Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. Ephesians 5:22, msg
In a season-two episode of the Netflix series The Crown, Queen Elizabeth suggests to her husband that they plan a tenth-anniversary celebration. Philip is noncommittal, but Elizabeth is clearly concerned that the pressures of the monarchy are driving them apart. The camera follows the pair as they silently ascend the palace staircase to their separate rooms, parting at the top with a subdued goodnight.
You don’t have to be queen to know that marriage has its challenges. My husband and I have done premarital counseling with dozens of young adults who planned their ceremonies fully expecting the happily-ever-after. And why shouldn’t they? Who would go through with a wedding to someone they don’t love passionately? Someone with whom they don’t expect to spend the rest of their life till death-do-them-part?
But between saying yes to the dress (and the guy) and the fairy-tale ending, life happens. People are unpredictable, emotions are fickle, and feelings fade. How do you put the spice, the salsa back in your marriage?
A group of young moms put this question to me not long ago. Their kids were playing together nearby while the moms enjoyed a brief respite from wiping noses and changing diapers. They love their families, but the needs of the kids take every ounce of energy they have. “Honestly, at night all I want is my pillow and a magazine,” one commented. “I’ve got nothing left for him.”
Whether you’ve been married two years, ten, or forty plus (like us), you already know a healthy marriage needs continual care. Here are a few ideas my mom-friends and I generated on keeping marriage interesting, protected, and most of all, thriving.
Meh, sounds so boring. But what you love, you defend. Instead of prioritizing all the stuff you already have scheduled, try scheduling your priorities instead. Put regular date nights on your calendar. If babysitters aren’t in the budget, arrange to occasionally swap childcare with a friend. Or consider asking an empty nester, one without nearby grandkids, to help.
Safeguards include protecting your own heart too. I’m not going to advise you never to be alone with a member of the opposite sex, but let the Holy Spirit guide your conscience. Do you catch yourself being preoccupied by your appearance when you’re with a certain OSF (opposite-sex friend)? Do you find yourself thinking about positive attributes he has that you wish your spouse displayed? How about planning and possessiveness? Are you creating opportunities to see your OSF or saving his notes, cards, or emails? Most important, are you allowing your OSF to meet emotional needs your spouse should be meeting?
Unstated expectations are unfair expectations. Unexpressed expectations are unrealistic expectations. The problem child here is expectations: assuming, supposing, or presuming your spouse knows what you’re thinking, needing, and wanting. And if he doesn’t, he darn well should!
When Mike and I were first married, I didn’t doubt he loved me (I never have), but I assumed since he did, he should know exactly how I wanted (a) to celebrate our anniversary, (b) share the workload at home, and (c) make financial decisions. Now Mike is many things, including my best friend, but a mind reader he’s not. We’ve learned how to love each other more deeply by listening without judgment and plainly expressing our feelings and preferences.
Discover what brings delight to your spouse and invest time in it. Funny animal videos on YouTube? A sports team that performs really, really badly? (Not his hometown team!) Watching children play, maybe even your own? Science has repeatedly proven the physical and emotional benefits of laughter. It strengthens the immune system, releases endorphins that boost mood, reduces stress, and increases energy level.
Prioritize sexual intimacy.
Generalizations are risky, but this one’s pretty safe. Men are interested in sex, and your guy is turned on by visual stimulation. I know, right? Once the honeymoon’s over, who wants to wear the slinky, shivery stuff when warm flannel pj’s will do? Men show love physically, though, and he doesn’t just want you. He needs you to want him too.[i] Marriage was God’s idea in the first place. He created men and women to meet each other’s physical as well as emotional needs within the context of a covenantal marriage relationship.
Seek out adventure.
Monotony is not a marriage killer, but it can cause couples to doze through the best years. Your marital journey’s gotta include adventure: times when you set aside practicality and dream. Together.[ii] Then brainstorm how to make those dreams happen without shooting down the crazy ideas your spouse tosses up.
Like I almost did. Mike’s dream was to travel for a year after we finished seminary and before we started a family. He’s always been the visionary, the dreamer who’s pushed the gas pedal while I put on the brakes. I suggested a month. We compromised at four, the limit we could afford to be unemployed. Our modest budget included no hotels or restaurant food. Instead, we pitched our pup tent in national parks all over the country and ate tuna fish out of cans while sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. We covered sixteen thousand miles and thirty-four states in our little Honda with no air conditioning. We have wonderful memories of that trip to this day.
Does your marriage need an extra ingredient or two? I recommend salsa.
Points of Connection
- God has designed marriage as the union between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:26-27). What a designer creates, he is invested in. How does knowing that God wants your marriage to not only survive but thrive encourage you to press through the tough times?
- Are there expectations you’ve had of your spouse that you have never articulated? What are some ways you can make a fresh start communicating more effectively about what you need and want from your marriage and what he needs and wants as well?
- Read Proverbs 31:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. These passages on marriage are familiar. How might you read them in light of putting the “salsa” back in your marriage?
If your marriage is becoming predictable and stale, try adding a little salsa.
[i] Genesis 2:23-25; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
[ii] “As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was going to happen.” Attributed to Winnie the Pooh.