The first time I ever wrote a post like this, I had been married for three months.
That was about six years ago.
In many, many ways, I’m still a young bride. My husband and I were just talking the other day about what it would be like to be married for sixty years. If Jesus tarries, then we will get there, happily, and more in love than ever before, by his grace.
The goal of this post isn’t to assume that I know all that there is to know about marriage, but I’ve learned that just because you don’t know everything, doesn’t mean that what you know won’t mean everything to someone else.
I’ve tried to restrict this post to the most valuable lessons that I have learned specifically in this sixth year. So that I don’t need to repeat myself, you can read the lessons from other years of marriage here:
Peace is possible
Something interesting happened at the height of the lockdown. Someone asked on social media: How many times have you argued with your spouse since the lockdown began? My response shocked me. It was no time. Not once in nearly three months.
You have to understand: both my husband and I have strong temperaments. We’ve never really been like those couples that rarely have heated conversations. I guess that theoretically, I’ve always believed that peace is possible in marriage. But practically experiencing it opened up my eyes to endless possibilities.
They told you couples fight, then kiss and make up. True.
But it doesn’t always have to be that way. You don’t always have to argue. Passion and peace can coexist without swallowing each other up. It doesn’t always have to be up and down. It can actually be up all the time.
That spouse you thought could not change, can change.
(This lesson isn’t for singles. Please note. I didn’t say you should marry someone in hopes that marriage can change them. Remember Dating Intelligently)
But back to my point. You can change. Your spouse can change.
The lessons you’ve learned as a couple will stick.
Those hours in counselling will pay off.
Those difficult conversations that led to eureka moments in your marriage, those times of prayer, will translate into something beautiful.
But it starts by believing that peace is possible. If you’re reading this and thinking that your spouse needs to be the one to adjust, permit me to burst your bubble.
Your quest for peace must begin with the one person you can control: yourself.
As a believer, you must learn that peace is not determined by your circumstances, but is a fruit of your born again spirit. If you can master peace from within, it will find its way into your environment.
Doing your own stuff
This year was quite different for me. I explored even more areas of my life that my husband wasn’t directly involved in. I had his blessing, he supported me and cheered me on, even to the point of featuring in one of my films, but the decisions in many of these areas were mine to make. I’ve loved the experience, and I think it has helped my marriage greatly.
For one it’s cured me from the temptation to try and control my husband because I’m actually controlling a lot in my own life. Lol.
Secondly, and I speak from my own experience about this, there is something about work that not only gives you a sense of fulfilment but helps you appreciate other people’s time as well. If you have a full schedule you’re less likely to take offense when your spouse can’t cater to your every whim on request because they also have a full schedule.
Personal time, personal projects, a business of your own, those things when handled properly can revolutionise your life and marriage.
If you know me well, then you’ll know I’m about to make sure I balance this. Please, don’t run away with the last few paragraphs without reading the next few.
There are dangerous extremes that you can conclude on from the point I just made.
Dangerous extreme 1: To have a sense of worth in marriage, you must do your own thing.
This is not what I’m saying. Many people- men and women- have ruined their homes with this mindset. Ignoring a spouse that needs you, children that require your attention, and issues in your marriage, under the guise of work. Marriage is not about competition to see who achieves more or earns more. It is about partnership and oneness.
Your sense of worth cannot come from what you do.
Neither can it come from your spouse.
It has to come from Christ.
That way, you can balance doing the work that you love without jeopardizing the family you love, and the fulfillment you crave.
Dangerous extreme 2: Every woman must work independently of her husband
While I recommend that every woman should have a source of income, I’ve observed that it is dangerous to be absolute on some issues.
If a woman decides to be a housewife, and it works for her and her marriage, all well and good.
Being a wife and mother is very, very important work.
This year, my focus was on my business and on making movies. I sensed that it was the direction God was leading me in this season. But note the two variables: ‘me’ and ‘season.’
God might be leading you to go into business with your spouse in this season.
Who knows? In the next season, the Holy Ghost might lead me to take a break from it all and support my husband full time in ministry.
What will God have you do in this season?
The point is, every individual is different. Every marriage is different. There are women who sadly, find themselves in situations where their spouses are financially abusive. What works for you might not work for them.
I will wrap up this point by saying this: I’ve spoken to women who want to do stuff in ministry or business, but are worried that they aren’t getting enough support from their spouses. My response: Do what you can excellently within your area of permission.
Your spouse doesn’t think the time is right for a physical meeting? Maybe you could hold it online.
On a tight family budget and can’t afford to make a movie? Then improvise and make a short film.
Unable to preach in church? Go on evangelism in your neighbourhood, mentor young women one-on-one.
Husband can’t spare a loan for a capital intensive business? How about you try a business that isn’t capital intensive?
We all want our spouses to be our biggest supporters. If you’re still single, I have said it time and time again that you should marry someone who supports your dreams. But sometimes, your spouse might not be your biggest fan. Or they might be, and not act like it. They are human too, just like you. In moments of weakness, they might say something, do something or not do something that can be interpreted to mean that they don’t support you.
