Happy beginning of a new year! As we head deeper into this New Year, it’s a great time to re-evaluate and change out a few things that didn’t work out so well for us in the past. Why should we drag that, which isn’t working well into a brand new year? Why not work out a few of the kinks? Or why not work together on finding new way of approaching troublesome matters? Isn’t that all a part of marrying? It’s about working to marry your approaches to your life together, so it works better for both of you and for your relationship.
Just try not to tackle too much at once. Clean out a small relational closet so to speak. And then tackle another. If you take on too much at once it may hurt your relationship more than help it. Take one baby step at a time. Eventually, you’ll make a lot of truly good progress in marrying your lives together.
Easing into the Decluttering Process
Prayerfully re-evaluate and have a few “good” sit-down talks together. We say, “good” because you want to approach this God’s ways of doing it, not our go by our natural tendencies. It’s easy for us to mess things up with our human, selfish tendencies. Oftentimes it can be reduced to “my, my, my… me, me, me—what I fell I need the most.” We can too readily throw our marriage partnership off to the side. And when we do, where does that take our marriage? It can break it.
So, just make sure you’re prayerful about all of this. Remember, “a cord of three strands” (with the Lord being in the middle of your relationship) “is not easily broken.” Pray, evaluate, work things through, rearrange, declutter, and grow in your love relationship and in your living conditions with each other. You may have to have several smaller “talks” over a course of time, but that’s okay. It’s all a part of marrying.
To help us start this process we’re going to share 3 questions and a few thoughts that “marriage experts” Bob & Yvonne Turnbull from Turnbullministries.org have written. Plus, we’ll tack on a few thoughts of our own in [brackets]. Here’s their thoughts to consider.
Decluttering Your Marriage
We always look forward to a new year There is still lots of time for all of us to look to declutter our marriage and family, for this year, just like we declutter our house and garage. We have realized that many things come into our lives each year that only clutter it; and oftentimes it gets us side-tracked from where God is leading us. We are sure you have experienced that too. Let us all remember, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
What we do to review decluttering is to go out to dinner at a place where we can spend a couple of hours discussing three questions. Here’s the first:
Question #1: What areas worked for us this past year, and do we want to continue them?
We start with what has worked for us and gave us encouragement. This is followed by reviewing our financial, physical, spiritual and relational areas. One example: A couple of years ago we set a goal to read four books together. It worked well for us, so we are going to do it again this year. Our initial reading this year is a book with many spiritual values and virtues – “Being George Washington.” This book is already an energizing conversation opener for us, and if you have not read it, we highly recommend it.
[Steve & Cindy: We’ve had a lot of tough challenges dumped upon us this year. Most of them have been physical and financial challenges. They have thrown us for a loop sometimes. But, as we look closer, we know God has a plan for us in all of it that works into His Kingdom work. So, as difficult as this is, we’re working to partner together with the Lord in all of this and do the best we can.
Something that has worked for us is trying to approach these challenges in kinder ways with each other. When we’re sick, hurting, frazzled, and upset we can get into the bad habit of snapping at each other. We can also get defensive and uncooperative. And that’s definitely not helpful. So, we’re continuing to remind each other to be kind and fight the problem, not each other. We haven’t perfected this yet, but we’re doing better. Thank you, Jesus!]
Question #2: What areas did not work for us – why – and do we want to do something differently?
At the beginning of last year, we decided that once a month we were going to set aside one to two days to go and explore the area we live in – areas that probably every tourist who comes to the desert has seen but we have yet to visit. Typical, huh? Well, our ‘best intentions’ soon fizzled out as we allowed ourselves to get too much busyness in our business. Also, we did not put these days in our schedule. We were just going to ‘wing it’ and you know how that cannot work. So, this year we have literally scheduled certain days for our ‘touring’ and nothing will detour is from that baring an emergency. This is our date time together and sadly far too many couples no longer date each other. We don’t want to fall into that trap.
[Steve & Cindy: This question actually piles on top of the other for us. What didn’t work, is allowing ourselves to be so drawn into the drama of things that happen to us that we forget to be kind to one another. Also, we just can’t allow worry to rule over our thoughts and actions. That can just add to the problems we’re facing. So, we catch ourselves from allowing unkind thoughts and actions to even start or continue.
Also, it hasn’t worked for us to stew over things we can’t change. Right now, we’re facing a $14,000 roof repair/replacement. That’s on top of other expenses that appeared to come out of nowhere. (And we are anything but rich people.) But worrying, and stewing only adds to the problem. After getting over the initial shock, we work hard to put our cares upon the Lord; and then we work on doing what needs to be done. We don’t always do this like we should. But we’re working on getting better at it. God knows our needs; and we just need to trust Him more and know that God will make a way where there seems to be no way.]
Question #3: Is there anything new we want to add this year?
Yes – even though we are, as the term goes, ‘gym rats’ and go to our local fitness facility usually Monday through Friday in the mornings, we have also agreed for this year to take some leisurely walks throughout our complex on weekends; and while doing so we bring along 3 x 5 cards that have Bible verses on them. We walk and take turns reading the verses. Then we share what they mean to us and what we sense God would have us to do with the words we are reading. And then we work to commit them to memory. This is our physical and spiritual adventure together as a husband and wife. If you have children, and depending on their age, this could be a fun and productive family activity too.
[Steve & Cindy: This year we’re working even harder at stretching ourselves physically and mentally. We know this will benefit us each in individual ways; but it will also benefit us in our marriage. When we’re sharper, we also feel better about ourselves and each other. Also, we’re leaning into being more generous in giving each other grace. God does that with us! In John 1:16 we read, “from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…”
And that is what we want to give to each other. We want to give more grace upon grace. We’re not talking about enablement or overlooking bad behavior. Instead, we’re talking about not being so quick to jump all over each other when something happens. Sometimes it’s best to just let it go. Don’t pick up the offense. It’s important to know when to deal with it, and when to overlook it and give grace.]
How About You?
Is there any decluttering of your marriage/family that is needed? We encourage you to pose these trio of questions to each other and then, “Make your plans, counting on God to direct you.” (Proverbs 16:9).
In summary, in your approach to decluttering your marriage:
“Let’s resolve to be wise. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.‘ When King Solomon penned those words he was actually referring to marriage. Let’s put our hand to the plow. Let’s get to work doing the thing we’ve been putting off in regard to our marriage: Have the conversation you’ve been avoiding; – Plan a date night to bless your spouse. – Clean the house or fix the leaking faucet. – Stop long enough to draw your spouse out about the moodiness you’ve noticed in their responses to you. – Ask. – Talk. – Be purposefully diligent.
“These are the moments God gives us all day after day. They aren’t inconveniences. They are opportunities for us to grow closer to each other and to the Lord. But we must be alert. We must be vigilant if we are going to move beyond where we are today and grow our marriage to be strong and mature—the marriage God desires us all to have.” (Debi Walter)
We hope this helps! May God work with you, and within you to grow a healthier, more loving marriage partnership together! We ask God to “fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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