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Saturday, September 1, 2012

I’ve been addressing the topic of vital signs of a strong and healthy marriage in my last two posts. Today I'm concluding with my last two vital signs and offering a challenge.

If you missed the two previous posts, go back and check them out. I started with Communication and Selflessness and yesterday covered Intimacy and Sex (and no they aren’t the same thing).

Alone Time

Time together, alone, to totally focus on each other, is like the heartbeat of your marriage. It’s a steady, strong heartbeat that keeps the blood flowing through your body; it’s a regular rhythm of time together that keeps your marriage alive and thriving.

Alone time can be hard to come by, especially when you have young children. But I encourage you not to “wait until later” when you have more time. There will always be something competing for your time and attention, regardless of your life stage. Make and keep time together a high priority.

It is face-to-face time that allows you to maintain excellent and open communication, which I called “the lifeblood of marriage” in my first vital sign post. As such, be purposeful in how you spend your precious alone time. Don’t make it all about the calendar, to-do lists, and the kids. Talk about your marriage, each other, and how things are going.
  • Do you spend time along together every day? It doesn’t have to be a long time, even ten minutes of one-on-one is helpful, but it should be daily.
  • What do you talk about when you have time alone with each other? Is it mostly functional, or do dig into the heart of things?
    • Do you sometimes talk about your marriage?
    • Do you regularly take some of you time together to pray or talk about spiritual things?
    • Do you every take time to dream together?
  • How often do you get alone time away from home, like a regular or semi-regular date night? Do you make the effort to get out twice a month? Does one of you always have to do the planning for your dates or do you share the responsibility?
  • When was the last time you went away together over night? I’m telling you, there is something different about sex when there is a number on the door.
 Grace Factor

I couldn’t come up with a good physical analogy for grace (blood glucose? Do you have a better one?), but it’s such an important vital sign that I decided I needed to include it anyway.

What is grace? Grace is more than forgiveness, although that’s a component. Grace is undeserved favor, kindness and blessing. At its core, grace is an invitation to intimacy. Grace in marriage is really all about building and maintaining intimacy in all forms.

Grace is the pathway to unconditional love and respect in your relationship. Grace says, “I know who you are and how God made you, regardless of what I see in the natural.” Grace substitutes mercy for judgment, kindness for retribution, and blessing for disfavor. Grace is not easy. Grace in marriage requires supernatural strength that can only come from God by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some ways to measure the grace factor in your marriage:
  • Do you expect the best of each other? Do you give the benefit of the doubt?
  • When offenses occur, are you able to forgive and forget, quickly and completely?
  • Do you hold past mistakes over each other or pull them out as weapons in a fight?
  • Are you able to love your spouse “as if,” meaning are you able to see past their shortcomings and mistakes and into the heart of who they really are?

A Challenge

We all know how important vital signs are to our physical health. We all know we should have them checked regularly. Very few of us actually do it.

I want to challenge you to take some time in the next week to take your marriage vital signs. You can start with the list that I’ve shared here in this little series, or you can decide on your own set of vital signs.

No matter, I’m asking you to sit down with your list of vital signs, ask yourself what a healthy “reading” would look like, and then take a good, prayerful look at your marriage.

The next step is to make a plan for how you are going to improve the health and strength of your marriage in the weaker/unhealthy areas. Pick one thing to focus on at a time. Don’t try to do too much all at once or you’ll become overwhelmed and frustrated and want to give up. Make small changes and keep at them until they become habit.

Don’t Wait

Maybe your assessment is that your marriage is doing fine. Don’t let that lull you into complacency.

I have always had great check-ups and considered myself healthy as a horse. Sure I could have stood to lose a few pounds, but I wasn’t overweight enough to cause serious concern. So I allowed these relatively good checkups to be an excuse for not taking proper care of my body. Sugary sweets and good beer were my main weaknesses, but I convinced myself that since I ate 4-5 pieces of fruit every day, it would all even out. I never exercised, but I let being “too busy” be a lame excuse for my sedentary lifestyle.

My point is that you can always justify putting off working on your marriage or overlooking small issues, but that is dangerous. Don’t wait to work on your marriage health until some really bad happens. Watch over your marriage daily! Be vigilant!

It may sound a bit extreme, but learning to be watchful over the vital signs of your marriage can be the difference between a long, strong, happy and healthy marriage and one that comes to a tragically early end.

Take your marriage check-up now!

PS Here are a few additional vital signs that others have shared via Facebook and Twitter:
  • Laughter
  • A glowing smile when we meet
  • Two hearts beating as one
  • Kindness
  • Easy with one another
PPS By an overwhelming margin, communication was mentioned the most. 


J said...

I've really enjoyed this short series. Time alone is so important, and I found it interesting that someone on Facebook added laughter. Because I think that some of that alone time should be spent finding ways to laugh together. There is something freeing and uniting about laughing as a couple. Great stuff here!

Scott said...

Thanks J! It's interesting that laughter was the second most mentioned one on Facebook and Twitter. It's important for you marriage and your sanity!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha Scott, you made me laugh out loud - "I’m telling you, there is something different about sex when there is a number on the door."

And you're right, there is!

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