Thursday, 24 February 2011

After the Baby Comes

One of the greatest gifts God will ever give you is a child. One of the greatest challenges to your marriage will be that little bundle of joy. Post partum depression and sleepless nights are often your introduction to parenthood. The once radiant mother to be often feels less attractive, partially because she has been unable to shed unwanted pounds and most of her outfits don’t go with spit up. The time and energy you used to devote to each other is now being poured into your adorable child. Trust me these are the good times.

As baby gets more active, mommy gets more drained. The attention that mommy used to give daddy is going all toward your precious namesake. In the best of cases daddy gets totally involved, it is a shared responsibility of sorts. In the worst of cases, daddy feels excluded. Date night is a vague memory as is sitting and talking, doing fun things together and being spontaneously intimate.

You might think this is an ad for anti-depressants or Planned Parenthood. Here are some suggestions for “child-proofing” your marriage.

1. Be intentional i.e. develop a very specific strategy for keeping your marriage vibrant and alive.
2. Find a support system. This might be family, friends, an older couple at church, etc. Someone you can entrust your child to so that you can get away at least for an evening.
3. Make alone time. Spell one another off so that one of you can go to the gym, or take a long soak in the tub, or read spend some time reading.
4. Make together time. New parents seem to think that their child requires 100% of their time – that is unhealthy. Find at least two hours per week to be able to sit and talk and not about baby.
5. Go on one or two date nights per month. Go on a picnic, go to a movie, go to your favorite restaurant.
6. Be extra attentive toward one another. Love notes left in conspicuous places, affectionate hugs, words of affirmation, etc.

One of the best gifts you will ever give your children is for them to see a happy, affectionate mom and dad. It will help your child to feel secure and model for them what a healthy marriage relationship is like. This doesn’t mean you don’t ever disagree but even in sorting out your differences you can do it in a way that glorifies God and teaches your child an effective way of handling conflict.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to train up a child into a Godly man or woman. The most effective way to do that is to model it.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ingredients of a Successful Marriage

I enjoy preparing a recipe with my wife. We work very well together, almost like musicians in an orchestra, each knowing their part. If we are baking something, one of us will just begin measuring out all the dry ingredients while the other goes about mixing the wet ingredients. It is almost choreographed, one turns on the oven, the other prepares the baking pan, etc. For most recipes this works fine but every once in a while it turns out that it would have been better to read the recipe all the way through before beginning. This is not my forte, so consequently we may be out of sync, having done step four before step two needed to be done. We can usually salvage whatever it is we are making.

Occasionally, you don’t have the right ingredients so you are forced to substitute or omit the ingredient, that’s where experience comes in handy. However some ingredients are essential, there are no substitutes and they can’t be omitted.

So does this have anything to do with marriage? Actually it does. One key ingredient to a healthy marriage is spending time together, particularly doing something you both enjoy. Secondly there are probably things that would have made your transition from being a single to being married go more smoothly, such a strong pre-marriage class. But you were not able to avail yourself of such an opportunity. This is akin to having read the entire recipe in advance to get a better handle on what to expect. However this as in baking you can survive if you miss t his step.

Lastly there are some ingredients that will make it most difficult for your marriage to turn out if they are omitted. There are no suitable substitutes.

The first essential ingredient is God. Psalm 127:1 tells us that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” God designed marriage and its purpose is to glorify Him. If He is not at the center of your marriage it will not turn out nearly as well as it could have.

The second is love. This means a lifetime commitment that I will put your deal ahead of my deal, in sickness and in health until death do us part. Love must be a verb. 1John 3:18 tells us “…let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” This will be virtually impossible if God is not at the center of your marriage.

A third ingredient would be grace. Out of reverence for Christ we are to extend the grace to one another that has been extended to us. As Andy Stanley has pointed out there is usually a gap that exists between what we expect and what actually occurs. Research has shown that the couples who are most happy have filled that gap by always giving their spouse the benefit of the doubt. They always think the best not the worst.