A lot of marriages exist instead of excel. They simply survive when God intended them to thrive.
What once started as exuberant, young love easily turns into nothing more than “old hat”, everyday life. Two people, coexisting, living life together “till death do us part”. Because well, that’s what they said they would do, and they’ll die doing it. Even if for no other reason than just because it’s the right thing to do.
I can clearly remember as a boy the love my grandparents had for each other, especially as they aged and struggled with poor health. Their unwavering love and dedication to each other was greatly impactful on me. However, I can also remember how there were many times that they could hardly stand each other, as they got on each other’s nerves to no end with their petty squabbles about things that really didn’t matter. In fact, it was hard not to sit back and just chuckle inside at their childish pettiness at times over little ways that they would intentionally push each other’s buttons.
My wife and I have been married for 16 years, and sometimes I catch us doing the exact same things, pushing each other’s buttons. And I have to remind myself of what I learned from my grandparent’s love, both the good and the bad.
While every marriage faces its struggles and challenges, God never intended for a husband and wife to experience a mundane existence of simply “living happily ever after.”
The problem with the phrase “living happily ever after” is that it always seems to be the “living” part that gets in the way. Life has a natural way of taking its toll on us, and especially in our marriage.
However, I think that God designed for us not so much to live happily ever after, but to love happily ever after. God never established the institution of marriage to be something we just do, but rather something that we enjoy. Yet in many Christian marriages, where two people are just pushing their way through, joy is the last thing you’d be likely to find.
However, what if every couple strove intentionally, not with each other, and not simply to fulfill their marital obligations, but strove intentionally to really, truly love one another the way God intended through marriage? Could it be possible for them to “love happily ever after”?
Can couples that have been married for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years still be madly in love, and it even be obvious to others by the way they interact with each other? I for one, believe that while “loving happily ever after” is a lost art in many marriages today, it’s still not only possible but promising for the best marriage we could ever hope to have.
So, how does it happen? Here are 3 ways to consider how to be successful at loving happily ever after:
1) Make your spouse the apple of your eye
For many, the apple of their eye can easily become a job, a hobby, a ministry, their children, or even another person other than their spouse. However, your spouse needs to become so big to you, that they are the shiniest and most important apple of your eye. Second only to God, your spouse is to be the most important person in your life. They are the one thing in your life that should get the best of your time, attention, and love.
I Corinthians 7:33-34 But he that is married careth for… how he may please his wife. She that is married careth for how she may please her husband.
This can be carried out tangibly in how we talk to them, treat them, and prioritize them with our time.
Sadly, one of the greatest marriage killers to ‘loving happily ever after’ is misplaced focus in marriage. This often happens when the children become a greater priority than the marriage. And as a result, once the kids are gone, spouses don’t even know each other anymore. Let alone know how to successfully focus on and live with each other. However, this cannot happen if we purposefully keep our spouse as the apple of our eye.
This takes work. It takes intentionality. It takes pursuing your spouse like they are actually the most important person God has placed in your life – because they are.
2) Keep accounts small with each other
Ephesians 4:26-27 Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
When the buttons start getting pushed more frequently, it’s time that you have some of the tough, but necessary, conversations. Rather than just brushing those things under the rug, and hoping they’ll go away, put your big boy pants on, and address them.
Successful communication is key to successful companionship in any marriage.
But simply fail to keep your accounts small, and your problems will become big very quickly. However, if you always refuse to keep score through regular acts of forgiveness and openness, accounts stay small.
Proverbs 26:20 reminds us that… “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.”
In many marriages, the wood of annoyance, bitterness, and resentment builds to the point that it eventually erupts into a fiery inferno, leaving damage and destruction behind in its path. This is never God’s will for your marriage. And this would never happen if we learned to keep small accounts with each other.
The way that my wife and I personally keep small accounts in our marriage is simply what we call our open heart policy.
3) Never stop celebrating your love
When God gave you your spouse, He gave you something special. He gave you a gift that you were extremely excited about opening and enjoying both on your wedding day and for the rest of your life. The good news is that God never intended for that to stop once you got married.
Here are a few reminders of how to celebrate your love.
- Celebrate by creating special moments – Enjoy life together! Make memories that are unique to you. Put the kids to bed early one night every week. Go on those date nights. Spend time doing the “nothingness” together, like looking at the stars at night, or taking a walk just because. Make your marriage your greatest earthly relationship like God meant it to be.
- Celebrate what God has given to you through sexual intimacy – Make sex a priority! Just like a great party heightens your senses, sometimes all at the same time, through the music, the food, and the fun, God intended your marriage to be one of the greatest ongoing parties of your lifetime. This can involve as many of your senses as you desire, including and especially in the bedroom. Great sexual intimacy requires that you and your spouse be intentional and open in this area of celebrating your marriage. Yes, marriage can be tough, including times of struggle and difficulty, but there also needs to be regular times of celebration. Marriage is a party, sex is the celebration. Celebrate regularly.
- Celebrate through working together as a team – Because teamwork makes the dream work! Good marriages take work. Great marriages take a lot of work. It’s not easy being married to another sinner, but you’re both in the same boat, and you’re both married to an imperfect teammate. And God has given you to each other to make one another better. Are you learning from each other? Are you allowing your spouse to point out areas of needed growth? Are you teachable, coachable, and a team player? Good teams celebrate their differences because it’s what makes them successful. Good marriages do the same.
As you consider these things, are you on track to “love happily ever after”? Are you making your spouse the apple of your eye?… Are you keeping small accounts with each other?… Are you celebrating regularly?…
Or do you need to make some course corrections before ending up somewhere that neither of you wants to be? If so, why not do something about it today? It could mean the difference between just living happily ever after, or getting to experience loving happily ever after. And there’s a Big Difference.