Last night, we were conversing with a group of friends and the question was asked, “What is it you really desire in your marriage?” Wow! What some of us found was that we actually had very little idea how to answer the question. In fact, the question was so hard for some of us to answer, that we decided to wait until next time to answer it. We all needed time to think about it. You see, for many of us, we are ten, fifteen and twenty years into marriage now. What we have found is that some of those dreams we had have been locked away into the vaults of our heart and been forgotten about. Some of those dreams are big and some of them are small, but so often they get lost in the weeds of life. Sometimes they have not been forgotten about, but we look with a cynical eye on the ‘just marrieds’ waiting for them to find out their dream is a false one. I dare say that sometimes there is a part in the older marrieds that somehow want to warn the young lovers who dream because of the disappointment lurking around the edges of a heart that has lost it’s dream. I know I’m painting a dire picture, but John and I do a fair amount of premarriage counseling and I cannot tell you how many times a young couple will tell us, “Don’t worry, we know that marriage isn’t that amazing and we don’t have our head in the sand. We know it won’t be as good as we hope it will be. We’ve been warned.” Something about that view has made me so sad. John and I have had many conversations about this. This just can’t be God’s design for a marriage between people who God is in the process of restoring. Certainly His dream of marriage must be something better, right? Marriage is the first relationship He created. The Bible begins and ends with a marriage. I think marriage is pretty important to God and because of that, it will be opposed by an enemy who hates us. If we’re longing for something more – are we naive and crazy to believe that that is what God intended or are we on to something that we sometimes lose in the process of life?
One comment that was made last night was that as long as we are looking to fulfill our own desires, we will never be able to give to our spouse. If we are looking to give to them and they to us, we will both be filled and able to give to the other. So often we want to get, but we don’t really want to give. I think this is part of it. We try to make our marriage about ‘me’ instead of about ‘us.’ In marriage, if one of us ‘loses’ and one of us ‘wins’ then we’ve both lost. Marriage is always lose/lose or win/win. A win for a marriage is when we prefer each other. A loss is when one person feels they have victory over the other. Any interaction that causes a wall or a loss of relationship in a marriage will eventually erode the marriage. We can win the battle but lose the war, but it’s the war we’re looking to win. Sometimes we forget that even in a fight or disagreement, we are actually on the same side. We want to attack the problem and not each other. So often, we find ourselves destroying the very relationship that we so badly desire.
We both want a better marriage, a close relationship, a best friend and a romance. At least that’s how we started out. Nobody starts a marriage hoping to live with their biggest enemy in a distant relationship filled with disdain. Sometimes we can find ourselves so far from our original desire that we don’t even know if we actually do want that anymore. It’s scary to desire something and to admit it because it hurts when the desire is not fulfilled. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Desire means to wish or long for, to crave or to want. The thing is, desire is not enough to make a good marriage. It’s a good starting place, but marriage takes work. We have to work on it and take time for it. It’s so much easier to just coast and let the days go by, but to have a marriage that thrives, we have to be willing to give ourselves and the time it takes to invest in it.
Something we heard very early on in our marriage and has seriously been a lifesaver or more accurately a marriage saver for us is the idea of a weekly talk date where you talk about your marriage, family and life. This always worked for us even when the kids were small because it was at home and often not more than a half hour to an hour. That is, of course, if there were no issues to work through. Those nights can take a little longer. This night often can involve ice cream. I mean, it’s much more enticing to talk about potential issues if there is ice cream involved, right? Talk about how you’re feeling that I am acting hopelessly selfish? No thanks… Wait! Did you say Ben and Jerry’s? I’m there! It works really well for John too, because I’m a super fast talker and can unfortunately win any argument even if I’m wrong. It’s a lot harder to speak really fast with Ben and Jerry’s in my mouth.
I really think this weekly check-up has kept us close and kept us from minor marriage issues becoming major and major issues from becoming a death blow to our marriage. It’s also given us an avenue to work out the bigger problems in a safe way. It helps us see where we are hurting the other and gives us an idea of what is going on in the heart of the other person. We talk about when we’re overwhelmed, mad, hurt, really excited, discouraged, hopeful etc etc. We need this. Let’s face it, we’re two broken people in a restoration process living in a broken world surrounded by broken people. We need each other and we need a person to talk life through with. I can’t tell you the times that John has been part of the restoration process in my life on these nights. He knows me and can speak life where there is brokeness. About half the time there is nothing to work through and it’s just a great night to connect and have a heart to heart, but we always have that night if things are getting a little bumpy around our house. It’s also the night we talk about parenting issues and how the kids are doing. The kids probably wonder why in the world new ways of handling situations are implemented on Monday mornings. During this time, we talk about our relationship with God and what He’s doing around us. It really is probably our most important night of the week.
When we do our pre-marital counseling, we tell the couples that if there is only one thing they remember (let’s face it, that’s really all people remember from pre-marital counseling), remember to have a connecting point during the week that is regular, special and their time. John and I can tell within about three weeks if we’ve missed our scheduled nights. We feel that this single night a week is the most important thing we’ve done for our marriage, but we still have found that the question about desire last night kind of threw us.
Honestly, we haven’t really sat down or had a moment to think about it, but we are going to be talking about it over the next two weeks. As we were going to sleep last night, I asked, “What are YOUR desires?” He laughed and said, “I have NO idea!” I felt the same way. You see? We quit talking about dreams and desires a long time ago. We talk about a lot, but that has somehow slipped away from us. Some things we have desired are happening like being best friends, having good heart connections and things like that, but I know that there are things in there that I want more of. I know that I still keep certain parts of my heart carefully guarded and when John gets too close to those, I tend to freeze up. I know that there are dreams and hopes I have that I have not shared because I would feel silly even saying them. I know that he probably has a lot of things that he has too. Sometimes we have to clear the webs and blow off the dust of our hearts to find what God has put in there. Those desires we have are treasures. Oftentimes they are whispers and echoes of things that are in His heart. We will be taking time over the next two weeks to ask God to uncover the desires that He has put in us. Psalm 37:4 says to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I’ve heard it said that God gives us desires, we delight ourselves in Him and then He fulfills those desires of our hearts. Obviously, not every desire is of Him, but ask Him to uncover what He has put there. What desires has He put in your heart for marriage? It’s worth thinking about!