4) Set priorities and build your life around them…not the other way around. Often I meet couples who will come to me after several years of marriage, struggling. Life, as a married couple, has not turned out how they wanted it to be and they are disillusioned by what their lives have now become. Now I realize that unexpected things happen to all of us. Things that are truly out of our control. But more times than not, the issue isn’t circumstances that are out of our control but rather because they have never set priorities for their lives together. ‘Life’ has taken over and now they are doing little more than responding to it. Life has a tendency to happen. It is like a current that can carry us places we don’t want to go.
Priorities, agreed upon together, can be the boat in that current, which allows a couple the ability to move in the direction they feel, is important. Let me give you a personal example. Before we even got married, my wife and I talked about how important we felt it was that one parent stay home and focus their energies around raising the children. For us this was a priority. That means that from the time we started having children we would be forced to live on one salary if we were to keep that priority. I have heard some people say it is impossible to do this today. For some people that is true however for many others having two salaries isn’t out of necessity but out of a desire to have the lifestyle two salaries provides. Often that isn’t a choice or a priority that the couple has made. It is just something that happened and a lifestyle they got use to before having children and they can’t imagine doing life with less. This is a case of life directing the couple instead of allowing their priorities to direct them and then living life accordingly.
Our lifestyle is certainly affected by our priorities. Personally, we have never had new or fancy vehicles and until recent years we only had one. We’ve lived for years with multiple children in single bedrooms. Our kids have never had the best of anything, but they also don’t suffer. We aren’t a family who takes big vacations. And my kids will likely have to work hard for scholarship and money to go to college. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel hard done by at all. We are blessed beyond what we deserve. I’m only saying we have tried to live by our priorities and make the choices in life that match those priorities, instead of allow life to dictate how we will live.
5) Be who you are and not who you think you are supposed to be. I think all of us come to marriage with a set of preconceived ideas of who it is we should be or what we think our marriages are supposed to look like. Those images come from all sorts of places…it might be the image of our parent’s marriage that we are trying to duplicate, it might be a marriage we have seen on TV (does anyone still try to have a marriage like Ward and June Cleaver?), it might be the image of a famous marriage we see in our society. Whatever the case, you aren’t them, so stop trying to be! It is great to have marriage ‘role models’ but the fact is you and your spouse will never be them. Why? Because as a couple, you are uniquely and wonderfully created by God and your marriage will reflect that when it is healthy. Each one of us comes to marriage with a unique personality and wiring. We come with different backgrounds and experiences, be they good or bad. I have often said to couples that one of the challenges in marriage is to find out what each other thinks and believes on important issues and then look at your differences as just that, differences. One’s not better than the other they are just different. Identify those differences, take the best that each has to bring to that area of your marriage and then decide how you as a couple will do things. Take the best you have to bring to the relationship and create a new norm… a new way of doing things, problem solving, and parenting kids etc that is a reflection of the best of both of you. This doesn’t need to be a ‘who wins and who loses’ thing but ‘how do we create the best of us?’ And here is the key – stop comparing yourselves to the ideals in your mind! Personally, I think this is one of the most beautiful things about the marriage relationship; no two is the same, each one is unique and each one is created by the melding of two people creating something new and something special through their union as a couple. Don’t give that up to try to be a cheap copy of someone else!
(Tomorrow’s Topic ) 6) Invite your spouse into your sexuality.