I don’t cook. In fact, I struggle to follow recipes that have more than three ingredients, so when people ask me what the secret recipe is for a long, happy marriage, I giggle at the irony. I guess being married 25 years qualifies my husband and I to be asked the question.
I’m going to be honest. There have been days, even years, when it seemed more likely we would burn the house down rather than tell other people our recipe. We’ve tasted some sweet highs, chewed through tough situations, and nearly broken our teeth on devastating lows. Along the way, though, we have learned a thing or two. Over the years, I’ve read almost every book out there about marriage, looking for the secret. I’ve read about praying for my husband, setting appropriate boundaries, and what his needs are. Each of these books helped with individual areas of our marriage that needed work. However, we have found only one sure way to keep our marriage on track.
The recipe is actually no secret. It all boils down to this: you have to both be pointed toward God. Both living out your faith together each day, year in and year out, side by side. “That’s great,” you say, “But how do we get there?”
Ingredient One: Get to church.
Your busy schedules and need for rest are not more important than worshipping and hearing the Word of God preached in fresh ways every week. Go to church together. Sit beside each other. Sing loudly. Confess and receive forgiveness. Take communion. Hold hands. Receive the recharge that will get you through your workweek.
Ingredient Two: Make “couple friends.”
Not drinking buddies, not tennis partners. Other couples you can do life with. Couple friends should serve as examples for Godly marriage. At times, couple friends will act as mirrors, reflecting our own lack. Most importantly, though, couple friends can be smoke detectors, warning us loudly when we’re headed for trouble and should take a peek at what's going on.
Ingredient Three: Study together.
To get on the same page as your spouse spiritually, get on the same page with him literally. There are many great devotions and marriage books for couples to work through together. Some of my favorites are What Did You Expect by Paul David Tripp, Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, and Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne A. Mack. Even when things are going well, most couples need to occasionally check to make sure nothing is about to boil over.
Ingredient Four: Serve together.
I know we’re all ridiculously busy with work, and it’s hard to find any extra time. When you and your spouse serve together, though, you will strengthen your bond and increase unity. Couples at our church serve together in many different ways, like parking, hosting, greeting, or leading kids. One side benefit of volunteering together is building mutual respect while watching each other shine. I’ve learned so much about my husband’s strengths and been amazed by his heart as I serve alongside him. It’s also just plain fun.
The Most Important Ingredient: Pray together.
If you do nothing else, pray together, out loud, regularly. Partly due to our upbringing, we used to pray individually because we considered prayer a personal thing. Faith IS personal, but it’s not meant to be private. There is something powerful about a husband and wife unified together in conversation with their Creator, taking a stand against the enemy. I don’t know exactly why it’s so important to pray out loud. I’ve given this topic a lot of thought and scoured the Bible. There are passages that talk about two or more gathering together in His name. There are passages that talk about the battle being against the unseen enemy. I think those are parts of the reason for the effectiveness of praying together. I think there’s more to it, though.
I am an auditory learner, and my love language is words. OF COURSE I feel loved and cared for when I hear my husband pray for me. Besides God hearing his prayers, I hear them, too. Another reason I think praying out loud is so important is because of our tendency to play reels over and over in our heads. Every awkward conversation or hurtful word said to us receives repeated airplay as we think about the scene again and again. When we pray together, even when my husband stumbles over his words, I find myself repeating that sweet moment, instead of the harsh moments, over and over throughout the next day.
One way I would describe praying together is intimate. When I hear my husband pray for me, I think of him as my leader. I’m so in love with him for loving me. I feel unified in our direction. I know his hopes and dreams, as well as what he views as his failures. I sense forgiveness and grace. He is holding my hand in such a non-sexual way that it’s completely sexy. He is mine, I am his, and we are God’s.
Mix: All ingredients together.
Add love, grace, and compassion. Throw in date nights to spice things up.
Bake: Until HOT.
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