During Marriage Week, Claire Musters encourages us with tips on how to stay the course in our marriages – even as we navigate huge changes.
We are in the midst of Marriage Week (February 7–14), which has moved back to February to include Valentine’s Day. But don’t worry, I’m not here to give you cheesy ideas on how to keep the romance alive. Rather, I want to acknowledge that after the first flush of romance dies down, we then are faced with the choice of whether to love in all seasons. This can be a real challenge, but it is possible for our love to grow and mature.
Steve and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this summer and during that time we have seen a lot of changes and weathered many storms. Within the first decade we faced the possibility of our marriage being over, and yet, through God’s grace, came through that.
Since then we have been in many seasons that have each had their own challenges. In the last few years we, like many others, have faced some of our toughest periods yet. I have had moments of being overwhelmed by grief after the death of my mum, which means at times I struggle to reach out to God or my husband. We have experienced the enormous weight of dealing with mental health issues within our home, which has caused exhaustion, disruption, and even us clashing over differing views on the way forward. Added into that mix I am now perimenopausal, which means mood swings, hot flushes and lack of sleep can make me quite erratic and teary.
In the last few years we, like many others, have faced some of our toughest periods yet.
I know that each couple faces huge changes in their lives – you may have faced some similar stretching situations or other heartbreaking ones. Even when there is a positive change it can have an ongoing impact on our relationship that needs to be navigated well. So here are some ideas of ways we can continue to show love to one another throughout the seasons of life:
Hold space for one another
Pray and support one another daily. You may need to help create space for the other if they are in a time where you recognise that is what is needed (perhaps by picking up things they normally do), or be praying for them as they undertake a particularly challenging task.
Be gentle with one another
Changing moods, exhaustion etc can cause us to push the other away or be harsh towards them. Rather than responding and allowing an argument to occur, understanding and showing grace can diffuse such situations.
See beyond today
If the day has been tough and/or you don’t feel like you’ve connected with one another remember that God’s mercies are new every morning and that you, too, can extend your own grace and mercy in a fresh way tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up about today’s mistakes – or keep a record of your partner’s wrongs from today*.
Remember you are on the same side
It can be hard if the season necessitates time apart, or you disagree on the way to handle a certain situation. Take time to remember you are united together for a reason – and remember to be the other’s biggest champion.
Remember the reasons you chose one another
This was the “homework" our marriage counsellors set us at the end of our first meeting. At the time I was furious because I didn’t want to look back; I was still angry about the pain we’d caused one another. But it really did cause a shift when I deliberately took time to think about what had attracted me to my husband in the first place.
Find new ways to connect
When seasons change and the old ways you used to find time for one another no longer seem to be working, get creative and be willing to try new things. Marriage does take work and we don’t want to ignore it then find we’ve drifted far apart. We realised that our date night was no longer practical, so switched to a breakfast or lunch on my husband’s day off.
Allow your partner to grow and change
We are always learning and changing, which is a positive thing (if we are growing to be more like Christ). At times, we might find it a little disconcerting in our partner though. However they need you to encourage them to flourish and grow. If you do this, your partnership will reap the benefits too.
*This is not excusing ongoing bad behaviour – there are times when we need to confront our partner, but this should be done with gentleness and a desire to see them grow in holiness. This is also not condoning abuse – if this is something you are experiencing please do reach out for help.
Premier Lifeline is a national, confidential helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective. If you would like someone to talk to and pray for you, call Premier Lifeline on 0300 111 0101.