Five Keys To A Thriving Marriage

Marriage takes work. It’s not easy. You need to intentionally create pockets in your life where you focus on just you. This is even truer when kids enter the mix. If you’re not careful, your kids can become the centerpiece of your marriage and that is a recipe for disaster.

In fact, the best thing you could ever do for your kids in your marriage is to keep God #1 and your spouse #2 in your relationship focus. The temptation to make your kids your first priority is strong, so Sabrina and I sat down and talked about the top five ways we keep ourselves the first priority in our home.

Please hear us…in no way are we perfect at this. We still have fights. We battle selfishness. We fail on many occasions. Many of you who are close to us in our lives, you have seen us at our worst…even recently. However, we both believe it is because we intentionally pursue one another in these five areas that we have seen our relationship grow to the strongest place it has ever been.

1) Spiritual Lives: Sabrina said, “We’re different. We don’t read the Bible together or pray together like people probably think we do. But we are both pursuing Jesus together by doing our own things.” We’ve never been a couple that has scheduled devotions or prayer together. We’ll often give quick prayers over one another or for one another, but we aren’t the couple that has Bible study together. And that’s ok. It’s not bad if you do that, but it’s not better if you do either. The point is, we are both seeking to make Jesus our #1.

Currently, we are both doing the same Bible reading plan on YouVersion, but we are not reading together at the same time of the day. Having a healthy spiritual life will have a direct result on your physical, emotional and sexual relationship. In pursuing Jesus first we are actually pursuing the best for one another. As we both pursue Christ and become more like Him, He will draw us together to become more one as a couple. How can we expect our relationship to be healthy if the relationship with our Savior isn’t?

2) Date Night: We rarely spend any money on our date night, but very few weeks go by where we don’t spend quality alone time, WITHOUT KIDS, together. Some times we’ll splurge and go out for a nice dinner and a movie (one of our favorite things to do is movies). But most often, we make dinner at home, shut and lock our bedroom door, and spend the evening in our room alone. Sabrina said, “Watching TV and ‘other activities.'”

When our kids were little, we would put them to bed an hour early and tell them it was our date night and we’d be in our room. I can’t tell you how many times our kids said, “But we’re not tired!” And I would say, “But we’re tired of you being awake!” Ha! On many occasions, we have had children outside our locked door knocking, asking what we’re doing, and even crying. Parents, it’s ok for your kids to cry. They won’t die. Sabrina added, “The goal is for your kids to leave one day. Your spouse doesn’t!” (Dang, that’ll preach right there) 

3) Getaways: Sabrina and I are currently on a one night getaway for our anniversary. We’ve made it a goal to get away overnight, WITHOUT KIDS, at least once per quarter. Once a year, we try and plan a minimum of one weekend away without our kids. Usually, we get a full week in. This doesn’t have to cost much money either. Get a hotel room in the town you live in. We are actually staying at a cabin that some friends own and it cost us only the gas to get here. We brought leftovers from home and reheated them. You don’t have to spend money or be extravagant to make each other a priority.

Yes, when your kids were little this took a bit more work trying to find someone to watch them overnight or for a weekend. But once again, the best thing you can do for your kids is to show them how important your marriage is. Also, your kids need to know that they are ok when you’re not around. And to be honest, some of you parents need to know that your kids are ok when you’re not around. You aren’t their Savior, Jesus is. And they aren’t your first relational priority, your spouse is. In doing this you are actually modeling for your children the kind of marriage they should have IF they get married one day. (That’s another post for another day but we need to stop talking about WHEN our kids get married and start talking about IF God leads them to marriage!)

4) Intimacy: Intimacy does not always mean sex, but it’s awful hard to have intimacy if you’re not having sex. There are seasons in life where you might be physically unable to have sex. There might be seasons where you need to seek counseling or emotional/spiritual healing to pursue sex. That’s understandable. But a thriving marriage will be difficult to have without a thriving sex life. And yes, we have one!

In fact, one of the priorities of date night should be sex. And one of the priorities of your getaways should be sex. Lots of it! A great piece of advice that Sabrina and I have taken to heart is to start date night with sex. If you wait until date night is over you’re tired, bloated from the food you ate and just ready to go to bed. But if you make sex a priority then you can share that oneness at the beginning of your date and then enjoy one another’s company the rest of the night. Sabrina added, “Like Nike says, Just Do It!” (I love my wife)

We believe one of the goals of our enemy, satan, is to keep married couples from having sex. Think about it…before you’re married the devil does everything he can to get you to have sex. After your married, he does everything he can to keep you from having sex. He knows intimacy leads to sex and sex helps breed intimacy. So what is he going to attack? The intimacy and sex of a marriage.

One of Sabrina’s words of truth that she says over her life every day is, “I will not let the enemy get in the way of our sexual relationship.” As much as this is TMI, I think it is so important to share…after 22 years of marriage, our sex life has never been more healthy, active or alive than it is right now. Much of that is due to the agreement we have made TOGETHER to make sex a priority. Sex brings a couple together and helps keep the enemy at bay in our lives.

5) Having Fun:  Sabrina said, “Your marriage can’t be all business. ie. figuring out who’s doing what, figuring out the kids’ schedules, making lunches, doing chores. You have to intentionally make life fun.” (Again, I love my wife)

I can honestly say that the person I laugh most with in life is my wife. We have a blast together. She is my best friend and she says the same about me. You can add “having fun” to every one of these things by the way. You can have fun, get creative, be adventurous with your sex life, and we do. You can have fun, be spontaneous for date night, and we do. You can have fun, pursue bucket lists on your getaways, and we do. You can have fun while you pursue Jesus, and we do. The couple that has fun together stays together.

There are obviously many more things that we could add to this list, but these rose to the top. Any marriage that is healthy in these five areas, I believe, will be healthy IN marriage.

If you’re married, how are you doing in these things? Where could you improve? What do you need to talk about as a couple? I encourage you, sit down and make your own list. Sit down and talk about where you’re at in these five areas. How are you doing? You won’t regret that conversation.

 

Jeff Maness
I am a follower of Jesus first, husband to a beautiful wife, father to four amazing children, lead pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, WY, and blogger of all things life.

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