Marriage–the beauty of a man and a woman deciding to spend the rest of their lives fighting over the covers. Everyone seems to have advice about love and marriage, and there is no shortage of both sacred and secular books about the embattled institution, so I thought I would throw my own little advice out there. Please feel free to take it or leave it, or, better yet, comment and share some of your own advice.
Who to Marry?
No one can tell you who to marry, not even your parents or friends. You alone have to make that decision. My one bit of advice on the subject of picking a mate is this: BE CAREFUL. For the love of all that is good and decent make absolutely certain you want that person to be the mother/father of your children, awake in the room when you are asleep, nursing you when you are sick, and spending money in your name. If you do not trust them with any part of that, any part of your life, then skip over them like a puddle of mud and toss them away like a bad piece of fruit. I mean it! Ignore how you feel emotionally about them because your heart lies to you. Listen to your head because it is smarter than the heart. Nothing has done more damage to the reputation of marriage than people thinking they are being romantic when really they are just being idiots.
Honesty is Important, but Transparency is Best
What I mean here is that you need to always be honest with your spouse, but transparency is a better policy because it eliminates a lot of the places where there might be lies. My wife has complete access to all of my digital devices and she knows all my pass codes. Nothing is hidden from her. The same is true of her. I can check her iPhone, iPad, login personals, Facebook, anything whenever I want. She can do the same. She knows where I am going, who I am with, and when I expect to be back all the time. This level of transparency is better than having to work at being honest. Honesty flows naturally when there is nothing to hide.
I will have advice on money in a future blog, but as it pertains to marriage there really is only two rules that we follow which I think every couple should. Rule one–one joint bank account. If you try to have a his and hers bank account, you are setting yourself up for disaster, because hidden money breeds secret spending and secret spending betrays honesty and they all conspire against transparency and thus the relationship is murdered. Rule two–pay the bills together. We pay bills twice a month, together, usually with a cup of tea and music playing. It is work, but enjoyable work as we get a chance to talk about how much to pay on that bill, how much to give to that cause, could we tithe a little more this month, etc… etc…
This blog post is not about children, that will be another advice blog, but as with money there is one important thing to tell you which you may disagree with. That’s okay but I know I’m right. You must love your spouse more than your children. When the kids grow up and leave, you will still be with your spouse. If you love your spouse correctly, there will be plenty of love that flows toward your children but the opposite is not true. If you love your children more than your spouse you will neglect the most important human relationship the Lord gave you.
No marriage is immune from difficulty and troubles. When hard times come, do not call a lawyer and opt for the decision you think will be easier. Divorce is never the ‘easy’ option. It is messy and inconvenient. Instead, when hard times come, push your heart to learn to love the life you’ve made and the marriage ideal as much as the spouse you’re married to. There will be times you want to run away and hide from your husband/wife, but knowing that the life you’ve made and the marital rhythms will be gone–lost–abandoned may help you hang in there. It is worth it.
There is one exception to the ‘hang in there in hard times’ rule and that is abuse. If a spouse is hurting you and abusing you, get out. Leave. God did not make you to be a punching bag and this is not his plan for you. Anyone who tells you otherwise does not have your best interest in mind.
A pastor friend of mine outlined this concept for me years ago, and it has proven to be wonderfully true and helpful. A married couple should spend 1 hour a week together. This hour is spent talking, sharing, being together. It can be a long walk, dinner, sitting on the porch swing or anything at all. What it can’t be is watching television, gaming, or working. Turn the cell phone off. 1 hour a day.
2 days a month, not necessarily back to back, but 2 days a month a married couple should spend alone, as much as possible, and together. Go shopping, go for a drive, visit a museum, ride horses, hike, read in the park or anything at all. 2 days together.
3 uninterrupted days once a quarter a couple should plan to be alone. This is hard when the kids are small, but it is not impossible. If possible, go to a cabin in the mountains or a hotel in the city, or if money is tight just block away time at home. Turn the phone off and be together.
If you never spend time with your spouse, your marriage will fail.
Okay, this blog post has already ran way over–so I’ll wrap it up there. I’d love to hear what marriage advice you might have.