All of us who decide to take the risk and tie the knot, hope our marriage makes it “till death do us part.” Yet hope alone will not sustain us through the trials and tribulations (John 16:33) our marriage is destined to encounter. Below are Five Essential Ingredients, every marriage must possess, to not only make it till the end, but enjoy the journey along the way.
1. Create a 5 to 1 Ratio
One of the biggest myths about marriage, is that healthy marriages don’t have conflict. The truth is that “healthy marriages,” should actually have a lot of conflict. Just like a rubber band uses tension to hold two, often dissimilar objects together, God uses disagreements, agitation, and incongruities, to force two opposite personalities to keep moving towards one another in order to slowly make them both better. However, in order to endure this natural, maturing process, studies have found that couples need to maintain a constant balance of five positive interactions for every negative one. Since conflict with your partner is unavoidable, and necessary, your focus should be less on dodging conflict, and more on building a friendship
2. Practice Vulnerability
As a marriage progresses, it is natural for couples to slowly, and often unintentionally, build resentment towards one another, as a result of broken trust, repeated wounds, and unresolved disappointment. This person, who they once couldn’t live without, is now someone they can’t stand being in the same room with. Husbands and wives often erect invisible walls of protection around themselves, to ensure that their partner cannot hurt them again. However, these same walls that keep pain out, also prevent love and acceptance from getting in. Since the main thing that creates intimacy in marriage, is shared pain, we need to learn to lean into one another’s pain via empathy, forgiveness, and transparency, so we can become “mature and complete” (James 1:2). As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, “Numb the dark, and you numb the light as well
3. Develop an Environment of Safety
Since it is virtually impossible to trust or respect, someone you don’t feel safe with, your marriage needs to become the safest human relationship in your life. Research has found that our spouse needs to feel secure in three, main areas: physically, trusting we will never use physical force to harm or coerce them, emotionally, being able to share our honest feelings and desires with our partner, without fear of being judged or rejected, and relationally, believing that our spouse will keep their vow to remain faithful sexually and their commitment to the marriage, for better and for worse. Marital assurance does not mean that you and your spouse will never hurt each other, it simply means that you will both diligently seek to understand and cover each other’s weaknesses, instead of constantly triggering and exposing them
4. Endeavor to be Softer
As a relationship progresses, couples often become “too comfortable,” and begin to take one another for granted. Their tone becomes harsher and more demanding. They use less words with each other, and begin to explain less and complain more. Even the way they touch each other can become quicker and more abrasive, exchanging a warm embrace for a casual peck on the cheek on the way out the door. But this does not have to be your fate. Research tells us that the softer you begin something in a relationship, the more likely it will have a positive outcome. Consequently, you and your partner should be constantly looking for ways to be gentler and more tender with each other. Be aware of your tone, and always start conversations with “please,” or “I would really appreciate if…” Compliment each other daily, and if you need to criticize, try to attack the problem instead of the person. Make holding hands and cuddling on the couch as involuntary as breathing. Don’t allow the soft and fragile message of your love for your partner to get drowned out by an unintentional, harsh deliver
5. Prioritize your Sex Life
Someone once said that if a newly-married couple put a penny in a jar, every time they had sex, they would easily fill it in the first two years of marriage. But after that, if they took a penny out, every time they had sex, it would take the rest of their lives to empty the jar. Too many couples believe the myth that they can have a great marriage with a mediocre, or non-existent, sex life. However, science says otherwise. Studies have shown that couples who describe their overall marriage as highly satisfying, also describe their sexual relationship with their spouse similarly. But couples who view their marriage as average, or less than satisfying, also tend to view their sex life the same. Clearly, God designed healthy marriages to be fueled by positive, passionate, and consistent sexual connections. Sexual intimacy in marriage is a gift from God, to help couples defeat shame, increase vulnerability, and provide emotional healing after a disagreement or prolonged absence. Great sex does not just happen in marriage. Like any other skill, it takes, time, dedication, and lots and lots of practice.
- “The Way to Love your Wife: Creating Greater Love and Passion in the Bedroom” by Clifford and Joyce Penner