The busyness of life, ministry, work, and family will always threaten the sweetness of marriage.
Instead of relishing the loving gazes, touches, and little kindnesses of your spouse, you begin to see them as a partner of productivity. You divide and conquer the endless to-do lists, assigning who will pick up Jonny from t-ball and who will take Katie to ballet, who will get dinner started and who will help the kids with homework. Nighttime comes around and you fall into bed exhausted from the day, savoring the thought of a good night’s sleep over romance and intimacy.
“Resolve to slow down and look for ways to add sweetness to your marriage.”
Most of us would readily confess that we love our spouse. After all, didn’t we just do the laundry and make dinner and pay the bills? We can often express a sacrificial love in caring for our spouse through accomplishing needed tasks — even when the flames of passion have simmered. Sacrifice might come more naturally than tenderness, especially once your house is filled with the energy-consuming fruit of your love (for example, children).
So why is it important to keep the spark alive in your marriage? Isn’t it a normal and natural slide to put the kids’ needs (and everything else on your to-do list) ahead of your spouse?
Guard the Fires
In Ephesians 5, we see the gospel picture marriage is designed to portray. Our marriage on earth is a shadow of the marriage yet to come. Just as Christ delights in his bride, so we are to delight in the gift of our spouse. As the church submits to Christ, wives are to gladly submit to their husbands. And husbands are exhorted to love their wives sacrificially, just as Christ did for the church.
Marriage is meant to be a living parable of Christ’s love for the church, thus glorifying God and portraying gospel truth to a watching world. Through our joyful obedience to God’s commands, the dutiful delight of loving our spouse overflows in love for those around us. The investment of time and care in our own marriages yields a greater return of love spilled over. As Christopher Ash says so well in his book Married for God, “Guard the fires of the heart so that the warmth of your love can spread outward to others.”
How to Cherish the One by Your Side
Here are a few ways we can grow in cherishing the one God has placed by our side — for our own joy, for the glory of God, and for the good of those around us.
1. Notice one another.
This may seem obvious, but it can be all too easy to keep staring at your phone when our spouse walks in the door. Take time to acknowledge each other’s presence through a warm greeting, embrace, or question about their day. Be willing to put aside whatever you’re working on to show a genuine interest in your spouse (Philippians 2:20).
2. Serve one another.
Look for ways to serve and bless your spouse each day. Better yet, ask them how you can serve them. Maybe it’s by picking up the dry cleaning, or putting the kids to bed early, or simply making a favorite meal for dinner. Beware of falling into the trap of expecting your spouse to meet your needs. Much disappointment and frustration results from keeping score. Instead, delight yourself in seeking the happiness of your spouse through living out the commands of Philippians 2:3–4. Count your spouse as more significant than yourself by honoring his preferences and emulating the humility of Christ.
3. Say, “Thank you.”
When was the last time you thanked your spouse for working hard? Does he provide for your family? Does she lay aside her own desires to meet the needs of your kids? Often, we can think thankful thoughts and never actually express them. But Paul exhorts us to be thankful three different times in Colossians 3:15–17:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom . . . with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We should be thankful to God and let that thanks overflow to our spouses. Be diligent to voice thanks to your spouse either through verbal or written words. Look for reasons to be grateful for the one God has placed by your side.
4. Plan times away together — without distractions.
Whether this is a weekly date night or a walk in the park, being intentional to have time alone together is crucial to reconnect with our spouse. Without planning times away together, our children’s activities and our ministry commitments will reign supreme.
In our marriage, going for walks together has been a time to talk and process life. We’ve advanced from having our kids in strollers to bikes to being able to leave them at home. Having a couple date nights out of the house each month frees us from seeing the unfinished work and chores that can often distract us from each other.
5. Rest together.
Nothing refreshes me more each week than an intentional day of rest. Guarding this day from our endless to-do list and instead doing something enjoyable with my husband has brought much needed refreshment to our souls and marriage. The world will go on without us answering our emails or getting that next pile of laundry done.
“Be willing to put aside whatever you’re working on to show a genuine interest in your spouse.”
And save energy for each other. I once heard it said that your sex life is a good barometer of your marriage. If you’re always too tired or too busy for intimacy, it will likely be reflected in relational tension in your marriage.
Don’t Be Blind to Your Spouse
The busyness of life and our own selfish desires can often blind us from seeing the gift of our spouse. Stop and remember what drew you to marry them in the first place. Resolve to slow down and look for ways to add sweetness to your marriage, praying that your love for one another will spill over for the good of others and the glory of God.