Keep the Love Alive

3148 3148_ () 3148 3148 This is my weekly column for the Southern Cross, which is something I originally wrote over at Faith and Family Live.

Here’s an aside: I feel funny writing about marriage. All I can do is write from my own experience and pray that inspires or encourages someone. But I totally understand that the list I included below is not a one-size-fits-all. There might be a marriage where the wife does everything, the husband does nothing around the house and I’m not suggesting that you just ignore that fact. That all depends on a million other details — if you feel like things need to change, for instance, it’s perfectly healthy and acceptable to address this situation.

So please, if there are areas of your marriage that need attention and help, please don’t think for a minute I’m saying you should just work harder and it will all fix itself. 

See? It’s tricky writing about this stuff — every single marriage is different and works in different ways. But prayer — that really is a universal factor we can all utilize to our benefit!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and that’s got me thinking about love. Love is in the air! Chocolates, roses, red wine and crab dip. (That last one might be specific to us?).

But what really keeps the love alive? Flowers and candy are all well and good but a happy marriage they do not make. Yes, they add an extra spark, but no amount of ornamentals can make up for a good foundation—and if you don’t have that, the little extras will do very little to help.

In my experience, in my reading and talking and listening about what makes the very best marriages—and in reflecting on the best tools Paul and I have come across—here are my recommendations for what will get you far in your marriage, what will bring you true happiness and love to last a lifetime.

  • Quit thinking about how you could improve as a couple. This might sound counter-intuitive, but let me tell you from experience that always looking at the ways your marriage could be closer to your ideal will get you nowhere fast. Yes we want to improve and be the best we can be. But when we’re always looking at how other “ideal” couples operate, we only become more aware of our flaws and (worse!) of our spouse’s shortcomings.
  • On that note, Don’t Compare. Don’t look at the great job your best friend’s man does of taking out the trash, especially if that’s something your own husband isn’t quick to do. Trust me, for every two really amazing things her husband does, your own husband has at least that many good qualities—but most likely in totally different areas. Stop finding fault and start finding favor.
  • Respect your husband. A few years ago I heard a talk by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, based on his book Love and Respect. The book spells out a very basic premise: men want to be respected, women want to be loved. This revolutionized our marriage. Too long had I been giving my husband all kinds of helpful “tips” and “advice” on a variety on topics, only to end each conversation with “I love you baby.” What a husband would rather hear is “I respect you” and oftentimes the best way we can do this is to be supportive and encouraging. Thank your man for how hard he works for your family. Don’t tell him how he could do better.
  • Don’t keep score. Don’t keep track. Today you grocery shopped and cleaned the house and took care of the kids and did homework with them and trained them and took care of the dog. What did your husband do? Well, it doesn’t matter. Maybe he did ten times more. Or ten times less. The minute you start keeping track of who did what, things are going downhill. Give until it hurts. And then give a little more. The key to a happy marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100 percent ON YOUR PART. And not worrying about how much your spouse is giving. If every married person woke up each morning and asked himself (or herself) “what can I do to make my spouse’s life better today?” can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be?
  • Pray together. Even if it’s three minutes, holding hands as you fall asleep, spend time as a couple in prayer. If your spouse isn’t comfortable praying with you, then pray for your spouse. Prayer and personal holiness is at the heart of so much good in every situation. Pray for patience. Pray for more love. Pray for the ability to love your spouse extravagantly.

While these tips might not be the full solution for every marriage, they can do a world of good for those of us who can too easily get sucked into the dangerous self-centered seasons of keeping score. Don’t do it! The person who suffers the most is YOU.

Dying to self is the best way to keep the love alive. 3148″ .

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Comments

  1. Perfectly said Rachel. It took me a couple years before I let the self-defeating score keeping thing go-and what a difference. Now I try to look at all that he does that I would never want to do-like deal with office politics-blah! No thanks….I’ll change diapers all day to get out of that one! 🙂

  2. A very good and helpful post. Thanks again. Praying- I agree 100%. So much so that I’d say a marriage may work without it, but I think every Christian couple should be counseled that if they don’t pray together they should have no expectation of staying together. They need to look around and say ‘this is how our marriage is different’. It’s ‘Three to Get Married’ (to borrow Fulton Sheen). It’s so clear from my personal experience that it humbles both parties, and therefore cuts their problems to size, before the Almighty and Everlasting.
    And looking at oneself first? Ok, a little conversation and come-and-go is good I’d suggest, but it’s a path to depression to hang your hopes of daily (and eternal!) happiness on what someone else does. Tend your own garden- it’s one area that is all yours. Make it really beautiful for God. Thanks again!

  3. What a great and timely post, Rachel. It really touched me, especially this line, “What a husband would rather hear is “I respect you” and oftentimes the best way we can do this is to be supportive and encouraging. Thank your man for how hard he works for your family. Don’t tell him how he could do better.” So true! I hope you don’t mind but I loved this article so much I reposted it on my Quick Takes today. Thanks!

  4. Soooo beautifully said and the TRUTH!!!! Thanks be to God for your gift of writing anf so thankful I stumbled upon your site! May God continue to bless your beautiful family and use you for His glory in this culture of death. :/ we “for real” catholic families need to stick together and encourage each other these days! 😉

  5. Thank you for this. I’ll take it to heart.