Over the last few years Peter and I have considered what our marriage is going to be like, or rather what we are going to be like in our marriage, in years to come. One older lady said to us, to deal with stuff now, and to deal with it completely with the love and grace of Jesus, otherwise all sorts of stuff will come out when we are old and grey. We want to grow old graciously and we want our marriage to be loving, strong and generous.
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What we do today will affect or shape our marriage in the future. Recently I was challenged with the question “Do I live for instant gratification, or do I live with my long term goals in mind?” This is a good question to ask in terms of our marriage.
- Right now I may be frustrated but my long term goal needs me to grow in patience.
- Right now I may be disappointed but my long term goal needs me to grow in understanding.
- Right now I may be bored but my long term goal needs me to be interested in things other than myself.
Each time I react out of my frustration, disappointment, boredom or any other negative reaction, I am consolidating my habitual reactions to my husband. Conversely, every time I reign in my reaction, pause and consider my response, and carry on in a godly way, I consolidate healthy reactions to my husband and life situations. These healthy responses that I develop today will hold me in good stead in my future.
It is interesting that when you do a Google search for “preparing for a marriage in your old age” the responses are mostly about getting married in your older age! Our marriage is as strong as how we live together: how we face day to day life, how we handle relationship difficulties, how we grow to know each other more each year, our marriage is not defined by our wedding.
So here are some things that I’m thinking about; things that I think we’ll need in our marriage in our older age:
A habit of forgiveness. Married people need to be slow to take offence, quick to forgive and then forget. We cannot afford to dig into past – done, dusted, buried, forgotten! Of course this isn’t always an instant reaction to a hurt, so we need to be growing in our ability to deal with hurt graciously, and completely.
A habit of conversation. Peter’s mother says often: communication, communication, communication. Married people need to be willing to talk about what is going on inside our head and heart. We need to talk to each other about good things and bad. About interests and fears. About dreams and disappointments. Talking to each other creates an intimacy with each other because of the things you share.
A habit of listening. Talking to each other has no value unless we also have a habit of listening – listening with the intent to understand not listening so we can make our own comeback. Listening with our whole being shows respect.
A habit of doing things together. Married people need to live life together – to find common interests. Often this is ‘the kids’ and then things start to unravel when the kids leave home. What did you do together before kids? Thinking about this may help you revive some long forgotten interests, hobbies or activities.
A habit of doing things by yourself. Married people need to have a degree of self-reliance, as we can’t live in each other’ pockets, neither will we always like everything exactly the same. Having personal interests brings something new and fresh to the times we are together. We need to be two individuals coming together. We don’t lose our individual-ness when we get married, but rather we express it with the other in mind.
A habit of being hospitable. A healthy couple will give to others – it isn’t all about us. Getting to know other people is not always easy, but living by the command to love your neighbour is important regardless of your situation in life.
A habit of reading God’s word, talking about it, challenging and encouraging each other. I think it is a beautiful thing seeing old people delight in God’s word. This is what I desire for myself, and for Peter’s and my relationship.
A habit of exercise and eating well. ‘nuf said! If we don’t then maybe we miss the opportunity to do any of these other things!
A habit of letting the other person be responsible for themselves. Married people are still responsible for their own habits, responses, reactions, beliefs and character. We need to be there to support and encourage each other but not to boss or overshadow the other.
A habit of showing love to each other. There are two different encouragements to remind us to show love to each other. First there is 1 Corinthians 13 which describes the many actions and motivations of love. Secondly there is the idea of ‘love languages’ which helps us find meaningful ways to communicate love to our spouse. (Check out Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages.) We cannot afford to get lazy in this area.
Ironically, this list is starting to look like a list that I will give my children when they start to consider marriage, as there really isn’t any special things we can do for our future. These are habits that will build a strong marriage today, and a strong marriage in the future.
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