As I write this, my husband V and I are in our fifth year of marriage. It seems like time has flown by so quickly… how have we made it this far?! By God’s grace and strength is my immediate, honest answer to that question - after all, we couldn’t be more different individuals, and it always amazes me that we can actually get along on a day-to-day basis :p
He’s happy to not see any other faces besides mine for weeks, while I go stir-crazy when that happens. He loves working with numbers and Excel sheets, while I absolutely abhor that. His approach to life and problems tends to be rather logical, while I tend to think abstractly and daydream a fair bit.
Still, all this is to say that while we have different personalities and hobbies, we have made our marriage work. And not just work, but also helped it to grow and thrive.
keeping our relationships strong: why is it so hard?
Relationships need SO MUCH work. Whether it’s a friendship or a love interest, it’s so easy to let things slip and slide, especially in a world where commitment seems to be a value that only exists in our parents’ and grand-parents’ generations.
When you’re in a long-term relationship or marriage, sometimes you tend to forget the good and focus only on the bad: his/her sloppy habits; the little quirks that irk you to no end; or his/her priorities that inadvertently clash with yours… conflict naturally arises as two people grow closer, and focusing only on your partner’s shortcomings seem to be par for the course.
As I mentioned earlier, V and I are complete opposites, so we’ve definitely had our fair share of arguments and quarrels over the years. But because of that, we have also become more aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and in that way, we have learned to submit to each other in various situations.
One way that choosing to complement each other’s strengths has played out in our marriage is when we travel. My husband takes on the role of driver and navigator, while I happily assume the role of trip planner (accommodations, sightseeing spots, and itinerary). Let’s just say that if we were to swap roles, the results would be rather disastrous! So it works out really well for us that we bring our own unique strengths and abilities to the relationship, and are able to give each other space to let them be applied.
I think one other super damaging thought pattern that affects our relationships and sneakily weakens them is comparison. I confess that I’ve done this many times, and have witnessed other spouses do it too: How come X has done this for Y and you haven’t done it for me? Why do you never celebrate my birthday or special occassions like X and Y do?
Theodore Roosevelt wisely said that “comparison is the thief of joy”, and I couldn’t agree more with his statement. Comparison levies a form of subtle judgment on the “offending” partner, as if he/she is not good enough. Comparison also places a ton of unfair expectations on said partner, who might actually already be showing and demonstrating love in a million other ways. And comparison just makes us feel unhappy and unfulfilled all the time - and that’s certainly not a healthy mindset to have in a relationship or marriage.
the secret to building strong relationships
Some of you shared on my Instagram that things like communication, being purposeful, and unhurried time were important in sustaining and building relationships. And while it’s a tad cliche to say that there’s a secret to helping your relationships grow, I do find that this is something that can be applied across the board - to a friendship, to relationships with family, to your spouse/partner, and also to your relationship with God.
In short, I’m talking about being intentional.
What’s worked for our marriage is intentionally setting aside time for date night (or date day) every week. Spending time together intentionally makes such a world of difference - even though we live in the same home and see each other pretty much all the time, more often than not we are occupied with our own to-do lists and don’t actually spend time asking after each other.
One recent ritual we’ve introduced to our marriage is praying together daily and reading scripture or poetry together (we’re currently going through Walter Bruggemanns’ collection of poetry entitled Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth). It sounds ridiculously easy to do, but let’s just say that there are always things that get in the way.
Since we’ve committed to doing this for the past few months, we’ve experienced lots of growth in our relationship with each other and with God. It has shifted our focus away from our problems and worries, and placed them squarely on how good and loving our Father is, with the faith-filled certainty that He will provide and see us through - even when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.
Some questions you can ask yourselves as you evaluate the relationships you treasure and want to grow are: How are you investing in them? Are you putting in effort to help them grow? Are there some things you can initiate and/or do to help them feel appreciated and loved?
my relationship with Jesus
As a believer, I think it’s important to also reflect on another dimension to this topic: our relationship with God. Seasoned Christian or not, most of us know what is “required” to develop a thriving relationship with Jesus, namely through prayer and reading His Word regularly. Yet, many of us just can’t seem to find the time to do this, or commit to doing it for a sustained period of time.
My encouragement to you (and me) is: carve out time every day to spend with Jesus. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s during breakfast, on your morning commute or after a long day of work, time with God is more precious than anything else in the world. My relationship with Jesus has been through many ups and downs - mostly because there were times I sought Him daily and found Him, while there were times that I allowed work and other daily tasks eclipse spending holy, unhurried moments with God. Through it all, however, God has been so, so faithful to me. And it’s never too late to start building a relationship with Him again.
For me, one of the simplest ways to intentionally set aside time with God is through journalling. As I write out my fears, anxieties, worries and praises down on the smooth, blank pages of my journal, I am often able to see His hand moving in my life more clearly, sometimes quietly and sometimes powerfully. I hear His still, small voice calling me into deeper fellowship with Him more distinctly. And I yearn to live His calling upon my life out more purposefully.
No matter where you are in your walk with Jesus today, know that He is waiting for you, longing for you, and just waiting for you to reach out again.
FREE POSTCARD printables
To accompany this piece on relationships, I’ve come up with another fun freebie: A set of four postcards that you can print out and write a little message of encouragement and love on. Whether your favourite person needs a little reminder that you love them or your BFF needs some prayer support - these cards are a great way to show you care.
Get these cards for FREE when you sign up for my mailing list below!
What are some things that being in a relationship has taught you? What are some of the ways you intentionally grow and invest in them? Leave a comment below and let’s chat!
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