There is no finish line in the marathon of marriage. Here are some tips to help you run well so you can endure for the long haul and enjoy the race along the way.
This June, Jenni and I will celebrate 39 years of marriage, which means next year it will be the big 4 – 0. As astounding as those numbers are to us, our view is that we never cross the “finish line” in our marriage as long as we live. There is no point at which we say “we’ve done it all” and try to coast from there on out. No, we believe there is always more: more intimacy and passion, new experiences and seasons, greater heights in love and grace, and deeper levels of surrender.
A few weeks ago, in our post There Is Always More, we shared some tips for going after more in your marriage. Today, let’s unpack one of those tips, having a mindset of more.
Your Mindset Matters
We spend a lot of time coaching couples to view their marriage through the right lens. We believe that getting them to think of their marriage in the right way is much more helpful in the long run than just giving them a list of things to do.
The primary lens we teach for viewing your marriage is the bridal paradigm, which is simply that God designed marriage to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. Seeing your marriage through this lens opens a vast landscape of scriptural truth to help inform you how to do marriage as God intends, resulting in the kind of marriage God wants for you, full of intimacy, passion, grace, love, and joy.
Running the Marriage Race
The writer of Hebrews compares our spiritual journey with that of a marathon race.
As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.
We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)
There are several great lessons for marriage that can be gleaned from this passage.
Let Go of Offenses
Dragging around past wounds and offenses creates a heavy burden that will definitely keep you from running the marriage race God calls you to. While it’s true that it’s sometimes best to give grace and look past small offenses if you’ve been wounded by your spouse and carry unresolved hurt or anger, it’s time to get things out on the table.
Avoid making accusations and use lots of “I” language to describe what you feel. Remember, the goal isn’t to be right, but to be love, and to repair the break in your connection.
Consider that there may also be wounds from your past that occurred prior to your marriage that need attention and resolution.
Run With Passion
Passion is the fuel that keeps the fire for your spouse alive in your heart. In my book, Pump Up the Passion, I describe five habits couples can develop that help keep passion alive:
- Pursue – never stop pursuing each other.
- Play – have fun, try new experiences
- Praise – thankfulness is contagious
- Pleasure – enjoy sexual and non-sexual pleasure in abundance
- Prioritize – say no to some things, so you can yes to what matters most
Run With Determination
Running your marriage race with determination means never settling for the marriage you currently have. It means continuing to seek more of the things that matter to your relationship; things like selflessness, surrender, intimacy, joy, grace, and peace.
There is a recent phenomenon that sociologists call “grey divorce,” which I describe in my post, “Keeping Your Marriage Strong for the Long Haul.” There has been a striking rise in divorces among couples who are 50 years of age and older. The statistics are sad and shocking. In 1990, one in ten divorces occurred in couples ages 50 and older. In 2009, that number doubled to two in ten. For those previously married, it has skyrocketed to one in four, a 250% increase.
The antidote to grey divorce is a recognition that marriage is not primarily intended to be a vehicle for your own personal happiness and fulfillment but a covenant designed by God to reflect the love relationship between Jesus and his bride. That means keeping selfless, sacrificial love at the center of your relationship and living a mutually surrendered life, which actually brings great fulfillment and happiness.
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Verse 2 in the Hebrews passage above calls us to “focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus” rather than on earthly, material things. This is absolutely key to keeping love at the center of your marriage. We learn a life of love and surrender by looking to the way Jesus loves us: unconditionally and sacrificially. It is in Christ that we find the love we need to sustain and grow our marriage – and what a privilege and a joy it is to have this love living within us! It’s an unknowable and unending resource (Ephesians 3: 18-19) that we get to tap into.
For the Joy of Intimacy
As the passage concludes, Jesus was able to endure the cruelty of the cross for “the joy of knowing that you would be his.” He bore it all for the sake of intimacy – an intimate relationship with you and me. Keeping intimacy as the main goal of your marriage has the power to propel your relationship forward and ever upward.
What an absolute delight it is to live in intimate connection to your spouse! Let that sense of joy and wonder keep your heart stirred up with passion and desire.
Go For More
Yesterday, Jenni shared a quote from a talk she heard that fits perfectly with today’s post.
In order to keep what you have, you have to go for more.Michael Koulianos
It was given in the context of our relationship with Jesus, but fittingly, in keeping with the bridal paradigm, she also thought of it as a tremendous truth for marriage. It speaks to the fact that there is no status quo. Your marriage is organic – if it isn’t growing, it’s dying.
There is no “finish line” in your marriage marathon; no point at which you can just coast along. Keep watchful as you run your race, keep your heart awake and alert.
How are you running these days?