Nurturing Your Marriage

togetherness-1483805Every living organism on earth requires food to survive. This is most obviously true for the human body. If the body doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong, it will become weak and eventually the person will die.

We don’t tend to think in this organic way about our marriages, but we should. Marriage is not self-sustaining. There is no internal mechanism within marriage that causes it to thrive. Marriage needs nurturing to prevent decay and to flourish into what God designed every Christian marriage to be: a picture of the loving oneness between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:22-33).

This oneness is both an accomplished fact and a goal to be pursued. On our wedding day, we were joined together into one flesh (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:6). But this one flesh relationship needs to be fleshed out for the rest of our lives!

The most powerful tool available to us to nourish oneness and cultivate growth in marriage is communication. Just like God used His Word to reveal Himself to us, our words are vehicles for sharing ourselves with our spouse. Honest and open communication fosters intimacy. It is a window into our souls.

But most of us are not good at it. It scares us. Telling another person about your fears, hopes and innermost thoughts is intimidating, even if it is your marriage partner. We feel naked and vulnerable. We’re comfortable in exchanging and sharing our opinions, but don’t ask for more.

There can be other reasons why we don’t talk deeply with our spouse. They include not seeing the need for it (“why talk, there is nothing we can do about it!”) and a lack of trust (“she/he doesn’t listen to me but only criticizes me”). Or perhaps we don’t know what is going on inside of us. We skim along the surface, unable to access the deeper levels of our motivation and desires. When invited to open up, we genuinely don’t know where to go with that. We might as well have been asked to explain the solar system.

These reasons and more, are worthy of exploration. But don't overemphasize them. Quite often we don’t communicate this way with our spouse simply because we don’t want to. Nurturing our marriage relationship is low on our priority list. And communication is a hassle. We don’t like to admit it and we protest quickly, but deep inside we know it’s true. But this is the bottom line: the quality of our marriage is in large part determined by the depth of our communication with one another. We get a return on our investment.

Does your marriage radiate oneness? Or do both of you operate on different tracks, like two trains passing each other in the night? Do you hide certain things from your spouse? Is your communication limited to facts and ideas, to talking about others?

How can you dig deeper? Counselor and speaker David Powlison suggests three different questions you can ask your spouse. They can help you enter your spouse’s world. 

  1. What are your burdens at the moment? Scripture says we’re born for trouble (Job 5:7). What is that burden? A sin? A responsibility? Something at work? A certain conflict? Something in the family? What weighs you down? What do you wrestle with? When did you hit your low point? What happened? How can I pray for you?
  2. What gives you joy right now? What where your highlights today? What did you enjoy today? Where did you see God at work? What are you thankful for? What are you looking forward to? How have you been encouraged recently?
  3. What is your purpose? What are commitments today or tomorrow? What needs to happen? What are your goals? What are you thinking about? What do you want to accomplish? What are your dreams? What areas do you think we need to grow together as a couple? What can I help you with?

Imagine having a daily conversation about something that is below the surface. It could make a world of difference in your marriage and be a first step on the trajectory to oneness.

Maybe your husband or wife is not interested. Besides prayer and lovingly trying to find out why this is the case, you may want to attempt to begin the conversation yourself. Try to answer one of these questions. It may feel somewhat uncomfortable because you have shared your heart unsolicited. But by doing so you have brought some light to a dark place and life to a sleeping part of your relationship.

Anything worth pursuing will cost us something and push us out of our comfort zone. But marriage is too precious of a gift not to nourish and invest in. The rewards will be sweet to the soul and most of all honor the Giver of the gift.