As I began to think about what I could write for a blog about marriage, something I had gleaned from the challenges, struggles, and successes of my own marriage of over 17 years, my thoughts kept coming back to one seemingly small piece of advice…cultivate common interests with your spouse. In my estimation, this one action can safeguard your relationship with your spouse in a multitude of ways and build the foundation for a long and happy marriage.
At the beginning of our marriage, our first home was on the campus of the University of Alabama, in the corner apartment of a freshman men’s residence hall. For the first four years of our married life, John, then an Area Coordinator for Residence Life, and I made our home with 450 loud, and sometimes very unruly, young men. We quickly became friends with the hall directors in our building and would have them down to our apartment for get-togethers. One thing these young men loved was WCW wrestling, something I knew absolutely nothing about! But as we worked toward building relationships with these young men, our weekly wrestling nights quickly became one of my favorite nights of the week. To this day, we have lots of great memories from those evenings. And to my surprise, by taking an interest in this crazy “sport”, I found that my friendship with my husband grew stronger as well. I didn’t just tolerate this weekly routine - I found a way to be a part of it and to join in. One year, the whole building hosted a wrestling party in the dining hall and we were to come dressed as wrestlers! Of course, I don’t think anyone expected me to participate but I wanted to be a part of it. Believe me ladies, it makes a lasting impression on your husband when you desire so much to share in his interests that you dress up as a masked Lucha Libre wrestler to go to a party with him!! That is true love :)
What in the world is my point in telling you this story about some crazy male television soap opera experience? Only this: John and I still talk and laugh and reminisce today, all these years later, about that time in our lives. It made a lasting impact on him because it was a tangible expression of my love for him. It impressed him that I would take the time learn about something that I previously had no interest in, just because I wanted to share it with him. For my part, it gave me valuable insights into the fun, best friend side of my husband that I continually want to know better. It gave us that all-important “side-by-side” time that men need from a relationship. Whereas we women mostly value the “face-to-face” time of a relationship, talking and sharing, men tend to place more importance on time just spent in the company of their spouse, doing things they like to do together. Of course, healthy marriages need a balance of both of these kinds of time, but I find that if you are craving more “face-to-face” time from your husband, the easiest way to get that is to selflessly invest yourself in some “side-by-side” time with him. A husband whose “love tank” is full is much more likely to be willing to listen to your needs and to meet them. In our relationship today, it is no longer wrestling that we enjoy watching together, but sports. I have learned a lot about baseball, basketball and football that I did not know before I got married. And I don’t just tolerate it anymore, I actually enjoy watching games with John. I have even been known to enjoy watching a ballgame on my own, even when John isn’t home! God was preparing me in advance as the mother of four boys who are all heavily active in sports :) And for his part, John has taken interest in lots of things I enjoy doing. He helps me in our yard and gardens and has learned the names of many of the plants that I love and how to help me take care of them. He is learning to cook with me little by little and just enjoy that time working together. He goes on long walks and hikes with me, spends hours in libraries, antique stores, garden centers, historic landmarks, takes spontaneous day trips with me and doesn’t complain. He watches movies and television shows that he probably wouldn’t choose on his own, but he does it because he knows it shows love to me. A few of those things we have even combined and have turned into shared goals and dreams as a couple. For example, one of our goals is to visit every Major League baseball park and while we are at it, we will eat at every little interesting diner, drive-in or dive we come across and make impromptu stops at roadside attractions and landmarks that I just can’t pass up. We both have a share in this dream, something that we enjoy personally, but we both also have sacrifice in this dream, something we do just because we love the other person so much that we want to make them happy any way that we can.
This is my encouragement to you as a newlywed couple. Don’t just look for the things that you already have in common and enjoy doing together, purposefully look for things in your spouse’s life to learn about and begin to enjoy doing those things with them just because you want to show love to the other person. Satan wants to destroy godly marriages, and one of his favorite tools is that of distraction. One day, your lives and marriage will begin to be overtaken by the monotony of everyday life and the clamor for attention and your time together as a couple that the blessing of having children brings along with it…that is, IF you let it happen. Purpose right now that to the best of your ability, you will set safeguards in place to keep your marriage from growing stagnant and boring and time-starved. Set aside a date night as often as you are able and determine to let nothing keep you from keeping that all-important appointment together. As time goes by and your family grows and changes, so will the type and frequency of these date times. But decide now that your marriage is too important to carelessly let it slip away because of neglect to the point that one day down the road you suddenly look up at that stranger across from you and wonder “What did we ever enjoy doing together?”
Finally, I would leave you with this. Above all else, as you build in time together as a couple, make sure that you build in time daily to read God’s Word, the Holy Bible, and to spend time in prayer with God. He is ultimately the only One who can hold your lives and marriage together no matter what this world may throw at it. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:12 says this, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Of course, we can easily see that the two who stand together can be seen in the husband/wife relationship, but what of the “cord of three strands”? This is the marriage built on the solid foundation of both husband and wife having their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He IS the third strand that strengthens your bond into one that is “not quickly broken”. He is the “tie that binds” your marriage together and gives it purpose and direction. Do not make the mistake of looking to your spouse to fulfill all your needs because he cannot. No human being is able to do this. When we look to our spouse to be our everything, we put an impossible task and burden upon them. Only Jesus Christ is capable of being your everything; you are designed to know Him in this way. The spouse He has blessed you with is to be your companion and your perfect compliment in a life of service to God together. My favorite verse in all the Bible is Proverbs 3:5-6, and I believe it can be lived out in the marriage relationship as well as individually: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
God bless you as you begin this lifelong journey together as husband and wife. I pray that you determine to put as much thought and time and planning into the rest of your lives together as you did for your wedding day…I guarantee you will reap a multitude of blessings for years to come if you will.
Click here to see more marriage advice from Beyond the Big Day.