How many of you walked down the aisle on your wedding day and PLANNED to have a bad marriage? Probably none of us would say, “Yes” to that. And yet so many marriages eventually fall into that trap. One of the reasons for this is that we fail to PLAN to have a good marriage.
As Pastor Jeff Helton and his (psychologist) wife, Lora Helton said about this,
“Many couples have fallen into a passive approach to their marriage. And then 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. Why do we expect marriage to be easy and automatic?”
PLAN to Have a Good Marriage
Truly think about the question they pose. “Why do we expect marriage to be easy and automatic? After all, most anything really good takes a lot of work to get it that way. And yet with love, we think it should just naturally stay good —without putting in extra effort to maintain it. If that were true, we wouldn’t have the high divorce rate we do. Love doesn’t come “naturally” to most of us.
Jeff and Lora Helton go on to write:
“Instead of the 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! There has to be a plan. The old adage is right: ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.'”
Nurture Your Marriage
The following are other points they wrote on this subject in their book titled, “Authentic Marriages.” Unfortunately the book is no longer in print but here’s what they wrote:
When marriages are not actively nurtured, they tend to go into the default mode. Usually this means that our sinful nature will be more active than our desire to please God. The default mode is where selfishness grows and flourishes. Here criticism of your spouse is accepted and even encouraged by friends. It is where fantasy tends to have a greater pull than reality and where hope for a better marriage dies.
In the default mode we get stuck in ruts. Perhaps you have had the exact same fights with your spouse over and over again, without acceptable resolution. Most couples do, because most couples live their marriage on automatic. When you get right down to it, the main problem often is that couples do not prioritize the time necessary to keep a marriage growing and alive.
The Big Time Struggle:
A proactive approach to marriage says that this relationship is so important to you that you are going to actively ensure its success and health with preventative medicine and a focus on growth rather than crisis management. Therefore, you are willing to put in the time to ensure your success.
We find it interesting that one of the biggest struggles we have with couples whom we are counseling is getting them to commit to time each week with each other. Many insist that the time isn’t there. If you’re one of these people, we would like you to consider how much time you spend:
- Watching television
- Working extra hours
- Going to movies
- Working on a committee
- Talking to friends
- Watching or participating in sports
- Shopping for fun
- Doing your favorite hobby
- Playing on the computer
- Doing volunteer work
- Attending or running church activities.
Build a Healthier Marriage
We contend that if you have time to do any or many of these dozen activities, you have time to spend on your marriage. Are any of these more important than your marriage?
“Wait a second!” you might say, “Church activities are on that list! Isn’t that a good thing on which to spend time?” Of course, yet we’ve met many good Christians who help out at church, yet treat their spouse in a very dishonoring way, not giving the spouse the time she or he deserves.
We greatly believe in serving the body of Christ by volunteering at church but believe that the church would grow stronger and more authentic if members would prioritize having a godly marriage even over helping at the church. Our position is that if you build a healthier marriage, you will have more energy and actually be more effective in helping at your church.
Learn How to Love
To that we say, “Amen!” What good does it do for the cause of Christ if we fail to PLAN to have a good marriage? Our marriages should reflect the love of Christ so strongly that others will want to know our “secret” to having a loving marital relationship that endures through the years.
And when others ask we can tell them our success is no secret. What God has done for us He can do for them! But we need to put the necessary time, effort, and pro-actively LEARN how to love each other as God directs us.
For those of you who want to know where to start on being proactive in making your marriage the best it can be.
To Do This:
- First, PRAY —get on your knees, regularly and pray for God’s guidance on this.
- Secondly, TALK WITH EACH OTHER on what you can do to make your marriage a better one than you’ve allowed it to be in the past.
- Then, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Become students of marriage, and students of each other, learning all you can to improve your marital relationship with each other.
- And if at any point you find yourself falling back into the “default mode,” RESTART AGAIN. The biggest problem when you fall isn’t the fall itself —it’s what you do afterward. Do you just lie there and complain or do you get back up (even if you’ve done it many, many times before)? Or do you keep persevering, as the Bible tells us to do? We hope you’ll keep persevering.
Keep in mind that we’re told in the Bible:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“ (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Steve and Cindy Wright
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