On our marriage journey we often end a year like an exhausted runner crossing the finish line of a big race. We sigh, “Thank God it’s over!” In reality, each year spent in marriage is a great opportunity to “reflect on and remember” the big picture together as a couple. We often ask couples to REFLECT on their marriage by using the simple acrostic R – E – F – L – E – C – T:
Remember. Ask any spouse to list areas of improvement in their marriage and I’m sure it will not take long to come up with a short list. It’s easy to remember the things that need improving, but can we remember the special memories that bring you and your spouse closer together? Marriage is not a sprint but an enduring marathon of both good and challenging times. Take a few minutes to remember together last year’s big picture moments – a child graduating; an amazing vacation experience; accomplishing a goal; times of laughter or pain experienced as a family and how good it was to not be alone during these times, etc.
Engage. The happiness and longevity of your marriage relationship requires active engagement and initiative. Happy and thriving marriages don’t happen haphazardly, but need both spouses working hard to make their relationship a priority. Don’t be passive concerning having a vibrant relationship, instead be proactive and take the lead. Engage your marriage in the new year by getting more resources to help your marriage grow – books, DVD’s, web articles, etc.; plan a weekend retreat ; put regular date nights on your calendar; engage in learning your spouse’s love language; etc.
Faith. Many married couples don’t have faith they can make it when in reality they certainly can! It takes a tenacious faith and determination that your marriage will last and survive in any season. Whatever season you find your marriage, please know it takes a strong faith and determination to see it go from good to great. I love how Bill Withers expresses this point in his classic song “Just the Two of Us”. He writes,
“Good things might come to those who wait, not to those who wait too late! Just the two of us, we can make it if we try. Just the two of us, you and I.”
Learn. You never graduate from learning how to be a better husband or wife. Strive to become a lifelong student of being a better listener, lover, friend and partner. With so many resources to encourage your marriage, please do not drown in a sea of life guards. Find a mentoring couple or consider joining a couple’s small group that seeks to equip, educate and inspire you to grow and prosper your marriage.
Encourage. My mother always taught me mistakes aren’t bad unless you forget to learn from them. Let’s face it, we all have good examples from our marriage of right and wrong ways to be married. If instead of hiding our mistakes we learn to encourage other couples with our examples, perhaps we can help other couples on their journey. We often times get so caught up in our own marital issues we forget to encourage other couples. Encouraging others in marriage often times brings just the spark we need to strive for a deeper relationship with our spouse.
Celebrate. Learn to celebrate the progress you’ve made no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Most of us feel we don’t have much to celebrate in our marriage or relationship, but the opposite is true. Celebrating causes unity and takes our attention off tensions that cause division. Learn to celebrate a small goal you’ve accomplished together; raising kids; paying off a bill; getting through a tough season; another year of being together, etc.
Turn towards. There are many things that cause couples to isolate and grow apart. Couples fall into the trap of isolation daily over disagreements, misunderstanding, poor communication and lack of teamwork. As you enter into a new year, take a moment and declare 2015 will be a year of turning towards each other for more love, laughs, and a vibrant life together.