Thursday, July 23, 2015

Change is coming: The 10th Axiom of Marriage

     Aren’t you glad that you and your spouse are exactly like you were when you married.  Isn’t it great that you still both look exactly the same, think exactly the same, act and react exactly the same, and that life hasn’t thrown you any circumstances that have radically reoriented your marriage relationship.  I sure am glad that is the case for Lisa and me.
     Obviously, I’m being a bit facetious and sarcastic.  Whether you’ve been married less than a month or over 60 years, as you and your covenant lover go through life together, the only guarantee that you have is the 10th Axiom of Marriage: In marriage, THINGS WILL CHANGE, and your relationship will be dependent on how you and your spouse navigate changes.  Everything—physical health, communication, intimacy, family relationships, (possibly) mental health, social relationships, spirituality—will change.  Sometimes change comes slowly and sometimes change comes quickly.  However it happens, you have to expect change.
     The key question is how will you respond when change happens?  Remember, no matter what stage you are at in your marriage, Satan will always be working to destroy your covenant relationship, either through neglect or through more aggressive means.  When your spouse doesn’t look like she used to, do you begin comparing her unfavorably to others?  When your sex life changes, do you seek intimate connections elsewhere?  When your mate’s spiritual beliefs change, do you condemn him or recognize that you are both on a spiritual journey and he may be at a different place?  When age or illness causes physical disabilities, do you see helping her as a burden or as a blessing?  When he has a hard time relating to your adult children, do you talk negatively about him in front of the kids, or help him through that difficult transition?  Remember, Satan is always looking for changes in your marriage relationship that can be exploited to drive a wedge between you and your spouse.
     Obviously, every couple is different and is living out their own unique story.  However, here are some general thoughts for navigating change:

  • Keep your relationship anchored in Christ.  It is always easy to let your marriage become directed by the world, but your love for God is always evidenced by how you love your spouse.  Pray with each other always.
  • Remind yourself of your marriage covenant on a regular basis.  Whether it’s re-watching your marriage video, renewing your vows, or just reflecting daily on the blessings your spouse brings to your life, continually reinforce a positive perspective of your marriage relationship.
  • Express your love both in word and in deed often.  Your mate needs to hear and see your love on a regular basis so that there is never any doubt in his/her mind.
  • How you communicate might change, but don’t let communication die or the relationship will die with it.  Without communication spouses become isolated and lose connection with each other.  Healthy, regular communication is necessary for any relationship to work.
  • Consistently revisit your expectations (personally, for each other, and for the marriage).  Do this especially when changes occur.  When life takes you in a different direction, it is too easy to assume your mate will know what you think, feel, or need, and then to become upset or offended when he/she doesn’t respond accordingly.
  • Handle conflict in a timely manner.  If conflict is not addressed, walls will build up between you and your spouse.
  •  Practice forgiveness on an ongoing basis.  Forgive your mate and forgive yourself.  Don’t let the poisonous root of anger, resentment, and guilt kill your marriage.
  • Continually guard each other’s hearts and minds.  Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that it is the well-spring of life; your own personal spiritual life and the life of your marriage.
  • How you express intimacy may have to change, but don’t let intimacy slip away.  Showing intimacy—physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and spiritually—is always necessary for a healthy connection.
  • Recognize the power and necessity of acceptance.  Your spouse won’t always look the same.  Your spouse may not always think about things exactly the same.  You may face changes in your family structure.  When changes occur, it is critical to let your spouse know that you accept him/her for who he/she is. To bemoan what you cannot change is hurtful to your spouse and negatively impacts your marriage.
  • Constantly check where you are spending your time and your resources because that is what you value.  Your resources always flow to your priorities, so at every stage, with every significant change, verify what is really important to you.
  • Don’t wait until the elusive “later” to enjoy your time and do things with your mate.  It is always easy to wait for “a more convenient time,” but tomorrow doesn’t always come.  Live within your means, but don’t live with regrets over the simple pleasures in life that you were too busy to enjoy.
  • Play together and laugh together often.  Few things can connect you to your mate as intimately and powerfully as playing together.  And, when the uncertainty of change looms darkly on the horizon, shared play and laughter can alleviate anxiety and worry better than anything else.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  There is no shame in needing help.  When different experiences of life present problems you’ve never encountered before, seek the counsel of other godly couples who have walked that road ahead of you.
  • And most importantly, use your marriage in God’s kingdom at every step.  The list of ways you can use your marriage to serve God’s Kingdom is endless.  And what you are able to do at one stage of life might be different from what you are able to do at another.  Just be intentional to do something together to serve God’s Kingdom at every step of the way.

     Change is often confusing and trying.  We are resistant to change because it is frequently accompanied by the unknown, and that can be scary.  The blessed promise of a Christ-centered marriage is that God has given us someone with whom we can face the challenges of life.  Whether we are singing praises to God on a mountain top or walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we know God is with us because our spouse is with us.
     Together, embrace the joys and blessings that come with each stage of life.  Together, love each other through the hardships and pain.  Together, use your marriage powerfully in God’s Kingdom.  Be the very presence of Christ for your mate in every way possible—in love, in forgiveness, in grace, in mercy, in selflessness, and in goodness.  When you do that, change will still happen…but it will be a whole lot less disorienting.

To see the 10 Axioms of Marriage, click here.
To read a more detailed explanation of
The 1st Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 2nd Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 3rd Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 4th Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 5th Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 6th Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 7th Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 8th Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 9th Axiom of Marriage, click here

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