The last three days have been dates, both couple and family versions. But, here is the deal. Dating WILL NOT GROW YOU AS A COUPLE. And that really was worthy of being all caps. Dates are grand, they are important, but they are times you grow as a couple not how you grow as a couple.
So, how do you do it?
Love your spouse- When I married Mark I promised to love him “as Christ loves the church” a variation of the more typical “for better or worse”. When I did that, there was no switch that was flipped. I did not automatically go to the setting of “love forever”. I made a promise to choose to love like Christ loved us. A promise to love him when easy and when NOT easy.
Honestly, the promise was easy. We were standing in front of family and friends, it was a day I had dreamed of since I was a little girl and had spent the last several months putting those dreams into actions.
But, just because a promise is easy when it is made does not make it any less of a promise when it is hard. I remember the hurt, frustration, and joy as I realized that deeper then ever before. Once again I choose to love my husband, and have been doing it ever since. Sometimes it is easy, and sometime I can only do it through God’s strength, even with as amazing as a man as I have.
Admitting you sinned-
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
That verse really puts into perspective just how important it is to admit when we were wrong and ask for forgiveness. Often, though, it is easier to see when our spouse needs forgiveness then when we do. Or, is that just me? *whistles*
Think back to loving your spouse. Below are the characteristics of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:
- Not envious
- Does not boast
- Does not dishonor others
- Not self-seeking
- Not easily angered
- Keeps no records of wrongs
- Does not delight in evil
- Rejoices in truth
- Always protects
- Never fails
- Is greater then hope and faith
A note on apologizing (I am saying this to myself far more then anyone else here)- Apologizing is a time to admit if you (I) did anything wrong. Not a time to get to your (my) spouse. It will look like this : I am sorry I ___________, that was wrong. Please forgive me.” Not “I am sorry I ______________, but you…” Whether or not you were (I was) sinned against apologizing is about what you (I) did that was wrong. And that is it.
Forgive- Every time. Quickly, and thoroughly. Just like God has forgiven us. There is little more destructive to a relationship then bitterness. I am amazed every time anew when I forgive how “light” I feel. I am no longer carrying that burden.
When I picture forgiveness I see a little girl or boy giving a wounded piece of their heart to the Lord. They choose not to carry it around it getting heavier and heavier through time. No longer are they clinging to that ugly bit, expecting a miracle where the person who hurt them completely heals that wound, or letting it stand between them. That little girl or boy will not forget, and they might have to be careful in the feature depending on the nature of the wound, but they are no longer carrying the burden of it.
Respect- Respect your husband (Eph. 5:33). We are never told to give something that can not be given on our own accord. To give us instructions that would require another persons actions, would be nothing short of cruel. Respect, like love and joy, is a choice. It is something we have the power (even if only through God’s strength) to give. If your husband was able to, and had to, earn it, it would not be worth much at all.
The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7a.
Don’t think you know another person’s motives. Only God can see the heart. How many times have I seen nothing more then a careless action, and turned it into “disrespect” “not wanting to be with me” “disliking me” or “not knowing me”?
Or Do Assume- Assume their motives were sweet and pure. Mark recently joyfully exclaimed how I was not skinny. I wanted to cry, even if I understood what he meant. Throughout my teen years and when we first got married I was pretty skinny. At times too much so (especially right after we got married).
After Natalia was born I decided to not lose weight if I could not do so through a balanced healthy diet where I ate what I needed. I am a healthy weight, but about 35 pounds heavier then when we first got married. Mark loves it! Soon perhaps I will even better except the curves I have within a healthy weight instead of the quite scrawny body I could only have through unhealthy means at this point. In the mean time, I can know he enjoys that I am not “skinny” and comments like that are born out of joy for him.
Enjoy- Choose to take joy in your marriage- through different seasons. Not just any “joy”, but the joy of the Lord which is our strength. One of the ways we can take actions to enjoy our marriage, is to spend time with our spouse, courting each other. And, now it is full circle.
Courtship is cultivating you marriage. Dates are specific times you set aside to do that. In some seasons dating comes easier then others, but that does not mean it is of less importance. Lastly, as wonderful as dates are, if they are nothing but actions they will do you no good. You must invest in your spouse during them, choosing to love, to know and be known, and to enjoy each other.