I can't recall who said it and when, but I remember what they said: "I want to be married and NOT miserable! And I don't want to make my spouse miserable being married to me!!"
So, you'd think I'd remember who said it to me, right? (If it was you, let me know) But, the fact is, there's a lot of wisdom in that resolve. And as I've begun working to create a curriculum to coach couples to discover and engage their callings and dreams together, I've remembered this whole idea of "Married and Not Miserable." Considering the stats that around fifty percent of first marriages will end in divorce and seventy percent of second marriages, there's a whole lot of misery out there! (and if you haven't had any misery in your marriage... you either haven't been married for long or you are in a small minority! (So, if you're miserable, you're not alone!)
Still people keep get married in droves and surrounded by a whole lot of happy optimism. But just imagine if you're best friend were to be boarding an airplane with a 50 or 70 percent chance of going down? Would you wish her well?
So, I've been giving some thought to the whole idea of how to be married and not miserable (or one might call it "Happily Married instead of Married and Miserable") Here's some things I'd suggest (AND would love to hear your thoughts and additions to the list once you read these)
1. Don't Expect Your Spouse To Be God: In other words, they will never love you perfectly or the way you wish they could love you. They're human too. Though we've all felt perfectly loved by them at times and maybe even in seasons, they can't always build us up, make us feel like we're the best thing ever, provide for our every need, protect us from life's mess and murk. Let's face it, if our spouse was God, would they be married to us??? Of course we watch movies where the guy with the perfect pecks always loves perfectly. The girl with the "perfect female figure" sees heaven when she looks in his eyes... then the movie's over and we go home. We really do still need God to be God and our spouse to be imperfectly them.
2. Dream Together and for Each Other: When we settle for the life of the mundane, let go of our dreams or don't ever dream, we miss out on the great adventure of life. Of course, not all dreams will or can come true, but what often attracted us to our spouse was the dream for something better. A vision of a better tomorrow. Do you know your spouse's dreams? Do they know yours? What's your dream of what you'll do together... soon or someday? (Could make an amazing date night discussion!)
3. Express Love Generously: Of course they don't always deserve our love, nor have they "earned" it. (or vice versa) But, doesn't our own "love muscle" grow when we do what they want instead of acting on how we feel? And of course, none of us has come close to earning the amazing love we get from kind acts of service, of affection, from gifts received and certainly not from sex. But, if we're giving freely with no strings attached, choosing to love over withholding will tend to win the day and wipe away our own misery.
4. Give Together: Whether it involves opening up our home to others, investing in the growth of others, or giving financially, giving together feels good. (It must release some kind of endorphin!!) What kind of legacy might our marriages leave if we were to intentionally define how we would give generously and courageously together?
5. Guard Your Unity: The Biblical vision of marriage involves "leaving father and mother" and becoming "one flesh." That whole idea of leaving means choosing our spouse over our mom, our dad, our siblings, and even our own children. It also involves "forsaking all others" and choosing not to let another person of the opposite sex gain entrance into the reserved place in our hearts nor our bodies. It also means addressing conflict with the expectation of forgiveness and complete restoration.
6. Inventory All You Have Together: Just taking the time to reflect regularly on the good, the abundance and all you really appreciate about your spouse and your life together can overcome a lot of "grass is greener" syndrome. One of the best things we've ever done together was go away to a hotel and create an inventory of all we'd been blessed with. Give it a try!
7. Don't Give Up When Storms Come: We've come to realize that storms will water the earth and create tomorrow's fertile growth. Yet, when we have storms in our marriage, we can't quite figure how this could happen to US! Storms do bring havoc and discomfort, but on the other side of that storm can be the bluest sky we've ever seen. Getting through the differences or life's disappointments can make our marriages much stronger and our love much deeper. And we will despise the next storm as well... but might that be the "in sickness" part of the vow? The poorer (or in debtor) part of the vows? And if it were easy, why would we need vows anyway?
OK, so not rocket science, but maybe a good reminder... or an encouragement... or maybe just something to stir your resolve. YES, YOU CAN BE MARRIED AND NOT MISERABLE!
So, those are some of my ideas: What's working for you and your spouse?
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