Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Building Togetherness in Marriage


Shortly before last week’s wedding ceremony, Frank, the bride’s father, shared the following marriage advice he’d heard a minister say decades ago during a ceremony.

I found that quite amazing, as I’ve always assumed nobody recalls anything the preacher says during a wedding, except “I pronounce you husband and wife” and “you may kiss the bride!”

Frank’s astute remembrance was so profound, I worked it into the ceremony, and am now passing it along to you. Here it is:

“You must have space in your togetherness.”

There is not enough togetherness in marriages today. Couples, working hard to fulfill massive responsibilities, hardly have the opportunity to develop this intimacy.

By default, couples drift towards isolation. Husbands and wives lead such hectic lives, that developing the marriage relationship takes back seat to other, more pressing concerns. This is especially true when there are small children at home. What little scraps of time, left after work and household duties is gobbled up by the kids.

In the face of life’s pressures, parents should consider the following statement: The best gift moms and dads can give their children is their love for each other.

Of course, this is occasionally impossible, due to such circumstances as death, divorce, or distance. Thankfully, God is the Great Gap Filler for those exceptions. He empowers and helps those who must parent alone. This does not diminish the importance of the basic principle, however.

Too many parents, consumed with heavy burdens, fail to model a healthy, happy marriage for their children. As a result, when the kids grow up, they navigate their own marriages poorly

Here are a few secrets for developing togetherness as a couple:

1. Share your best memories together.
Shared experiences are absolutely powerful! Pleasant memories provide rich meaning, drawing couples closer emotionally. On the other hand, when he constantly does his own thing, while she does her own thing, the other person is excluded from these meaningful moments. You can’t share the memory if you don’t share the experience.

2. Overlook your partner’s shortcomings.
There’s no such thing as a perfect spouse. We all fall short of the ideal. Sometimes, people enter marriage with the mistaken notion that their relationship will be smooth sailing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marriage is hard work. That’s why it’s a lifetime commitment. That’s how long it takes to figure each other out!

Two imperfect people, through wedlock, discover that a wedding ceremony doesn’t make either person more perfect. In fact, marriage often highlights and magnifies our imperfections.

Couples should have their eyes wide open before marriage, and half closed afterwards.

My friend, Lois, recently noted, “Being married is like living in California. When you find a fault, don’t dwell on it!”

3. Go with the flow.
The secret of getting along is going along. You have to go with the marriage flow to experience harmony. This means laying down your personal preferences from time to time.

Which would you rather be: happy or right? Winning the argument but losing each other is a pyrrhic victory.

Modifying the words of the Methodist founder, John Wesley, “There are times you can please your companion, AND please yourself, But there are other occasions, when the only way to please your companion is by denying yourself.”

I’m not too enthusiastic about my wife’s garage sales, but she loves them, and I love her, so last weekend, I put out her signs. It was my way of going with the flow. Likewise, she lets me keep night crawlers in the refrigerator. She detests big worms, but she loves me – and knows I love fishing, so she’s willing to go with the flow in that department, as long as they’re not dead!

4. Do something fun.
Sometimes, when couples come to me seeking counsel, I ask, “When was the last time you two did something really fun together?” Often, I’m met with blank stares, and then the reply, “A loooong time!”

The couple that plays together stays together.

4. Experienced Shared Spirituality.
A shared faith is THE single most significant thing a couple can do to build closeness together as a couple. Sharing common values and beliefs brings strength to the relationship. “Unless the Lord builds the house,” the Psalmist noted, “they labor in vain that build it.”

5. Put Space in Your Togetherness
Good marriages are like old shoes: a comfortable fit with breathing room. You don’t have to smother each other to be together.

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