By now we have all heard the statistics that the divorce rate in Christian marriages is about the same or worse than it is in “non” Christian marriages. So what then makes your Christian marriage different from other marriages?
I asked this question a few months back on Twitter and I got a range of answers, from going to church on Sunday to praying together. In my opinion the most important characteristic of a “Christian” marriage is the couple’s relationship with Christ. Church attendance is cool & extremely important, reading and/or praying together are also important. But they are just components of the entire relationship the couple has and maintains with Christ.
I can hear the question arising, what do you mean by relationship. It is easy to have a relationship with your spouse because you can pull up a chair sit down in front of them, look them in the eye and have a audible conversation. On Friday, night you can go out for a romantic dinner and interact with them over a meal. But how do you and your spouse, have relationship with and interact with a God that you can not see? What does it feel like, what does it look like?
Well here are 20 ways that you can build a relationship with Christ and each other in your marriage.
1. Be a Christian. Not to state the obvious, but in order to have a Christian marriage, being a Christian is essential. Being a Christian is so much more than a box to be checked, it changes the quality of the interaction and necessitates that you treat and view each other differently than you would if you were not Christians.
2. Pray for each other. Share your concerns with each other and the commit to praying for each other.
3. Date. Hey it worked in the beginning, so why stop now – keep dating, keep it fresh.
4. Go for Walks. There is no better place to meet with God as a couple then out in the fresh air and beauty of what He created. Something about being out and about, opens up the lines of communication in a unique way.
5. Read the Bible. Relationships that don’t encounter deep things, become shallow relationships. I can think of nothing deeper than God. When a couple reads the word and talks about it – not a Bible study, but just personal reflection, the conversation has a way of getting deep in unimaginable ways.
6. Read Anything. I am a Pastor, and sold out for Christ. But sometimes my wife and I will dive into a good Walter Mosely murder mystery or one of Tom Clancy’s suspense filled novels. While nowhere as deep as reading the Bible together, just the act of reading together keeps the conversation fresh and our minds engaged and connected.
7. Talk daily and systematically. Try to find just 15 minutes a day to push every thing aside and talk. Set up your smart phone or day planner to help track how often you are talking with each other. If you notice that daily conversations aren’t happening, schedule a meeting time and place to talk.
8. Study together. Both informally and formally I have dealt with more than 100 Christian couples. The number one, most effective tool for strengthening a Christian marriage is getting into a systematic study. Some have time and opportunity to go to Bible Study at their church. Others I send to the local Christian bookstore to pick up a study to do at home. The point is just dive into the Word together.
9. Go to Church Together. Keep your relationship fresh and strong with weekly contact with Christ together. Spend some time, sometime during the week talking about the message. Allow your different perspectives to come forth.
10. Plan time away. Get away -whether far or near, exotic of rustic- just go, and enjoy each other!
11. Spend quality time together. Find time to do the things the two of you like to do. Or, find the time to spend together doing absolutely nothing. Quality time is time that builds quality back into the relationship.
12. Fast together. Ok, in today’s world this one is often neglected. Between our church and the highway 2.something miles away, there are more than 100 places to eat. We (Americans) are people that love to eat. Fasting is not as much about not eating as it is about what you do with the time. Agree together to take the time you would typically spend preparing, cooking, eating and then cleaning up to spend with God as a couple. Use any of the suggestions on this list to give God the time that normally would go to food.
13. Set Retirement Goals. Retire to Spain, buy a villa in France, move to Florida, or just fix up the house you already have. Make plans and move toward them, together.
14. Make decisions together. Don’t allow space to grow between you and your spouse. Agree how you will make decisions on key areas of your marriage – and then abide by that agreement. Don’t allow grey areas to exist in your marriage.
15. Take a class. Take a class at the local community college together. Whatever you fancy.
16. Spend time with other couples. Having and spending time with other couples that share similar life experiences to your marriage, is invaluable. Don’t look at it as a counseling session, but it is good to be around others that have been through the same things you have and have lived to tell about it.
17. Spend time serving God together. Soup kitchens, shelters, painting schools, etc…volunteer opportunities are endless. And the benefits of spending time together serving God are endless as well.
18. Find at least one younger couple to mentor. No couple ever thinks they are in a position to mentor or share with another couple. We know the mistakes and undisclosed things that have happened between us and our spouse. But maybe in discreet, safe ways, you can share with a younger couple. Maybe the same things you are not proud of about your marriage are the very things a young couple needs your guidance on.
19. Eat dinner together. I know it is so, “Leave it To Beaver”, “Father Knows Best”, 1950’s ish. But sitting down face to face, turning off the tv and talking with each other keeps us connected with each other as husband and wife. Additionally, it affords us a moment in the day that we can sit down as a family and thank God for providing us with a meal and loved ones.
20. Forgive each other. There may be 10,000 reasons why you should not forgive your spouse, they are dead wrong, you know it and they know it. But…talk it out, get it on the table and then…forgive them. The same way that Christ forgave us when we did not deserve it, forgive, forgive and forgive.
I pray these suggestions are helpful, the idea is that to build a better relationship with each other you want to continually build a better relationship with God. Chime in, what do you think, how do you and your spouse build your relationship with Christ and each other?