6. Invest in making time for each other and sharing interests. Plan for times of refreshing and enjoyment. Making time for each other communicates love and desire. Too much work and no play will eventually cause friction and arguments. Don't allow busyness and boredom to settle in. The bustle of life will never disappear, but an unattended marriage could.
Show interest in the things you both enjoy. Whether it's dancing, playing golf, going to a concert, watching sports or cooking, do it together or allow each other to enjoy it. Husbands, enjoy her collections, her decorations, her outfits, her taste in art, her body. The key here is to support each other and enjoy doing things together.
If fishing, for example, is not your preference, then don't complain if your spouse goes fishing. But the next time do something you both enjoy. The man who enjoys fishing and does it all the time, while ignoring his wife, is acting selfishly and inconsiderately, especially if she has already voiced her displeasure. You take a major step in personal growth when you love your spouse more than you love yourself.
7. Invest in changing a bad habit. In his book Invisible Imprint, Richard D. Dobbins writes: "As long as a person can tolerate being the way they are they are not likely to change. ... Until the pain of remaining the same hurts more than the pain of changing, people prefer to remain the same." Action is necessary to break a bad habit. The more we practice something, the better we get at it, and the more we do it.
A bad habit becomes an instant reaction to negative situations. Anger, for example, instead of finding a solution, lashes out with defenses that cannot be justified by God's Word.
Bad habits produce bad decisions. To break an addiction, it will be necessary to take action, get help, go after the root, yank it out and make a decision to stop taking the drug of anger, lying, controlling, overspending or whatever it is. Your marriage will grow stronger every time you defeat a bad habit and replace it with a good habit.
8. Invest in forgiving. "Try to hold this simple truth in mind: yesterday is gone. No matter what happened then, it's over. Tomorrow may never come, so the present may be all we have," writes John Marks Templeton in his book Discovering the Laws of Life. Taking control of your thought life rather than seeing yourself as a victim will heal you of unforgiveness.
When we forgive, we release those who hurt us. Unforgiveness is an attitude that constantly invades a person's mind with thoughts such as: "Don't come near me." "I can't stand you." "You hurt me too much." "I would rather see you dead."
I've been there. I wanted to see my father dead many times because of the abuse I experienced as a child. I chose to forgive my father when I understood the meaning of John 20:23: "If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained" (AMP, emphasis added).
Once I made the decision to forgive, I was set free. The memories didn't disappear, but the sting and hatred dissipated with time. Make a powerful investment in your marriage: forgive! Go to an altar and leave your baggage there. Have someone pray for you. Be set free.
9. Invest in believing in God. If you're praying for an unbelieving spouse, don't give up. Continue loving your spouse and hating his or her sin. Keep thanking God for his or her salvation. Spiritual warfare is tenacious. You should never give up. Faith is always based on the promises of God, never on natural considerations. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by the natural conditions, we will never see a miracle.
Faith is your assurance that God cares for you and your situation and He will do something about it. He needs your active faith and confidence as well as your obedience. Whether your unbelieving spouse decides to walk out or allows God to transform his or her life, God will sustain you as you continue standing with unwavering faith. In the midst of a hellhole you can make it!
Have you ever wondered why Christ spent so much time in prayer? It wasn't that He lacked anything. It was simply that through prayer, the faith that was in Him became activated, alive and irresistible. And in this prayer-born faith, He went out to heal the sick, hush the storm, feed the multitude and show Himself master of all that was in the world. He showed that the greatest function of prayer is to create faith so we may be strong and gloriously overcome the world!
10. Invest in self-examining. Erwin W. Lutzer says: "When something goes wrong in your marriage, rather than think that your spouse is at fault, try taking responsibility yourself. Your first thought should be, I am at fault! One partner usually bears greater responsibility for the failure of the marriage, but seldom is one partner wholly responsible. A root cause in marital strife is that we seldom want to 'own our own stuff,' as the saying goes. ... Search your own soul to grasp your part in the conflict."
To examine is to, "inspect, test, investigate and study something." We have a hard time examining our own motives and actions. The blame game comes first. I find that humility is one of the greatest attributes we can possess. A prideful spirit will not allow people to truly examine themselves. When strife enters your marriage, ask the Holy Spirit to put His flashlight into your heart to test if there is anything you need to own up to.
Even King David practiced this: "Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart" (Ps. 26:2, NASB).
Don't wait until your health and youth start fading away to begin investing in your marriage. It's crucial that you do it as early and as often as possible. Start today!
Iris Delgado is founder and president of Crowned With Purpose Ministries. She has a doctorate in theology and counseling and travels worldwide ministering with her husband, John. She is the author of Satan, You Can't Have My Children and several other books.
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