There is a great picture of what a marriage should be like in Song of Solomon 1:14. The woman calls compares their relationship to En Gedi. En Gedi is an oasis in the desert near the Dead Sea. Out of nowhere, this oasis, with lush trees, plants, water and even a waterfall spring up.
Yet, this is not what most relationships and marriages are like. Most marriages are filled with stress, pain, nagging, hurtful words, anger, outbursts and even abuse.
It doesn’t have to be this way and couples don’t get married to live in the desert, they get married hoping for the oasis. But how do you make the trip?
Here are 6 simple ways to get there:
1. Stop nagging. Many couples nag at each other, put each other down, get on each other’s cases and are simply mean to each other. This creates an environment no one wants to be in, a family working against itself. This isn’t rocket science, yet so many couples nag, make fun of each other all in an effort to accomplish something. When a couple does this they will say that they are trying to get something done (a project, their spouse to change, wake their spouse up), but what is really happening is pushing them away. Every time nagging happens in a relationship, it comes from a place of brokenness. Sometimes nagging comes from a place of disappointment; either in yourself, your spouse or even where you thought your life and marriage would be at this point. Sometimes in life, you need to grieve that things aren’t going as expected and learn to move forward from that, but that’s another post.
2. Start talking. One of the best ways to make your marriage refreshing is talking. Opening up to your hopes, dreams, disappointments, sharing your past, your hurts and joys. Many couples who are in marriages that are not refreshing find themselves keeping things bottled up or opening up more to someone they aren’t married to than they do to their spouse. Your spouse should know more about you than anyone else. Always.
3. Start serving. If you look at couples who are in refreshing marriages, an oasis in the desert, you will see 2 people who are striving to outserve the other. Yes, this can be broken and one of you can take advantage of this. This is my default mode in our marriage but Katie and I still work at outserving each other (although she always wins that).
4. Start pursuing. What made you want to get married was pursuit. You did things together, couldn’t wait to see each other, planned date nights and trips. You pursued your future spouse, which is one reason they became your current spouse. Along the way, the pursuit ended. One of the fastest ways to create a refreshing marriage is to pursue your spouse. Plan date nights (they don’t have to be expensive), do things the other one likes (even if you hate it), participate in hobbies together (even if you don’t like the hobby), and lastly, pursue each other sexually. Husband and wife should initiate sex regularly, this is a win.
5. Start believing. Couples who have a refreshing marriage believe in each other. They believe the best, hope for the best, they believe in the dreams of their spouse and encourage them to pursue them. A refreshing marriage is one where you never have to say, “Don’t you want to have? Don’t you want me to pursue my dreams?” A marriage stuck in the desert has those conversations. Remember, #3? This comes from a place of serving and when you’re serving, you have a willingness to put your dreams on hold if necessary, instead of fighting for them.
6. Start setting up. A refreshing marriage is one where spouses try to help the other succeed. They ask, “how can I set my spouse up for success? How can I make them look good to others? How can I help them reach their goals?” A desert couple says, “What about me and my dreams? Who’s setting me up?” A desert couple doesn’t fight for oneness but for themselves.
The reality is, even though every couple wants a marriage in the oasis, we will often choose the desert. It is what we know, it is easier, less work and honestly, the desert allows us to be selfish.
Don’t buy it though. No one lives very long in the desert.