Why have a marriage habit?
"Habit" + "Marriage" probably sounds as enticing as "Flossing" + "Dentist."
Yet, if you are already married or, just as importantly, in the "pre-marital" state, looking for good "marriage habits" can save you from a fate far worse than smelly breath and tartar-covered teeth.
If you're reading this far, you probably already have a sense that, whatever the specifics I have to offer, a "marriage habit" is likely a good thing.
You're probably able to guess why it would be a good thing.
You just aren't bought into it.
It certainly doesn't excite you.
I don't know if I, or anyone, can excite you about a habit.
But I can warn you of the problems you may face if you don't.
You've heard the stats: rising percentage of divorces, up to 50%, including Christian marriages, end in divorce. The remaining probably aren't that happy, yet remain married.
So we understand there's a real problem.
This problem goes back to the first married couple (Adam and Eve) who had it easy compared to us: plentiful food, great weather, no commute, no diapers to change. The Garden of Eden was truly a paradise.
Despite living under perfect conditions, they sinned against God and against one another.
Although they didn't divorce, they had blaming and shaming.
What does that mean for the rest of us now?
The wages of our sin may be death, but before we die, those wages infect nearly every marriage unless they are dealt with sooner, rather than later: criticism, loneliness, hopelessness, anger, regret, resentment.
A marriage may have short periods where it contends with this, but I think most end up spending more time that they want to dealing with these negative, sinful cycles.
The underlying problem is nobody every plans to have an unhappy marriage. Yet, it still happens.
The problem is we know we don't want to experience this negative thing in our marriage. But we find ourselves in this quicksand. Isn't that strange?
On the one hand, some of it is because we do the things we know we shouldn't do:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
Such is the human condition.
We know that we should eat well. We know we should exercise. We know we should be constantly saving, we know we should be getting enough sleep.
And yet, we don't.
Such is the case with marriage.
Yet, the marital counseling industry doesn't do a great job of confronting the truth.
Instead, despite good intentions, they tell a lie.
The Lie Behind Most Marriage Advice
We do what we know we shouldn't do.
We mostly know what we should do.
In fact, that is what one camp of the marital therapy and advice complex provides.
They tell you, perhaps scold you, into doing what you should do:
- Just forgive more.
- Just say I love you.
- Just remember it's not 50 / 50, it's 100 %.
- Just have date nights
These aren't wrong or bad.
They are obvious. Common sense, even.
Yet, as common and widespread, the number of marriages that stick with it dwindles with each passing year.
I'm not arguing that saying "I love you" more regularly, or having a date night once a week is good for your marriage is a lie.
It's a lie when because we see it as it's sufficient.
If our marriage fails, the volume is tuned up, further marketing to do the right things as sufficient.
It is necessary, meaning, if we end up not doing these and other positive behaviors, we likely will have unsatisfactory marriages.
But if it's not sufficient yet communicated as if it were, it's a lie.
Not only is it a lie, but it's been peddled so frequently to become common knowledge -- yet it does very little.
In fact, I'd argue it may actually hurt more marriages than it will help.
The Real Pain
While the above good suggestions are not wrong, they also represent the Law.
Abiding by the Law should bring us a life that God desires. So following the Law in our marriages should result in a solid marriage.
The deeper pain is that we will not succeed.
And when the advice industry sells is that this is the way, we are left with guilt and shame.
"I can't do all those things, so I must be messed up"
"My spouse must be messed up because they don't want to do those things for me."
This lie is the curse of the law. It creates the pain of helplessness, blaming, and shaming.
This pain deepens the loneliness and hurt from criticism and stonewalling that grows in marriages that aren't able to reverse the hidden tide.
Exhortations to be more loving and forgiving and more sacrificial in our marriages are directionally right. But they point out where we fall rather than a path to positive growth.
What then is the new paradise we want to get to!
The Paradise of Consistent Restoration
So if the legalism of marriage perfection is lie that leads to the deeper pain of failure, blame and shame, what is the place that everyone wants to get?
Most people have a sense the promised land for a marriage.
It is one that is more joyful, more loving, fullling, trustfilled, intimate....you can probably go on and one of what that paradise could be.
However, the means to that paradise is where we get lost.
Most believe that the way to get there is through the law: be more, do more, be better.
