becoming a student of your spouse is one of those tasks that can be discouraging because if you do it right, you’ll never finish this project. If you’re a task-driven person, that could be a tough pill to swallow. But the truth is that people are always changing, and that includes your spouse. Her favorite meal from year 1 probably won’t be her favorite meal at year 5. His favorite thing to do in the bedroom at year 10 probably wasn’t his favorite at year 3. We must continually study our spouses if we want our marriages to thrive. The tools listed above (enneagram, love languages, etc) are great for this. It is also important to live life side-by-side to get to know your spouse better: take trips together, try new restaurants, take a class, or tackle a project together. Whatever you do, do it with intentionality as you strive to be a student of your spouse.
3. Know Your Purpose
Finally, it is critically important that you, together, know your purpose. Why are you married? What do you hope that your life together actually accomplishes? What do you hope that your reputation is as a couple? Knowing yourself and your spouse are great, but if you don’t also know your purpose, you are like a wonderful ship at sea without a compass. You’ll drift wherever life takes you, and that can lead to some real choppy waters. Having a purpose in your marriage doesn’t guarantee that you won’t hit rough patches; but when those rough patches arrive, you’ll have a reason to weather the storm. If you’ve never set down with your spouse and created a vision for your marriage, you should. Having a defined mission statement (here’s ours) or purpose is so freeing and vitalizing for your marriage. When you can both agree on where you’re going, it clarifies everything: how you spend your money, when/where you take vacation, how you spend your free time, who you hang out with, why you live where you live, why you take or don’t take the job, and on and on! Having an agreed upon purpose helps get you and your spouse on the same page, and just makes life easier in general! One great resource to help you get started is this blog post at Fierce Marriage.
A Wedding Or A Marriage?
I remember our wedding day, and the weeks leading up to it. One of the things I reminded my wife of often was this: “I’m not doing this for the wedding, I’m doing this for our marriage.” Don’t get me wrong, weddings are great. But they are fleeting. We put a lot of time, effort, and money into them, and then they’re over. But what is left after the confetti is thrown is a couple. Two people who now have to figure out how to combine two lives into one…two families into one…two callings, two sets of wounds, two lists of preferences…all into one. It’s a good thing to have a great wedding. It’s a far better thing to have a great marriage. What if we decided to really do what it takes to have great marriages and to be great husbands and wives? To leave a great legacy and example to our children and grandchildren? It all starts with knowing ourselves, knowing our spouse, and knowing our purpose.