Marriage Under Construction
Mutually affirming marriages do not just happen. Husbands and wives must work at creating an atmosphere in which their interdependence is expressed in ways that promote growth.
Successful marriages are always under construction.Husband and wives are challenged to put their marriages together step by step. It is like building a model airplane. You have to read the directions, find the pieces, and put them together in their right order while you apply the glue. There is room for creativity and variation, but concentration is required. The marriage vows are only the beginning. Consistent effort is required. For Veronica and me, there have been times when we just about had the model together, only to have all the pieces fly apart. But over the years, our marriage has grown and taken on meaning and excitement as we have worked at it.
In a thriving marriage, a husband and wife will set aside time for each other and their relationship. Remember the excitement that radiated between you during your courtship. Just being with each other, talking, touching, and dreaming was rewarding in itself. You cannot go back to those days; nor do you want to, but the excitement of sharing time with the other person should be kept alive. However pervasive the demands on their lives, successful husbands and wives schedule time alone. It may be only for an evening out to dinner or a show. It may be an occasional weekend to the mountains or a day window-shopping. Whenever possible, arrange your daily schedule so that the children are in bed early enough to allow you to have some time to yourselves. Even if time together is only an hour or two, such time away from the demanding pressures of daily life helps refresh the relationship and rejuvenate the person.
In our marriage ceremony, my wife and I agreed to take each other for better or worse, but not to take each other for granted. To take each other for granted poisons the relationship and leads to a sense of loss that is likely to result in broken, hurting relationship.In order for a marriage to flourish, each partner needs to affirm the other’s personhood. This means accepting their partners for who they are and not try to make them into their private image of what a partner should be. “I like you because you are you” is what we should say in actions as well as words. Marriage partners can easily drift into a pattern of mutual criticism failing to affirm or encourage each other. To keep the marriage alive, remember those things that attracted you in the first place,
Celebrate your relationship.Remember anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions. The act of remembering says, “You are important, and I care.” Not remembering sends a powerful, negative message: “You are not that important.” Husbands and wives should talk about their relationship and the things they like about it. They can establish some rituals they can share together as the years pass: a dinner by candlelight on birthdays or anniversaries, a luncheon date once a week or even once a month, a hobby or sport they can share together.
Surprise each other. Nothing spices up a marriage like a change of pace, regardless of how simple. A note of appreciation on office stationery can open unforeseen possibilities in your relationship. Little things do mean a lot,such attention says, “I care enough to go out of my way to do what most people think unimportant. I think it is important, because I am doing it for you.” An unspoken message like this powerfully affirming; it is “touching” in the most poetic sense.
Husband and wife should continue to physically touch each other— not just casually, but lovingly, unhurriedly. A group of women were once surveyed as to what they wanted most from their husbands. Their answer? A hug. No matter how sophisticated or how successful we become as adults, we still have a “skin hunger” for physical contact. The intimacy of marriage is the place where that hunger should and can best be fed. Our sexuality, and our sexual desire, play a part in this need for physical intimacy. Too often, as they are caught up in the pressures of daily living, in the anesthesia of repetition and boredom, a husband and wife become dulled to their own as well as their partner’s needs. If at this point, they can rediscover a sense of play, a sense of pure joy in each other, their marriage can again become a place where they affirm each other in the deepest way. If they do not rediscover this, then too often they continue to drift apart, experiencing frustration, unfulfilled needs, and a loss of self-esteem. Marriage then loses its affirming power and is in danger of falling apart.
Successful husbands and wives plan and pray with each other. They can dream together about what they want to be and do. They can keep alive that excitement of working together to realize these dreams.
To be touched, emotionally and physically, in a loving marriage relationship is the most affirming experience on earth. Keep it alive!