A family friend posted on Facebook, asking people who were married to share one word that described their marriage. There were many cute and fun responses such as joy, blessed, friends, grace-filled, awesome, wonderful, committed, content, hilarious, complete, amazing, fulfilling, sexy, golden, rewarding, rich, funny, unconditional, and inspiring. What does my dear sweet wife enter? Fortifying… It just sort of sit’s there a little heavier than the other responses, doesn’t it? Leaving you wondering if that’s a good thing but afraid to ask, “What do you mean?” The sad reality is, that this was a toned-down response. Her original reply was “foxhole.”
In caring for our youngest son, we often felt on guard. Always evaluating situations and determining what we would need to do to make sure something didn’t accidentally happen to make his health go backwards. Having to go the extra mile with doctors and their assistants to help them understand what did or did not work. Making sure any workers in the church nurseries knew about his situation and didn’t give him something he wasn’t supposed to have and the list goes on and on.
When life is full of high levels of stress and you are always having to work towards a common goal, it can have two effects. If one spouse begins to begrudge the effort it takes, they may start to feel like “this isn’t what I signed up for.” This can cause a rift and lead to separation. The other possible effect is that it can cause both spouses to really buckle down and while feeling like they are in a foxhole, it can be fortifying. A marriage strengthened by trials and hardships.
While the difficult times may be fortifying, how I respond to the stress isn’t always. It’s easy to let the hard take control and just focus on what to do next, neglecting what is easy to take for granted and putting my marriage on auto-pilot. Marriages can’t be done in auto-pilot. We have to be intentional.
This doesn’t necessarily mean roses every day and a date night every week. Although this may be nice, I realize that time and money are often in short supply. As we look at a new year, I do encourage you to sit down with your spouse and find out what really speaks love to them. This year, as we decorated for Christmas, we hung a small branch of mistletoe and I must admit that I am tempted to leave it up year around. I also wish we had hung it up in a spot where we both pass through more often.
As you sit down with your spouse, here are two questions you can ask:
- What are some things that really make you feel loved? Is it time together? Being touched in a certain way? Having help with a job or task you typically do or is it words of affirmation? Don’t be vague and just say, “time together” or “physical touch,” assuming your spouse will figure it out. Be specific, for example, “I like it when you sneak up behind me and kiss me on the neck.”
- “Is there anything I do that makes you feel unloved.” After you ask this, listen and take it to heart. Don’t get defensive. This question is more difficult and requires a level of bravery from both of you.
Sometimes it can be as simple as a hug that is a little longer than normal, a short love note hidden in their pants pocket for later, a conversation about their day, or a nice long kiss under the mistletoe. Something to just let them know you love them, you understand and will be there with them at the end of the day.
We want to hear from you. What is one thing you can do this week to show love to your spouse?