What does a thriving marriage look like? What does it take to thrive? I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now. Besides the fact that both our granddaughter and the flowers are beautiful, what do they have in common? They are alive. They grow. They change with time. They both take work to keep healthy. They both need water and nutrition in order to live and grow. That sounds a lot like what it takes to make a marriage (or any relationship) thrive.
A thriving marriage is alive. It is not stagnant, stuck in a rut or operating on “auto-pilot” with little communication on a regular daily basis. It does not just happen. Sure we all have days where we basically pass each other on the way out the door to work and then meet up again at bedtime, but a thriving marriage does not operate like that for long. During the summer I could miss a day or maybe two of watering my flowers but any more than that and they were sure to be wilting, looking pretty sad. Our granddaughter might let us stretch out the time between meals with a little snack but totally ignoring food for more than a few hours has her crying and letting us know in rather loud unhappy sounds that something is wrong, very wrong. Unfortunately, in marriage it’s not always so obvious that we are not “feeding” our relationship. After all, we are busy people. We have the house to take care of, kids to get to school, work to be done, school activities to go to in the evenings, and meals to fix. There are only 24 hours in a day. We can go quite a while without time to talk or a date night. We can go even longer without a marriage retreat ever crossing our minds let alone happening. However, just like real life, if you don’t eat it will eventually catch up with you. My husband talks a lot about “running out of nutrition” while biking. It can bring him to a complete stop. A t the very least it slows him down and shortens his distance when riding. That’s not fun. The same thing happens in marriage. If we don’t “feed” our relationship it will slow our growth, our ability to enjoy life and it could eventually end it all together.
Speaking from experience, when my calendar becomes too full for too long to allow some “us” time, I become short-tempered. I don’t have much compassion or patience with Mark because I’ve spent all my energy on other people and activities without any breaks. My husband only gets the leftover, tired me and that’s never good. I believe a thriving marriage is the result of a conscious decision to make your relationship a high priority, yes, even when you still have kids at home. In order to grow, change with the seasons of life and be healthy, you have to feed your relationship. Here are just a few suggestions we have found for “feeding” our marriage:
1. Plan what Marriage Coaches, Gary and Barb Rosberg call “Two Chair Time”, A 15-20 minute talk time several times a week when the kids are not to interrupt you unless they are “broken, bleeding or dying.” This time is to connect beyond just the schedule for the next day. It’s time to talk about what you are currently learning, excited about, of the struggles of the day.
2. Put at least a couple of dates per month on the calendar. These do not have to be expensive or elaborate. Sometimes just a walk around Grey’s Lake with time to eat a treat on a blanket like a picnic is perfect.
3. I would highly recommend going to a marriage retreat every couple of years if not annually. There is nothing like getting away from the day to day routine and responsibilities to renew your love for one another. During that time away you can really concentrate on each other. You can talk about where you are at and where you want to be. Before coming home from the retreat, I suggest you schedule a 3, 6 and 9 month date to check in on how you are progressing toward where you want to be in your relationship. If you get it on the calendar before you leave, it is much more likely to happen.
4. Celebrate. Celebrate finishing a project. Celebrate your 18 month anniversary. Celebrate an extra warm, sun-shining day in the middle of winter. Celebrate something you love about your spouse. You can never celebrate too much.
It’s exciting to me to be able to write about this in a season of thriving. Our marriage, like yours, is not perfect but we are committed. We continue to grow and celebrate our learning on a regular basis even after more 33 years. What are you currently doing to allow your marriage to thrive? Share your experience, you just might encourage someone else to make the effort.
Jody and Mark Stevenson are "tentmakers" working to support themselves as they minister through Treasure Chest Ministries. A ministry focused on supporting others through Biblical teaching especially in the areas of worship, marriage and family, and health. Valley has been their home church for the past 7 years.