I’ve been married to Pam for 23 years.
We’ve had our shares of ups and downs, but through it all, one thing remains very clear — when you can keep it simple, it allows the important to not get lost among the immediate.
If you boil down marriage and role it plays in life, it is personal development bootcamp.
Yes, it offers up happiness, pleasure, support and encouragement – but that’s not what it’s designed to do. At the end of the day, marriage is designed to help you grow up.
When you can see what happens in your relationship through that lens, everything changes.
In order to help you keep or create a minimalist marriage (where the important isn’t replaced with the immediate) here’s some thoughts I’ve learned thus far:
1. Learn to laugh at yourself.
Humor relieves the tension that can build up between people. It also will bond you with those you laugh with. Research has found that laughter produces Oxytocin, a chemical in the brain also referred to as the bonding chemical. When you can take responsibility for your own shortcomings, quirks and struggles, even going as far as be able to laugh at yourself, you lift a tremendous weight off yourself and those you love.
“A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
2. Surround yourself with marriage champions.
When you can live married life with others who value and cherish their marriage, everyone involved benefits. You can find support as well as commonality when you share your life with others. It’s amazing to me that every time my wife and I have shared a struggle with other married couples we do life with, a few of them have either experienced the same struggle or are currently in it as well. Scriptures state that as iron sharpens iron so does one man sharpen another – I think the same can be said for married couples.
3. Keep sex alive.
Sex is often a barometer for the relationship. But it is also so much more. Sex is powerful, chaotic, and wild. Full of all types of energy – spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical.
Every person who ventures into the world of sex does so with some level of anxiousness, nervousness, excitement, and perhaps even fear. This is what makes sex such a great laboratory to growing up and facing your fears in life. When you regularly connect sexually with your spouse, you get the opportunity to not only connect and bond together, you also come face to face with your own anxieties and fears. How present are you in your sex life? What makes you seek it with your spouse?Or accept the invitation? Or reject it?
Sex is a window into how you do life. And when you can keep it alive and vibrant and passionate – the rest of your life will follow.
4. Learn to forgive.
Forgiveness tells your spouse that she or he is worthy to be forgiven. They are important enough for us to forgive. Both you and your spouse are incredibly valuable. There’s an innate value, a deep value bestowed upon you. Forgiveness says you are valuable to me.
Second, forgiveness is the essence of love. When we decide to forgive our spouse of wrongfully harming us, we are deciding to love him or her.
“We pardon to the extent that we love”. ~ Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld
Third, forgiveness is freeing to the soul. Forgiveness allows us to break the bonds of anger, rage, hatred, and vengeance. Forgiveness is the only cure to bitterness.
5. Steal time together.
We live in a world full of schedule, routine and busyness. Take advantage of routines. My wife and I have short discussions while the kids are brushing their teeth. We sit together on the deck after they go to bed. We ride together to get them from activities or school. Look for moments throughout your day, you’ll likely find many opportunities.
6. Keep secrets.
Part of married life is the secret world you create with you spouse. You can honor each other and the relationship by keeping some things between just the two of you. This secret world is what allows you to communicate to each other from across the room with just a look. The elegance of marriage comes from the creation of a life together that only the two of you know about!