I really, really wanted a post about how to *revel* in our marriages for February, what with it posting on Valentine’s Day and all, and wow, did my friend Karen duBarry from www.livingunabridged.com knock it out of the park. Jason and I have a really great marriage, but can’t we all always learn more about how to have better marriages? I told Karen this post was fantastic, fantastic, fantastic and I hope you’ll find a new idea or two and agree with me.
Without further ado:
The word revel comes from the Latin word “rebellare.” If you’re thinking that looks like our word “rebel,” you’re on the right track. But for now, two relevant meanings of “revel” are:
– to enjoy oneself in a lively and/or noisy way
– to get great pleasure from
How many marriages seem to stand as examples of the opposite of those definitions? The spouses aren’t enjoying themselves and neither is getting “great pleasure” from their relationship. They’re simply existing and enduring.
That is not what marriage is designed to be. But how can we stop enduring and start enjoying (reveling) in our marriages? I’m glad I get to follow my friend Candace, who in January talked about reveling in God and His word. If we do that first, none of these suggestions I make will seem “too hard”. God first, then our spouse, is how I believe God has designed our relationships to work. (For the record: a lot of these ideas are based on the truths of 1 Corinthians 13.)
1. Be a student of your spouse. In the early phase of your relationship, you noticed everything about each other. What he liked, what she disliked. Pet peeves. Favorite experiences. Quirks. Well, why do we stop noticing these things? Sometimes likes or dislikes change over the years. Have you noticed if this has happened for your spouse?
2. Be a student of marriage. Read books. Take seminars. Listen to sermons, radio shows, and pod-casts about marriage (Family Life Today is my favorite). Make this a priority. Be a student of the best marriages you know. What works for them? What are their habits?
3. Learn your spouse’s primary love language; try to speak that language as fluently as possible.
4. Don’t keep a record of wrongs. Let your memory of ways your spouse fails or lets you down be short.
5. Do keep a record of the good things. Keep lists of your favorite shared moments or a list of reasons you love your spouse.
6. Make intimacy a priority. Revel in your freedom to enjoy each other this way. (Note: if either spouse has abuse or other past issues that make this aspect of marriage difficult, please seek trustworthy Christian counseling from your pastor or another experienced counselor.)
7. Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Get a lock for the door (and use it). Decorate for both of you (as in: no flowery bedspread if he hates them, no sports memorabilia if she can’t stand to see a football first thing in the morning.) You are grown-ups now. Put the old posters away and recycle the worn out sheets. This is probably not the place to hang life size pictures of your children (or any pictures of your in-laws). Use communal spaces for those things. This room is yours, just for the two of you. (Unless you have a co-sleeping baby for a time, of course.)
8. Always take your spouse’s side – even against parents, kids, or friends. You are the best, and sometimes the only, advocate for your spouse.
9. Listen – really listen, as in you’re not just planning the next thing you want to say – when your spouse needs to talk.
10. Make time together a priority every week. Not all budgets stretch to “Date Nights”. But anyone can pop in a movie and share a pint of ice cream after the kids go to bed. (Insert your favorite way to relax together after the kids are in bed. That’s just my activity of choice.) Maybe institute a family walk. Let the kids run ahead while you follow at a leisurely pace and unpack the events of the day. If you do get the chance to go out, go ahead and share dessert at a restaurant. It’s cheaper that way and it will taste better too.
11. A sense of humor is a great asset. Laugh together. When awkward things happen (they will), when days just go wrong (they do), when you’ve had a misunderstanding and he showed up an hour late (it happens), choose to laugh about it instead of yell or cry. Most experiences will be something you laugh about later, but why not skip a step and go on and laugh about it now?
12. Be clear about expectations for holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other “special” days. Not expecting our spouses to read our minds would go a long way to helping us revel in our marriages.
13. Use the technology available to you. Don’t discount the joy of an “I love you” text or a quick phone call during lunch hour. These moments show the other person that even when you’re apart for a few hours, you’re thinking of them.
14. Be a “just because” person. Make a favorite meal “just because”. Bring home flowers “just because”. Do things “just because” you love your spouse, not because you expect something in return.
15. Hold hands. If you’re out of the habit it might feel strange at first, but keep reaching for your spouse’s hand. (The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages addresses this habit.)
16. Kiss good-bye, good-night, hello, etc. Make sure your kids see some of these quick kisses. They’ll groan and you’ll smile and the family will be the better for it.
17. Learn to say “I’m sorry,” “Forgive me,” and “I love you” without caveats.
18. Smile at your spouse across a crowded room. Maybe even wink.
19. Tell and re-tell favorite memories and stories. Your kids need to hear these stories, but you do too.
20. Pray together. Ask your spouse for specific ways you can pray for them. Tough presentation at work coming up? Child fighting naptime every day? Pray. And don’t forget to ask how it went.
21. Let it go. Forgive. Accept. Delight. Revel in each other.
Let’s take the root of “revel” and rebel against mediocre marriage by rejoicing in the partner and marriage God has entrusted to us. This is the year. Today is the day. Even if you choose just one small way to revel in your marriage today, you could be starting a revolution that changes your marriage forever.
Karen has been married for nearly 16 years to her sweetheart Philip. They’re raising and homeschooling their five children (with another on the way) while working mostly from home. Their marriage isn’t perfect, but both will tell you how thankful they are that they get to be married to their absolute favorite person on the planet.