To me, Jesus is actually our true model of paradise, which is a source of restoration.
For us on this earth, that restoration within a marriage should come from a habit -- which sounds legalistic.
After all, Jesus was an act of faith, and faith alone, when it brings forth good fruits, is sufficient.
I recognize that there's some tension here of what is legalistic versus what is grace.
These marriages habits acknowledge we are in an eternal state of imperfection.
The habit of this marriage devotional is to identify our flaws together and work on them together, to proactively to heal a marriage because we presume the marriage is a slowly boiling pot and we are the two frogs.
You're both in a pot, there's water, and the stove has been turned on. But you don't know it yet. You can't tell. But we all know how the story ends.
Eventually, the pot gets hot enough where the frogs die.
And in many ways, that's what a marriage is. You get in there. But from the moment two people with their own junk get into the marriage, they don't even see it. They're not even aware of it.
So this is where my solution that's different from the common knowledge of be the best person now, live your best life now, be the perfect husband or wife. You almost have to be a spiritual giant to do so many of the things that are advocated online and through the general media to have a great marriage.
The marriage habits presumes the temperature is rising.
The habits are pouring cool water into the pot. It lowers the temperature.
This habit is bringing forth to you together so that you're not pointing fingers at one another what it is to make the marriage better.
That context is the word. Now, someone may say, Oh, but that's been advice all along. Pray together, read the Bible together. I'm saying those things are good, but not sufficient. The insight I had is those things are good, but sometimes we need more guidance in what the scriptures are and the intention behind these scriptures. Many times the scriptures are for us to understand God and promote our closeness to Him, our knowledge of Him, our devotion and obedience to Him. You could say, by virtue of that, it should affect your marriage. I would say in an ideal world, that is probably very true.
But I think the reality is sometimes we need something a little bit more intentional that draws from actual experience or science or research on what are the issues in a marriage and let's be proactive about them. And so that's where I came up with this daily habit of devotions based on my own experience of reading and just in my own marriage, realizing, I wish we had tackled that issue sooner. I wish that we had a scripture led conversation around this topic way earlier in our marriage. Here's the other part with much greater frequency. Here are the elements of what I've put together. First one, I love the concept of devotionals because it's daily. Before with my marriage, I put a 90 day checkpoint with our marriage coach, our marriage pastor. I thought, Okay, great. Every 90 days, we're going to come in, check in, talk about what's going on, help us course correct. It was mostly good, but we still ended up hitting very, very difficult times because that 90 day stretch, a lot could happen. And then just spending that one hour talking about stuff that happened in the previous 90 days that we need to address and then waiting another 90 days, it just wasn't great.
So one is you have the 90 days, we hit a tough patch, immediately go into, Okay, we're going to start dealing with this now. Let's go weekly. And if I look back, I probably would have done that. Might have addressed a lot of issues. But I thought even further, I said, you know what? Every single day, we should be much closer. The Psalm 119 says, Oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. So this daily process of being corrected and rebuked through Scripture is actually what I think is the right habit. We'll talk about a little bit more what occurs in these devotions that slightly sets us apart from a generic devotion, why this is really why I think it's a great marriage habit. So our take away for this part is, hey, we need a habit because the general problem is we know we want to have a great marriage, but despite knowing that and despite all the common knowledge that's available from friends and families and the media is not working. I think we want to start searching for a solution that really addresses it.
And one of those is something that we do daily. So there's a habit that's daily, but specifically around our marriage, long before we have the problems. So I'll go into a little more detail in the next episode around what makes content great for this daily habit.
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.”
The best habit is to spend time in God's word. It's a platitude. And it's hard to do. I get that.
But it's true.
What is different about this set of 40 is
These devotionals were written not just as verses for us to delight in the presence and knowledge of God.
These came from a "smack me in the head" real-life challenges in my own marriage and those of others I counsel.
Had I read these devotions, forty in all for now, on a daily rotation, I could have avoided so much pain.
These are written to create intimacy, alignment, truth-telling and grace-giving in a marriage.
Most advise is, understandably, design to save a marriage in free fall. Most because people don't want to do anything until the fire is too hot to handle.
Problem is, all marriages start as the frog in a pot of cool water. Starts out great.
But then someone starts a low flame beneath the pot.
Read on next to find out what that flame means for you and your marriage!
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”