Relationship RescueCreating a God-centred marriage can help you weather the inevitable ups and downs.
It's easy for most marriages to start off centred around God—they're performed by a minister in a church after all—but how do you keep the spirit alive once the confetti has been cleaned up, the presents have been opened, and you've begun your life together as a couple? It can be difficult to maintain a focus on religion and faith when dealing with the rigours of 9-to-5 life and the financial and employment challenges that often accompany it, experts say.
Eleanor Damkar, deaconess of the Immanuel Church of Rosenthal in Stony Plains, Alberta, says creating and maintaining a God-centred marriage doesn't come naturally to all of us because we're inherently selfish beings who look after our own interests first.
"Every successful marriage requires sacrifice and laying down our selfish desires for the sake of the relationship," she says. "Couples who make Christ the centre of their marriage have the advantage of looking to Him for direction. When we make pleasing God a priority, we make healthy decisions for our marriages.”
Damkar defines a God-centred marriage as one where the couple makes God and Jesus the lord of the individual lives and of their relationship. That means knowing Him and seeking His will in lifestyle and decision making. "It takes seriously the plaque that hangs in many homes, 'Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation," she says.
Randy Rehbein, a family therapist at the Aurora Family Therapy Centre, the clinic for the University of Winnipeg's marriage and family training program, says maintaining a God-centred marriage is challenging because it requires vulnerability.
"We don't usually let others see our relationship with God in such an intensely personal way as we do with our life partner," he says. "Our connection with God sometimes happens at the time when we feel the smallest.
"Inviting somebody into our personal spirituality is not just about joy and prayers, it's also about bottomless pit experiences. God doesn't only meet us on the mountain tops, he meets us in the darkest pits, too."
Creating a God-centred marriage can help turn things around for struggling couples, says Damkar. One significant problem is that many couples don't do any spiritual homework before walking down the aisle, she says. "If warning signs show up during the wedding planning, most couples are too far down the road to postpone the big day," she says.
When marriages hit a lengthy bumpy patch, it's not uncommon for either or both partners to throw up their hands and quit.
"Couples need to take ownership of their own marriage," she says. "Don't be surprised or panic if difficulties arise; there are many resources to help. Sometimes it doesn't take much tweaking to turn things around. God is invested in marriages, after all, that was His plan. So we have a powerful advocate to make marriage work."
Rehbein says it's also important to take on projects as a couple and get involved in caring for the community and people who are less fortunate. He adds another key is keeping the sensuality of your marriage alive.
"Send the kids off to family or friends. Fill the bathroom with candles and perfume, and pour a bath for your partner so the two of you can take a bath together—something wild and terribly enjoyable," he says. "Sensuality, sexuality, and spirituality are closely related because they all revolve around a life force. Spirituality should be fun and it should be sensual."
Don't underestimate the power of relationship maintenance. Praying, reading Scripture, and worshipping together can help bring you closer in faith and to each other. Even stealing away once a week for a meal, or time alone, where you don't talk about the kids or work, but about each other and your innermost feelings can have a life-giving effect. "Go on a date," Rehbein says. "Give yourself the opportunity to talk with each other—like when you first fell in love."
Geoff Kirbyson is a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press and a regular contributor to such magazines as Canadian Business, Canadian Lawyer, and Parents Canada.
Originally published in Canada Lutheran, March 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.