Marriage can be the best and most difficult relationship we have. Why? No one else on this earth is closer to our hearts than our spouse. Therefore, they have the ability to build us up or tear us down, unlike any other person. The marriage union is a metaphor of Christ’s divine love for His church. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; they shall become one flesh.” Marriage is the earthly image of God’s plan for our union with Christ. We are to become one with Christ as stated in Galatians 3:28, “We are no longer Jews or Greeks nor slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same—we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus.” (TLB) Paul uses the marriage imagery again in Corinthians when he says “I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy because I have promised you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:2 (AMP)
If marriage carries such powerful meaning, it stands to reason it also deserves our careful attention. If we choose to get married than our spouse needs to be the next most important relationship after God in our lives with our time and energy reflecting such. Marriage statistics are still painting a dismal picture.* Those given the honor of a mantle of Christian leadership need to be a light in this area. I say this because a leader has the power to influence others by example but also by being more content him/herself. A leader who is nurturing the most intimate relationship he/she has while on this earth is more effective and happier. Why? Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse that maybe lasts over days? How well are you able to perform? It zaps your energy and creativity. It’s hard to think of much else until the issue is resolved.
For the sake of this blog, I want to focus on three key areas for building and maintaining a healthy marriage.
1) Time to Talk– there is NO alternative to building a healthy relationship than giving it the proper time that’s needed. I recommend every couple set aside a two–three hour time slot weekly that’s just theirs. This is not time spent with friends or family; it’s just for the two of them. It can be a date out, a walk in the park or along the beach. It can sometimes involve money but that’s not necessary. It needs to be a time to relax, enjoy each other, discuss life together, but not for working through hard issues. The goal of this time is to relax and connect with the one you love without pressure or stress. I also believe a couple needs time away quarterly; at least one full day that’s just theirs. If an overnight is possible that’s even better. Finally, a couple needs a full weekend (a week is even better) of vacation alone.
2) Physical Touch–I encourage my couples to embrace one another for a full minute (at the least) when they come back together at the end of a day. Why? When a married couple holds each other in this way, they bathe their brain with oxytocin; the bonding hormone. It’s calming and comforting, creating the sensation that these are the arms I can relax and feel safe in. BrainHQ** goes into more depth on how taking care of our marriages effects our brains for the better.
3) Prayer–There is no more intimate act a couple can do than pray together, frankly it’s more erotic than sex. Our prayer language is the most intimate part of us. Letting another person in to that takes trust and vulnerability. I believe this is why couples so often shy away from it. Couples can hurt each other in this area by judging each other’s prayers. “That’s it?” “Your prayers sound immature.” A couple that can make a spiritual connection through prayer is a source to be reckoned with and the enemy knows it. Statistics show that couples who pray together regularly have a less than 1% divorce rate! WOW! Yet less than 4% of Christian couples and only 6% of pastoral couples report praying together on a consistent basis. What would our world look like if we raised that stat to even 50%?