“Do you know who your husband is? Well…what are we going to do about this?” That was my “official” marriage proposal. When I have shared my proposal, it usually provokes a laugh followed by; What? I then explain the proposal, how we went on one date and by the second date we were engaged. Not your typical dating or proposal journey and here we are May 25th 2016, TWENTY years later! Not holding back here, I am blessed and grateful for my husband! So what has sustained our marriage for twenty years? What has helped us beat the statistics of over 50% of all marriages fail? I don’t believe there is a magic formula or that Willie and I are more special than any other couple. We made a vow and decided to commit to “no plan B”. We’ve kept it simple; we have placed our hope in God for the purpose of why we were called together and decided our grass was greener!
When I look back on that proposal; “Well.. what are we going to do about this?” I remember as if it was yesterday; sitting in UNO’s pizzeria in Edina, MN. However through the years, I can remember several occasions where we didn’t feel as one. Our marriage at times was void of “the spark!” These twenty years have been filled with some amazing memorable moments and really dark moments. These moments created days, months and years, more importantly, we kept returning to that fact that God brought us together for a purpose much greater than we could imagine. God is good and God is faithful. Through the great and the more challenging times we have learned and know who to place our trust in. Through trusting His ability to walk out His will for our lives, God has continually stepped in and creates something beautiful that is lifelong and sustained only by His grace.
So what has kept us together, what keeps any marriage together? What made us say, let’s keep going, let’s try again. Let’s fight for our tomorrow together. I am reminded of a phrase my grandmother gave me when I asked her how she and my grandfather stayed married for over 50 years. She shared with me: “In my generation when something needed fixing, you just fix it!” For her and my grandfather, it was never about the wedding or proposal, it was about commitment made, for better or worse and you fix what needed fixing. Simple, yet true! What’s unfortunate today is, the focus is on the proposal and the stress of a flawless wedding. My question is; What about the after? After the proposal, wedding and honeymoon, then what? How do you nourish or a marriage when something new catches your eye or pays you more attention?
In our society, speaking mainly of the United States, we get caught up in looking for the new or the potential of the grass being greener. Our eye is attracted to the new, the perceived better. It is more convenient to just throw something away and look for the new. It’s quicker and easier to just walk away and not take the time to invest in your turf. If you are in any relationship you know that it takes work just like you would take care of your lawn. Green grass doesn’t just happen, it takes a commitment and it requires plenty of nourishment just like your marriage.
I am by no means a marital counselor or an expert, however I will say I have twenty years of life credit that I believe accounts for some gained insight and wisdom. Our marriage isn’t perfect and no marriage is! I’d love to share what nourishes our marriage and has made our grass greener.
Commit to No Plan B
We have committed to staying together. Plain and simple. If you want to remain married, together is the only option. By the US standards we should have been divorced a long time ago. Willie and I both came from broken homes where we witnessed multiple divorces and single parenting throughout our families. We were set up to walk away from our marriage from the start as this is what we saw in our childhood. Divorce is not God’s best. I don’t believe it is in God’s heart to see families torn. Now if you have been divorced or are a single parent, know that this is not intended to condemn! God can use any situation and turn it around.
For Willie and I, divorce was not an option and when we came to this decision together, it became easier to focus on what matters most. We have learned that investing in nourishing our relationship was what mattered. We grew up with the vision of divorce and God has shown us how to dig in and stay! I will tell you , we have not been exempt from outside distractions; prettier, younger, more money etc. The distractions will come, have come and gone. The grass will look greener outside of your marriage. When we came to the decision of NO PLAN B, it made it easier for us to see what we truly have and remain faithful.
Be quick to forgive or ask for forgiveness
A true sign of health in ones body is the come back rate. How quickly are you able to bounce back after injury? If you think about athletes and the injuries they endure playing their sport, it is crucial to their success that they come back to the game and quick. How quickly they can heal is important to the success of their future career. An athlete who spends days and weeks out on injury ultimately impacts the success of their team. If they didn’t come back or heal quickly, that athlete’s career maybe over. This can be true in marriage when we remain in unforgiveness.
Forgiveness reminds us we are loved and can love. Forgiveness is our comeback and brings healing to a relationship. Unforgiveness, on the other hand, is a seed that grows into bitterness and resentment. This bitterness and resentment frames any and every conversation going forward. It’s like looking through dirty glasses, all you see is a cloudy view. Unforgiveness is a breeding ground for “I deserve or entitlement” which opens the door for thoughts of grass is greener elsewhere. It is crucial to water your marriage and remain in forgiveness. Love covers! Be quick to forgive, it’s vital to your come back to love and oneness!
