Are you an intentional marriage partner at this point in your relationship? If not… have you set the goal to become one? If not, today is a good day to take steps to partner with your spouse in intentional ways. We encourage you to do this because it’s a vital step in growing your marriage to be loving and healthy. That is because:
“Healthy marriages require intentionality. Many couples have fallen into a passive approach to their marriage. They wake up one day wondering what went wrong. They operate their marriages in what we call default mode. Things happen without planning or directions or effort. Instead of default mode, we need a proactive approach for our marriages to grow. The call that we’re sending out is this: Get out of the default mode in your marriage. Live at a higher level!” (Michael McManus, from newspaper article, “Myths and True Meaning of Married Love”)
We have fallen into the unhealthy default mode pattern several times in our marriage. The first time we “fell” was earlier in our marriage. It almost took us down. (We talk about this in our book, 7 Essentials to Grow Your Marriage.) Thankfully, God woke us up, and drew us to Himself. He then has step-by-step been showing us how to be intentional marriage partners. Sometimes we pull away and fall back into that default mode, but as we stay close to God, He redirects our steps to pro-actively reconnect.
Being an Intentional Marriage Partner
Dr William Doherty gives this further insight on this issue:
“An intentional marriage is one where the partners are conscious, deliberate, and planful about maintaining and building a sense of connection over the years. A lot goes into being intentional about marriage. This includes attending marriage education experiences. It also includes building a community of support for one’s marriage, setting boundaries with children, etc.
“…In this era, if we’re not intentional, we’ll become an automatic pilot couple. What I mean is that the natural flow of marriage relationships in contemporary life, with our crammed schedules, endless tasks, kids to care for, and the ever-present television media is towards less focus on the couple relationship over time. As a result, there is less connection. There is also less spark, and less intimacy. To grow closer over the years, you have to be mindful and intentional because of the pace and distractions of life.” (From his Smartmarriages speech, “What is Intentional Marriage?”)
Do you find that to be true in your marriage relationship? We’ve been there many times. We’ve found that we have to purpose to grow in our partnership. You don’t stumble into that type of growth. You have to pro-actively work at it.
Benefits of Being an Intentional Marriage Partner
Additionally, here’s something that Bryan and Stephanie Vignery (from the Intentional Marriage web site) say about one change (among many) that happens when we approach marriage partnership with intentionality:
“Marriages that are rooted in reacting to each other have a high rate of conflict. But when couples make an intentional shift to responding to each other they will experience love and respect.”
In addition, when couples make an intentional shift in how they interact with each other, they partner together in healthy, loving, God-ordained ways. As a result, they will experience love at a level that reflects the heart of God. We’re told in Ephesians 5:1-2:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.“
What is the “therefore” (at the beginning of that statement) there for? In Ephesians 4 (and throughout the Bible), we’re told to live in unity with one another. We have to “put away” from us, “all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander… along with all malice.” The mandate is to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
To do this, we have to be intentional in how we walk. It’s not natural to “walk in love.” To truly show love to one another, it takes sacrifice. Sometimes giving love comes easy, and other times it doesn’t.
Difficulties in Being an Intentional Marriage Partner
What are some of the “un-easier” choices we need to make for us to be an intentional marriage partner? Al Janssen (in his book, “The Marriage Masterpiece”) gives husbands what this looks like in practical terms. The same advice can be given to wives:
“Meaning in marriage is not found by pursuing happiness or self-fulfillment. Meaning in marriage is discovered by practicing self-sacrifice. …How does this play out in daily life?
• It means biting my tongue when I’d rather defend myself against something she [he] said.
• It means getting up in the middle of the night when a child cries rather than pretending I don’t hear anything.
• This also means putting down my reading material [or other interests] and really listening when she [he] wants to talk.
• It means taking over some chores when she’s [he’s] got a hectic day.
• It means cleaning the kitchen [or another chore] Sunday evening rather than leaving the mess for her [or him] to face on Monday morning.
• And it means that when I’m accidentally exposed to porn while channel surfing in a hotel room far from home, I shut off the television. I do this so I won’t allow any impure thoughts to invade my marriage.” [Or it means turning away from Facebook or another temptation when it takes me to a place where I shouldn’t go. If it can threaten the health of the marriage partnership, it’s important to flee from it.]
Additional Points in Being an Intentional Marriage Partner
As we quoted in last week’s Marriage Insight as marriage partners:
“Remember what love does. Love gently wipes vomit from a loved one’s face. Love trusts God always. It looks for goodness over and over in a person you don’t recognize, remembering the person you love. Love educates itself about what your loved one is going through.” (Melody Harrison Hanson) “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Ellyn Sanna brings out this point further:
“Marriage is an occasion to practice the gospel day in and day out. …But if we want our marriages to grow and flourish, we will follow the pattern for love that Christ lived. We will look for opportunities to lay down our lives. We will put our love into practice. In the context of our daily lives, this seldom means we literally give up our lives for the men [and women] we love. More likely, it means we pick up their dry cleaning. Or we take out the trash for them when they’re running late.”
How to Be an Intentional Marriage Partner
Here are a few other challenging ways to address this issue:
“Being intentional means to:
1. Study your spouse and take interest in what they find interesting.
2. Pursue your spouse on ordinary days.
3. Flirt with your spouse.
4. Make time to communicate about what is difficult and stressful in your life right now.
5. Purpose to connect every day if it’s only for 15-30 minutes.
6. Be your spouse’s biggest fan and best encourager so they aren’t looking for it elsewhere.
7. Keep a short list of offenses. Confession lifts burdens in a way nothing else can.
8. Help your spouse identify the reason they are bored. [And then find ways to help him or her get “un-bored” and enjoy being your partner, spouse, and friend.]
9. Make it a point to have time away without the kids together at least once a year.
10. Make friends with other couples who encourage your marriage to grow by the example they provide.
This is just a small start in how to be intentional in marriage. But the effects will be huge as you put them into practice. (Debi Walter from Theromanticvineyard.com article, A Closer Look at What Bores You)
The New Year as an Intentional Marriage Partner
As you begin this new year, we encourage you to be or become an intentional marriage partner. Do your part. Also, look to God to help your spouse do his or hers. Sometimes we will need to learn new things to be a better marriage partner. Other times we need to un-learn old habits that have caused problems. Whether you’re in the “Wet Cement” years of your marriage—where you are newlywed, or you’re the “oldie-wed” years (where it will be more difficult to change hardened habits), today can be a new beginning. Each day can be a new beginning.
What’s important is to proceed from this day forward, to be an intentional marriage partner. Partner with your spouse; but especially partner with God. He will guide you to be the best marriage partner you can be.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
Start the New Year by growing your marriage. We give a lot of practical tips to grow in your marriage partnership 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 so you can invest in their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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