New beginnings. What can a new year mean to your marriage? Perhaps it’s a time to make things right. An opportunity to start a new program or habit. Maybe, if you like goals, a new year motivates you to achieve something.
For us, a new year provides an opportunity to discuss what our focus is going to be in the next year. How can we save more money? Where would we like to travel? What are our writing goals? What are our top home improvement priorities?
Often in beginning a new year we think about projects and goals relating to work, physical fitness, or finances. But how often do we consider how we’d like to grow in our relationship with our spouse? Outside of our relationship with God, the single most important relationship we have on earth is with our spouse. So let’s make sure we’re nurturing our marriage in the coming year. How do you do that?
Here are some practical steps you and your spouse can take to draw closer to each other THIS year:
1. Forgive each other for the past and keep short accounts in the future.
Some marriages start off well and continue on a pretty healthy trajectory. For others, marriage has been a challenge. In good or difficult marriages there are going to be wounds created in the intimacy of the marital relationship.
As an individual, use the new year as a time of reflection on where you may have hurt your spouse. Talk to God about it and ask for his forgiveness and help to change your patterns. Apologize to your spouse. Then seek a person (other than your spouse) who will hold you accountable. Maybe it’s a good friend, a pastor, or a counselor. Give yourself grace and remember that no one is perfect. We all have things we can improve.
Perhaps your spouse has wronged you. It’s great if they apologize to you, but if they don’t what do you do? You can start the year by choosing to pray for them. Pray also for yourself that you will use the strength God has given you to choose to forgive them. You make this choice even if your spouse doesn’t ask for your forgiveness.
Remember: God is big and he’s the God of the impossible. He will help you and can do a miracle in your heart and in your spouse’s heart. In Scripture, we see examples of people who lived a life far from God yet had radical, unexpected transformations resulting in lives 100% sold out for Jesus Christ. Humanly speaking, the chances of these individuals ever-changing seemed impossible. But God specializes in hope and second chances.
How well you start doesn’t always determine how well you end. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” So pray and persevere.
2. Live life to its fullest and enjoy your spouse.
Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live life to the hilt in every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Apply that to your marriage and enjoy your spouse TODAY. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, so practice focusing on your spouse today.
- Listen to them when they talk.
- Help them around the house.
- Treat them with respect and honor.
- Speak kindly to them.
- Look at them in the eyes.
- Hold them in your arms.
Let us ask you this – would you be different today if you knew this was the last day you’d spend with your spouse? Think about what you’d change and then implement those practices and attitudes today. It takes effort and intentionality but it’s worth it.
At the beginning of last year, we realized we weren’t having enough fun together. (Don’t get us wrong – we love each other and enjoy being together.) We would spend many of our evenings working in our office instead of relaxing together. So we decided to be purposeful and change this. One of the simple things we implemented was choosing a sitcom together that we watch most evenings before we go to bed. This has been so good for us. We laugh together as we end our day and we enjoy snuggling together. We look forward to this and it’s a habit we plan to continue this year as well.
3. Do what you can and trust God with the rest.
No husband or wife can change their spouse. We don’t have that kind of control over our spouse – even though some of us wish we did. There’s only one person you are responsible for and can control and that’s yourself. So take some time and evaluate your life. Ask yourself some soul-searching questions:
- Am I spending adequate time reading the Bible each day?
- Am I faithfully praying?
- Do I attend a good Bible-teaching church?
- What kind of influences are my friends on my life and marriage?
- Am I managing my time well?
- How can I improve as a wife or husband?
- What one or two things could I do that would strengthen our marriage?
After you determine what you will do, then decide how you’ll accomplish that. Will you get up earlier each morning to read your Bible? Will you join a Bible study or small group? Will you complement your spouse each day or thank them for who they are?
Earlier this year we wrote a book called, Build Your Marriage One Day at a Time, to help couples connect at a deeper level. This book provides couples a question a day to answer for the whole year. You can write your answers in the book or just discuss them together if that’s more comfortable for the two of you. The goal of this book is for you and your spouse to know each other better and to develop a deeper level of intimacy as you share your thoughts, values, and feelings. (If you’d like to purchase our book, it’s available here on Amazon.)
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:18 that “...as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We love this verse because as we think about marriage each one of us should look at ourselves instead of criticizing our spouse. For example, are you doing everything you can to keep the unity of your marriage? What are some action steps you could take to bring greater peace to your home?
Many times we are so busy focusing on our spouse and all their shortcomings that we neglect our responsibility to improve ourselves. What we choose to focus on (our outlook) will determine our outcome. Take the necessary steps that depend on you to strengthen your marriage and then trust the Lord with the rest.
We hope this next year is a year filled with healing, fun, and growth as you take intentional steps to build your marriage.