Well, it’s been nearly a week since Megan has been away, currently serving on a short-term trip to Kenya. Meanwhile, I (Justin) am enjoying a whole bunch of extra time with our two girls. There are some daily routines that they’re used to doing with Megan that I do just slightly different, yet it brings a great amount of joy to them. It’s quite amazing, really, an added inch of water in the bathtub, staying up late to look for meteors in the sky, and other small decisions have brought them an overwhelming amount of joy. All in all, our time together has been a true blessing, but it’s the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that have brought the greatest amounts of joy to our time together.
When it comes to marriage, I think that too often we caught up in routine. We make the same decisions, in the same ways, at the same times, getting the same results. Perhaps this is why so many people lose joy in their marriage. We wish to continue growing in friendship, in sexual spontaneity, in relational excitement. But instead we devolve to a level of routine maintenance, hoping for nothing more than to maintain the relationship, not expand it.
Fortunately, there is a way to escape the daily routine. And as I’ve discovered with my little ones, it doesn’t always take major, life-changing decisions. Instead, it’s simple, small decisions made on a consistent basis that bring joy into a marriage. You just have to be sure that these simple, small decisions are seen as love-in-action by your spouse. What do I mean by this? Well, much of this comes down to love language. You see, I could make simple, small decisions on a daily basis to add more joy to our marriage, but the temptation is for me to do something that “I” find loving and not something that Megan finds loving. Instead, whatever simple decisions I make have to be made in a way that they speak to Megan’s love language. So if you’re feeling like your marriage is kinda stuck in routine, maintaining, slightly devolving mode, do your best to:
1) Discover Your Spouses Love Language
We’ve written about love languages here on the blog before, but if you don’t know what your spouses love language is, you need to find out…yesterday! If you feel like your spouse is a mystery, talk their parents, friends, colleagues, whatever it takes. Every small, simple, decision you make that is toward your spouses love language is a sure-fire way to bring more joy to your marriage.
2) Surprise Your Spouse Weekly:
How often do you purposefully do something to surprise your spouse? We have a friend who writes, “Surprise my wife” on his weekly calendar. He’s always working to not just maintain his marriage, but to continually enhance it. The key here is to surprise your spouse, once again, in a way that speaks their love language. If you go out and buy them a small gift but want they really want is quality time, or words of affirmation, the gift just won’t speak their language or bring them nearly enough joy. So discover their language, and then surprise them regularly by filling up their love tank.
3) Ask Your Spouse to Speak Your Language Better:
This is an area many people are afraid to bring up to their marriage partner. But it helps the marriage so much that it’s got to be mentioned. Me, I’m a “Words of Affirmation” guy. I also come from a family that has generations of high anxiety. Up to now, I’ve learned some appropriate coping mechanisms, but the best way I’ve been able to deal with them is by being upfront with Megan if she’s not speaking my language well. After years of marriage, she’s really got it down well! In fact, she’ll be out of the country for 12 days and she left behind 12 Words of Encouragement cards just to lift my spirits while she’s away!
Nevertheless, there are occasional high-stress weeks when I have to remind her that I need some extra words of encouragement and affirmation. And when Megan’s love tank is getting low, she’s always sure to remind me as well. This is one of the reasons our marriage relationship is full of joy. We know each other’s language, we surprise each other regularly, and we’re not afraid to openly discuss when we’re feeling down.
With all these things said, it must be stated that joy in the marriage relationship can only come when the marriage itself is the most important relationship you have. Children, while taking a great deal of time an energy, cannot be your primary relational focus. Nor can other friends and family cannot be your primary focus. Even your relationship with yourself – if that makes sense to you – cannot be your primary focus. Instead, the bible refers to marriage as a one flesh relationship. One of the ways a one flesh relationship works is that both parties humbly consider their spouse as more important than themselves (Phil 2:3-4). So, go on and discover their love language, surprise them by speaking that language often, and encourage them to speak yours as well. But the real joy comes when you ensure your marriage relationship is the only relationship in life that really matters. Outside of your relationship with God, the marriage takes full priority in everything you say and do. Keeping your marriage as the center of all other relationships is the best way to have a marriage ripe with joy.
In what ways are you and your spouse best able to keep your marriage full of joy?