I’m fascinated by run down old farms along the highway. Keelie and I have traveled a lot in our marriage, usually on back country highways through beautiful landscapes. Every now and then, we pass by one of these abandoned buildings covered in vines, a tree popping out of the roof, broken windows, maybe a collapsed porch. I always wonder to myself, “What happened here?” Did the owner die with no one to inherit the old homestead? Did the owner suddenly up and move? Maybe it slowly fell apart around the owner in their senior years as they weren’t able to take care of the little maintenance projects that cropped up.
A home doesn’t usually fall apart in one day.
Sure, a sudden fire or natural disaster could destroy a perfectly sound building. But those vine-covered farm houses on the side of the highway got to where they are one small crack at a time.
Marriages are like this. Yes, catastrophic failure can occur, but a lot of times it happens one crack at a time. One unforgiven slight. One harsh word. One moment of neglect. When not maintained, these little neglected maintenance projects can bring down the whole marriage.
Change the Air Filters
Every house has those small, regular maintenance jobs that have to be done. Change the air filter, cut the grass, tighten the screws. These little things can be easy to do when you stay on top of them. They can also wreck your house if their neglected. In marriage, we have to perform some regular maintenance as well.
Keep a short list of wrongs
Don’t let too much time pass with unaddressed hurts. If you’ve wronged your spouse, reconcile quickly – immediately if you can. Shout at your wife in anger? Apologize right away. Have a big blow up fight? Come back together as soon as you’ve both cooled off.
It’s amazing how seemingly tiny little problems can mushroom into marriage destroying problems after they’ve festered for a decade or so. If you’re the one who’s been wronged, tell your spouse quickly. As soon as you able to do so without tearing their head off, go to them and explain how you’ve been hurt and why. Seek reconciliation.
We’ve talked about this plenty before, but it’s always worth repeating.
Date. Your. Spouse.
Make dating a priority, especially when you have kids in the home. Put it in your budget if you’re able. Find a good dependable babysitter. Brainstorm some fun, relaxing, maybe even adventurous date ideas. Then, do them! If it’s not in your budget, brainstorm at-home date ideas for after the kids go to bed. And always make sure that intentional conversation is part of your dating life. You don’t have to go deep on EVERY date, but make sure it’s a regular thing.
Be Intimate Regularly
This one is so crucial, yet so misunderstood. Coming together for physical intimacy can be as important in marriage as forgiveness and communication. There’s some intangible things that happen in bed that can’t be replaced by any other part of marriage. Physiologically, it releases oxytocin, AKA the cuddle hormone. This hormone actually emotionally bonds you to your spouse. Being intimate with your spouse tends to make you want to be intimate with your spouse more.
There’s also just something about the act of coming together. It’s hard to be mad at your wife when you’re making love to her. It’s absurd to think about yelling at your husband when you’re both naked. In fact, one piece of newlywed advice I heard once was that if you HAVE to fight, take off all your clothes first!
Now, to be clear “regularly” is different for every couple. For some it’s every day, for others it’s once a week. Find the rhythm that fits you as a couple and try to stick with that. If you don’t have a rhythm, discuss it with your spouse and find it. If you have that point where you just feel like “I HAVE to be with my spouse today,” count back to the last time you were together and you’ve found your time frame! If you keep feeling that way, it means you’re probably not coming together often enough. It may not feel romantic, but you need to remember that regular intimacy is a type of regular maintenance in your marriage.
Next time, I’ll talk about some bigger maintenance projects we need stay on top of in our marriages. What kind of regular maintenance do you and your spouse do to keep your marriage healthy?