MAKING YOUR HONEYMOON LAST
By Richard (Dick) Innes
After fourteen years of marriage, Jim and Sue realized that almost imperceptibly they had grown apart. Jim was frustrated and no longer looked forward to going home after work. Sue was unhappy, too, and was putting on considerable weight as a result of trying to fill the “empty hole in her heart” with food.
“What can I do?” she queried. “I have everything a woman could want—a beautiful home, lovely family, my own car, freedom, enough money. Jim has given me everything—everything except himself. I just don’t feel close to him anymore.”
Like millions of other couples, Jim and Sue didn’t realize that a happy marriage doesn’t happen by chance. To keep it alive is a choice both partners need to make, and this requires commitment and work. There are many positive steps a couple needs to take to make the honeymoon last, but there are also some “don’ts” such as the following seven.
First, don’t take your partner for granted. This is what Jim and Sue had done. Jim failed to realize that Sue needed to feel loved, cherished, appreciated, and honored. The only way she could feel these is if Jim not only told her how much he loved her, but showed it through his actions in many little acts of kindness, such as by spending quality time with Sue, listening to her joys and concerns, and sharing his with her—every day. All of which would have shown that Sue was more important to him than his work, hobbies, or sports. Sue needed to reciprocate the same for Jim.
Second, don’t project blame onto your partner when things go wrong. Most marriages go through some rough times. But these can be profitable if they motivate couples towards personal and spiritual growth-individually, and together. When problems arise, realize that we marry the person we feel safe with—often where our unresolved issues from the past mesh. And, if we are not careful, the things that drew us together can end up driving us apart.
“To the degree that I
overreact is my problem.”
This is why conflicts are rarely one-sided. Each is usually contributing something, even if it’s just being too “nice” and not having healthy boundaries. Furthermore, most of us bring baggage (unresolved issues) from the past into our marriage. Any of this baggage that we haven’t resolved can readily cause us to overreact and dump the blame on our spouse, or take out our unresolved issues on him or her. Our spouse may trigger these problems, but never cause them. In fact, to the degree that I overreact is my problem. This I need to acknowledge and take responsibility for.
Third, don’t let the sun go down on hurt and angry feelings. To keep the honeymoon alive, it is imperative that couples learn to communicate effectively, especially at the feelings level. The biggest complaint I hear from wives is that “my husband doesn’t understand my feelings and doesn’t share his with me”. Without a mutual sharing of feelings, it is impossible to have intimacy.
In our culture, while change is coming slowly, it is still difficult for many to share their feelings, especially for men who were taught early in life that to do so was weak—especially when it comes to crying. Also, many women were taught that to show anger wasn’t ladylike. However, when we are hurt or angry and withdraw, this builds up a barrier between couples. Or if we lash out and “dump” on our partner that can be destructive too. One of the worst things we can do with our feelings is to bury or repress them because when we put walls around our negative feelings, we eventually put walls around our positive feelings as well.
The important thing is to learn to share negative feelings creatively. For example, when doing so, I need to say, “I feel hurt or angry, can we talk about such and such?” rather than saying, “You hurt me, or made me angry.” When I do the latter I am blaming my partner for my reactions.
The fact is that nobody can hurt my feelings or make me angry without my permission. What my partner did may or may not be a problem, but my response, when negative or defensive, is always my problem and responsibility.
According to one well-known counselor, “Failure to deal realistically with anger as it arises is the major cause of failure in modern marriages.” Thus it is not without good reason that the Bible counsels: “Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly.” (Ephesians 4:26, TLB)
Fourth, don’t lose your sense of humor or stop having fun together. Make time to play and do things together that make you laugh and be happy in each other’s company. Have a date every week and make it as exciting as you did when you were courting. Keep romance alive as you did when you were courting. Buy her flowers, send a love letter, write a poem, or any of the many little things she loves. Do the same for him.
“Instead of your lives being wonder-full,
they may become wonder-empty.”
Fifth, don’t fail to take time to “smell the roses.” Keep the emotion of wonder alive by enjoying nature together; walking barefoot in the sand; hiking in the mountains, or whatever it takes for you to feel the wonders of life and creation. If you don’t participate in these types of activities, instead of your lives being wonder-full, they may become wonder-empty, which, in turn, can make your marriage dull and boring.
Sixth, don’t go it alone. Don’t expect your spouse to meet all of your needs. This is being unrealistic. No one person can meet all of your needs. Nurture healthy relationships with other couples. As well as these, every woman needs at least one soul sister and every man needs one soul brother with whom they can share all of their joys, sorrows and struggles and not feel judged or put down in any way. Develop these safe kinds of relationships. They help you to keep growing as an individual, and growing together as a couple.
Seventh, don’t forget to pray together or neglect your spiritual life. Because God designed marriage it makes good sense to place him at the center of it. This is the most important step of all. Both partners together committing your lives and relationship to God daily will do wonders for keeping romance alive in your marriage. There is a lot of truth in the old saying: “The family that prays together stays together.”
Finally, be sure to join and regularly attend a healthy church where they believe in the Word of God and live by it’s principles. A study conducted by sociologist, Steven Nock of the University of Virginia, showed that couples who attend church regularly are forty-two percent more likely to be married for the first time, and those in the church who were strongly committed to its beliefs had a twenty-three percent better chance of having a “very happy” marriage than those who don’t go to church.
There’s a lot more to making one’s honeymoon last, of course, but applying the principles of these “Seven Don’ts” will give you a good start for many more positives.