I’ve never been in a bad marriage. I’ve been in a fun marriage; a loving marriage; a loud marriage; an easy marriage (some days); and a hard marriage (other days). Most of all, though, I’ve been in an intentional marriage.
You see, it hasn’t always been that way. We didn’t start out in an intentional marriage. God surrounded us with a group of friends who taught us to do a better job of making Jesus the center of our marriage. They talked about safeguarding our marriage, making it a priority, making dates a priority. At the time, that was foreign to us. We were friends with the people we had grown up with. We were all broken off into our own little couples and all the pieces fit together nicely. Those safeguards seemed over the top.
As we grew, met new people, and continued to learn about marriage together, it seemed more and more that these safeguards were something we needed to put in place to protect ourselves. In the outskirts of our circles, married friends were complaining about their spouse, not using their words to honor each other, and just generally not speaking life into their marriage the way we were seeing in our closer groups of friends. Being around that at all made it easy to see how those things could creep into our home, and once they’re in, the rift is there. (Side note: all that is also why those people were the outskirts of our circle, not the center; we have been blessed with life-giving friends at the center.)
We started our intentionality by calling dinner out what it was–a date. We made it a priority to date each other. (I’ve talked ad nauseam about it here.) We go on dates; we have dates at home; we turn work trips into dates; we do lunch dates while our son is at school. It just means we take that time seriously. We prioritize each other in that time.
More time went on, and we started to see friends with issues and unfaithfulness in their marriages. Those “rules” didn’t seem so over the top anymore. It wasn’t that they were things we had ever really done, but it was time to actually sit down and think about it. We wouldn’t travel, work, ride, etc with members of the opposite sex without each other being expressly aware of it and the circumstances surrounding it. We wouldn’t meet for coffee or lunch or whathaveyou–work meeting or not–with a member of the opposite sex. We don’t go out for a boys night or girls night that is full of time at bars, clubs, or anything like that. We take precautions. We became intentional about the time we were spending with other people and how that would come into play in our marriage. We have people tell us all the time, “That would never happen to you guys.” But the reality is, it could. So we have safeguards in place. We talk about it. We make our marriage intentional to make sure we are taking steps to keep that from happening. The relationship I have with my husband is the most important relationship I have on this earth (yes, even above my child), and I want to do everything I can to protect it. Luckily, I am married to a man who feels the same way.
I remember a time in college, when we were already married, when the timing of our drive back home had us headed that direction in two vehicles. My husband arranged for me to ride with another guy friend of ours home. We set it up without a second thought. Of course, everything went fine, and we lived to tell about it, but if that were the situation today, we would have thought more about it. We might have still done it, but it would have been handled slightly differently. (Kind of like the time a couple of years ago when I had a work trip home with a male colleague who has similar ideals in place with his spouse. We were so awkward the whole trip and later found out we were each separately texting our significant other every single detail of every moment in the airport until we got to the next airport and split for our final connecting flights.) As we grow, we learn. As we learn, we do better. We want to set ourselves up so that our norm is so far away from anything risky that if there is a time when things go over that line, we are still far, far away from a danger zone.
What steps can you take today to make your relationship more intentional? What’s just one thing you can do to build on what you have and make it better? Relationships (of any kind: parent-child, friendships, marriages) take work. Take a step today toward a more intentional marriage. Maybe it’s putting a date night on the calendar or setting up a time to pray together. Just do one thing.