Stay relevant, listen!
People change, people grow and mature we were created to! I can say, I am not the same person I was twenty years ago, and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure my husband is too! We make mistakes and poor choices through life, and through this, we are given an opportunity to learn from. Encourage yourself and your spouse to grow. Give them and yourself permission to grow into who God has called them to be. This creates an open door to stay relevant or closely connected to your spouse. Staying relevant with your spouse encourages you to listen to their spoken and unspoken need. It helps you see them how God sees them; beloved!
We all come to relationships with preconceived ideas of how things should go based upon our past. Geographical and cultural differences provide diversity in a relationship however can cause discord when not worked through . Allow the past to remain the past. When we live in the same stories or assumptions of predicting one’s behavior based upon their past, we cannot see the beauty of the here and the now. God is the author and finisher of our faith. We are a work in progress working out our soul’s salvation. When we place our past stories in His hands we can stay relevant. We can stay in tune to what our spouse needs. We trust His plan for our relationship which enables us to listen nourishing the relationship.
One of the greatest desires of any human is to feel love and cherished. We desire companionship, in a relationship we want the attention from our lover. Think about when you first started dating. The calls, the moments, the excitement the butterflies. Remember the fun and spontaneity of dating and courting you were acknowledging one another’s presence. One way to keep the butterflies is to go on dates frequently. Dating in marriage doesn’t have to cost anything! Your presence to your spouse is priceless!
Willie and I enjoy coffee. I know for some it may come as a surprise! We love going to coffee shops, exploring different drinks on their menus and tasting the many ways one can enjoy coffee. We’ve become these undercover coffee critics comparing latte art and beverage preparation. It’s not about a latte, however it better taste good, the date night is the platform for time together. It provides much needed reconnection. We have demanding jobs, we have four kids and to remove the noise to find one another again is bliss!
What are activities you enjoy together? What places do you like to visit? Whatever the date or activity, have fun! Sometimes we would get dressed up and end up just going for a ride around the city getting lost in conversation. I love going on dates with my husband. The time together reminds me who I cherish. It’s this little get away rekindling our love for one another. When you are focused on their presence, you might end up with those butterflies again. You fall in love with whom you focus on so make it a point to date throughout your marriage!
You can’t make me feel happy or sad or change me
We are in charge of our feelings or how we respond to our world around us. We are also responsible for our own actions that follow how we feel. I love this phrase: “Happiness is an inside job”. Happiness is a choice. Living in gratitude is a choice. Life events happen, and what you have or don’t have are always changing and conditional. We must place our hope in God and know that our lives are in His hands. With that said, you decide how you respond to life. When you’ve discovered you have placed the responsibility of your feelings in your spouse’s hands, remember you have the choice to choose again.
We may do things for or to our spouse that are thoughtful, kind or rude. Intentionally or unintentionally. We cannot make ANYONE feel a certain way. With that said, you also cannot change a person. People gonna do what they gonna do! However…you can inspire someone and you can pray for God’s will in your spouse’s life. You can choose to be the constant and remain in gratitude. Your consistency will inspire change. Oh how this is such a liberating reminder that remaining in happiness or remaining in anger is your choice. How you respond in life is your choice. When you take responsibility for your feelings, you nourish and water your marriage. Look for ways to love unconditionally and watch how God comes in and blesses your relationship!
Love you more!
One of my favorite phrases Willie and I have been using recently is LOVE YOU MORE! When the word says in Romans 5:5 that the love of God is shed abroad or poured out in our heart, I think this speaks to our capacity to receive love and give love more and beyond our ability. As we spend time alone in prayer and together our capacity to receive the love of God grows and therefore my love for Willie grows. As we focus on God, who is love, we step into more of His likeness, love abounds and we have the ability to love more.
Marriage is a lifetime investment built upon a hope and trust in God. It is a beautiful gift we can enjoy however investing requires a deposit just like growing green grass takes nurturing and watering. Whatever you waters grows and flourishes. I pray these nuggets bring encouragement that nourishes your marriage. You CAN have a marriage with NO PLAN B and find ways to bring back excitement. Stay relevant and listen. Commit to watering your marriage and see how your grass is greener!