In the words of Roz’s favorite Italian theologian, Frank Sinatra:
“Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like the horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can’t have one, you can’t have none
You can’t have one without the other”
Love leads us to marrying our spouse, but how does love sustain a marriage?
One of the things that have been a surprise joy in Roz’s ministry is premarital counseling for couples. We cover a variety of topics to facilitate healthy conversation. Callie even joins in the sessions when it comes to budgeting and scheduling time.
We emphasize with the couple that the wedding day is not the culmination of being together, but it’s just the beginning. There are some things that we (Callie and Roz) have learned in marriage, at times, the hard way that we want to pass along:
- Why don’t you help me? We often ask couples what they saw modeled growing up in their respective households? Some had a stay-at-home parent. Others had both parents working outside of the home. What we have seen modeled can impact our expectations that may not be clearly stated to the other. When we were first married, Callie was trying to keep the home perfectly clean on top of working full time and adjusting to life with a husband in ministry. She was getting frustrated because Roz wasn’t helping more but assumed he expected a perfect house with home cooked meals because of how she’d seen her parents live. After a tearful come-to-Jesus conversation, we realized we were living out our childhood families and started to talk about how we wanted our new family together to look. Though roles and responsibility may shift between couples, especially if children enter the picture, communication is vitally important. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Approach him or her with love and honesty.
- Are you trying to drive me nuts? How are you and your spouse or future spouse different? Chances are your spouse’s personality isn’t going to change in the marriage, and you will not be able to change your spouse. Understanding personality is essential to figure out life together. For instance, one may recharge his or her “battery” by being around people while another may get energy by spending time alone. How do you arrive in making decisions? Is there a joint process when it comes to making a significant decision like moving, buying a home, a career change? How do you complement each other in your similarities and differences? We are both extraverts, but Roz is the crazy entrepreneurial risk-taking type, and Callie is the organized, deliberative type. Callie had to be a good sounding board to help Roz without killing ideas with details too soon, and Roz had to learn to wait until Callie was comfortable for any major changes that affected their family. It has helped Callie take more risks, even in her own professional life, and Callie has helped Roz avoid some missteps and refine ideas along the way.
- Don’t you know I love you? Every person functions somewhat in each love language indicated by Gary Chapman in his book, “The Five Love Languages” Chapman names receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch. All of these are important in a marriage, but there tends to be one or two preferred ways of receiving and sharing love for each person. For Callie, it’s acts of service and words of affirmation. Roz can buy her gifts, but she feels most loved when Roz does the household chores and writes her a loving note. Roz experiences Callie’s love for him when she expresses the way she feels about him and affirms him with her words. While everyone has a preferred love language, it doesn’t mean you neglect the other four. You still show love in all those ways, but it’s essential to know your spouse’s preferred love language.
- What about me? When you are married, your actions particularly around how you spend your time and money affect your spouse. That can be hard to get used to if you’ve been single for a while. Now when you schedule something with a friend or a work trip, your spouse is left alone, which an introvert may enjoy, but if your spouse thought you’d be spending time together, that can be hurtful. If you are trying to live on a budget together (which we highly recommend), both spouses have to be committed, or it doesn’t work. This might sound restrictive, but it can strengthen the marriage when spouses work together to accomplish things like paying down debt, saving for a down payment on a house, investing together for your retirement years,… it’s all saying, I’m in this for the long haul, and I want to do this life together with you.
- Who comes first? The most important thing is to put God first. If you love your spouse more than God, it’s going to put stress on your marriage. Your spouse is going to disappoint you. He or she is human. If you love God first and find your worth and significance in your identity in Christ, you will be able to love your spouse better, your kids better and all those around you better. A way to put God first in your marriage and to strengthen your faith is to pray together. Make it a regular practice whenever it works best for you… first thing in the morning, over meals, before bed, but especially when you are going through a hard season. When we are going through a hard time, we stop and pray together. Pray for each other separately too. Your spouse might be unwilling to pray with you. Pray for your spouse anyway. You can’t change your spouse, but God can work in his or her life through the power of your prayers.