The reconciliation of a marriage must be a lifestyle, not just the response you have when things go bad.
Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect?
I used to have a very odd complaint about my husband. After our marriage started turning around following the first few years of struggling, he started getting really sensitive about the state of our marriage. If we hadn't talked in a few days, he worried about us. If we spent a few weeks in a state of acting like "roommates" or coasting, he worried about us. If we weren't gazing lovingly into each other's eyes every 5 minutes, he worried about us. It bugged the heck out of me. I felt like his expectations were too high and I could never live up to perfection. How could he possibly believe that we could live in a perpetual honeymoon stage?
Then, one day, I realized I was crazy. I was upset because my husband cared deeply about the state of our marriage and was paying very close attention to it. How ridiculous is that?
I often hear about struggling marriages and I wonder if there was a moment that the couple could pinpoint where the marriage went from bliss to misery. But I'm starting to think that there often isn't a moment or an event or a crisis that suddenly dumps a marriage into a pit.
When my husband and I were studying Song of Songs with our community group, we spent a good deal of time discussing this verse:
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom. - Song of Songs 2:15In the middle of this whole book about a king wooing and marrying a young woman and then consummating his marriage, there's this random phrase about foxes. Here's what Mark and Grace Driscoll write about this:
Our selfishness often shows up in the little things...In a vineyard there is the potential for beauty, wonder and life. But, the vineyard must be cultivated, weeds must be pulled, and foxes must be kept out. A Christian winemaker in Napa Valley explained that it takes many years, even decades, of tender care to raise and mature and fruitful wine. She said that keeping large animals out of her vineyard was easier than keeping out small animals that could sneak in. In particular, she said, small animals like foxes were particularly dangerous because they gnawed on the root of healthy vines, thereby killing the entire plant and robbing its harvest after years of investment. The key to a harvest of fruitfulness, fidelity, oneness, love, and joy is to catch the little foxes that creep into your marital vineyard. (Real Marriage, p.159)If we're going to have a healthy marriage, we have to pay attention to the things that seem little. We have to be asking ourselves a lot of questions and honing in on all the little things that make a marriage healthy. We need to be paying close attention to our spouse's emotions and state of mind and interests. We need to be involving ourselves in each other's lives. We need to not forget to have sex for a month and actually keep track of when you made love last. We need to never allow ourselves to dwell on our spouse's offenses, truly overlook what needs to be overlooked and immediately communicate the things that genuinely need to be communicated. If a sin needs to be confronted, then confront it. If you need help with a situation, get help. If you're convicted about an ungodly attitude towards him, act on that conviction. Make a serious effort to stay attractive for him. Don't notice something awesome that he does and tell yourself that you'll tell him later; praise him right away.
Things don't go bad in a marriage in an instant. The character of a marriage is not formed in one grand moment. Things in a marriage go bad progressively. Things become sweet and good progressively. The development and deepening of the love in a marriage happens by things that are done daily; this is also true with the sad deterioration of a marriage. The problem is that we simply don't pay attention...there is an epidemic of marital laziness among us. (Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect? p.58-59So what do you do when you've let things go for too long? First of all, you need to know that your marriage is not beyond God's help. If you were once at the top of the mountain, but slid halfway down, the top is still achievable...it's still ahead of you. And if you've fallen all the way to the bottom of the mountain, well, then you start putting one foot in front of the other and heading back up. There's going to need to be a lot of prayer, a lot of listening to God, some conversations with your husband and maybe some outside help and accountability. But there is always, always, hope.
God welcomes us all to a lifestyle of reconciling grace, where problems are faced and change really does take place and where we no longer repeat the same mistakes again and again. Sit down. Take time. God is with you, and he has something better. (Paul Tripp, What Did You Expect? p.69)
Sharing with: The Alabaster Jar, The Better Mom, Matrimonial Mondays, Time Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Growing Home, NOBH