In times like that, treat them with grace.
Also, remember that your worth doesn’t come from your spouse.
You need to take what I’m saying holistically.
There is a tendency to, from a place of bitterness, do your stuff just to prove to your spouse that you didn’t need their help in the first place. That competitive spirit is not good for a marriage.
There is also the tendency to give up totally on your dreams because of something your spouse said or did. In the long run, this is also not good for a marriage.
But if you would treat them with grace, operate wisely within your area of permission, improvise, have the right heart, contribute to the home and do excellent work, trust me, your spouse will come around.
Build on the right things
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, courtship is the time to love intelligently, marriage is the time to love blindly. The same way recruitment is a very essential component of building a great company, the person you choose as a spouse is a major determinant as to whether or not you’ll have a happy marriage.
I wrote this post a while back on social media and I thought to share with you. Especially if you are single, this is for you:
I find it interesting that two major components that will shape the course of your marriage don’t really show up in pictures.
We see the faces, the makeup, the clothes, the smiles, but these two important things; they are impossible to photograph and put on our timeline but are important lifelines for anyone considering a spouse.
The first one is a person’s values.
You are marrying what that person stands for in life. How do they make choices today? What is their anchor for right and wrong? Who do they honour? What do they treasure? What do they stand for? What does success mean to them? Would they rather suffer for doing right or just cut corners when they do wrong? Can they do anything for money? You’re not really marrying a surname. You’re marrying a value system. One that will shape your coming generations.
The second is their mind. How do they think? What do they invest in their minds? And towards what do they invest their minds.
It turns out that the major organs in marriage are not necessarily sexual. Nope. You see that brain, very important.
But you don’t want a cold brain that is so smart but isn’t connected to a heart. What you need is a brain connected to a heart that is connected to a spirit that is led by God. That whole system. That’s what you’re marrying. Not beard gang. Not hipsy club.
What largely determines a healthy marriage is how people think and what they value. And guess what? You don’t have to marry them before you know.
You can know now.
If he slaps the waiter, he will slap you.
If she is mean to strangers, she will be mean to you.
If they don’t mind sex before marriage, what they really mean is that God’s word doesn’t matter to them. Why will it matter in marriage?
The way he handles that job might be the way he will lead a home.
If she can’t get through that exam without cheating, what will she teach your children?
The beautiful thing about your mind is that it has the capacity to expand.
The beautiful thing about values is that they can be built.
But it has to first be a personal project, not a relationship project.
Considering how difficult a year this has been for everyone, I’m grateful for a marriage that was built on the right things. On Christ, on values, on commitment.
Challenges will come, but if your foundation is sure, you will come out stronger.
Keep the spark alive
If my blogpost seems rushed, it’s probably because it is. I’m trying to finish up in time for a romantic weekend get-away with my husband. You need to understand. It is practical to be romantic. It is spiritual to be romantic. It is realistic to be romantic.
Whether you’ve been married six months, six years or sixty years, be intentional about keeping the spark alive in your marriage.
Take each other out.
Say I love you often.
A while back, when we launched During Ever After, I put together this short post:
Nothing grows without effort
One of the reasons why I wrote #DuringEverAfter was to point to a big reason why marriages fail. It isn’t always that one party cheated or was abusive, it isn’t always money or character flaws.
Sometimes It’s simply doing nothing
The Art of doing nothing
Of refusing to make efforts because you’ve become over familiar with your partner or because all the efforts you’ve made in the past were thrown in your face,
Like Setan, you’re faithful. But indifferent.
Like Grace, you’re present but unintentional.
You leave the cockpit during turbulent flights but assume everything is fine because you didn’t go to another plane.
It’s scary what the devil can do with ‘nothing’ Doors of temptation fling open and hurts become cancers.
Bad marriages scarcely remain bad, sometimes they get worse. But sometimes, they get better.
It’s incredible what can happen to your marriage when you choose to be intentional. When you prayerfully step up, get counsel, and take action.
Don’t depend on the spark for the fire
Keep the spark alive, but don’t depend on it for fire. What fuels your marriage has to be deeper than romance. Your spouse is part of you. Think about that for a moment. There are times when you’re all dressed up and camera ready. There are times when you spend all day in your pyjamas. All those times are important.
Companionable silence is a big deal. Taking moments to smile at your spouse, crack a joke or ask how they are doing even though you haven’t been out in months because of the lockdown is an integral part of marriage.
In this sixth year especially, I’ve been incredibly grateful for a marriage built on friendship. How do you build friendship in marriage? It’s supposed to come naturally, but it isn’t always automatic. It requires a whole lot of listening, forgiveness, acceptance, practice and kindness.
It’s a God thing
When it all comes down to it, except the Lord builds a house, they labour in vain that build it. As I look back on the past six years with the love of my life, and forward onto the next sixty, all I see is God’s hand.
God is the one who builds our home.
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