Shannon Ethridge says…
What’s The Secret To Staying Together Forever?
I was recently co-hosting the morning show at the local radio station here in Tyler, Texas, with my dear friend Mike Harper, whom I frequently razz about how he “married up” when he found his wife, Lois. As usual I inquired about how she was doing. They’d just received the joyful news that, after years of waiting, they were about to be grandparents, and Mike mentioned how much fun Lois was having “nesting” in preparation. He went on to make a comment that I’ll never forget, nor will I ever forget the look on his face when he said it. As if he was in absolute awe, he sweetly declared, “She is so good to me. I don’t get it. I’ll never get it. But she is just so good to me!”
Isn’t that what we all hope our spouses would say about us, even when we’re not around to receive the compliment? But this kind of love and passion for one another spread out over decades of marriage doesn’t happen automatically. It requires intentionality, and without that intentionality, life takes a heavy toll on the relationship. We’ve all seen couples who’ve somehow managed to remain legally bound to one another, who dwell beneath the same roof, and who probably still sleep in the same bed. But when you watch them in a restaurant, they gaze over one another’s shoulder in a daze, slightly agitated with the arrangement. They’re together, but they’re not. They are physically present, but mentally and emotionally they are oceans apart. They’re spouses, but they aren’t friends.
Obviously, this is not the type of relationship we long for when we daydreamed of getting married and living happily ever after. Staying together is one thing. Staying interested is another. Making love is one thing. But making love last is the ultimate goal.
So how does a couple do that? As I’ve been contemplating that question, a few word pictures have come to mind. The first occurred one day as I was visiting my parents. As I coasted into their driveway, I noticed how the huge plot of land that they once relentlessly slaved over no longer bore any resemblance to the lush vegetable garden that it used to be. Each spring my dad tilled up the ground and fertilized the soil, and my mom carefully planted her onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables that I probably turned my nose up over the taste of. Almost daily they watered the tender plants, hoed out the weeds, and picked bushel baskets full come harvest time. We feasted all summer, sharing our bumper crops with the neighbors and canning the extras to last us through the winter.
Would it be realistic of me to think that I could go pluck a few cucumbers and ears of corn when that garden hasn’t been touched in over a decade? No. The only thing that grows there now is grass. Once the labor ceased, the harvest did too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection between my horticultural example and holy matrimony. We must be intentional about tending it . . . regularly. It’s no secret that if you want your car to keep running, you must keep gas and oil in it rather than letting it run dry. It’s no secret that to keep a campfire burning you need to stir the embers frequently rather than leaving it unattended for long. Therefore, it should be no secret that to keep your relationship running smoothly and burning brightly, you must be intentional about fueling it regularly.
If you want to make sure you’re not poking holes in your own bucket of marital bliss, discern which of the three attitudes describes you—stingy, fair, or generous:
Stingy, Fair, or Generous
The Stingy Spouse is one who, quite frankly, feels as if the world revolves around him. Their mate exists mainly for the purpose of meeting his needs, and he gets upset when this isn’t being properly demonstrated on a regular basis. He or she might sound something like this:
- “Where’s dinner? Where’s my clean laundry?”
- “Why is the house such a wreck? What have you been doing all day?”
- “Why don’t you make more money?”
- “Why don’t you help me with the kids more?”
- “Why aren’t you willing to have sex with me more often?”
- “Can you not see that I need you to _______?” (Fill in the blank)
The Fair Spouse is a huge improvement over the Stingy Spouse. The Fair Spouse is happy to shoulder her share of the marital/parenting/domestic load. But she has an ulterior motive. She subconsciously keeps score to make sure everything stays “Even/Steven,” between them. So this person only doles out attention and affection in direct proportion to how much she feels her partner deserves it on any given day. This husband or wife may sound something like this:
- “I took care of that yesterday, so why aren’t you taking the initiative to do it today? It’s your turn!”
- “I’m the one who makes most of the money, so why shouldn’t I get to decide how we spend it?”
- “If you would help more around the house, I wouldn’t be too tired to have sex!”
- “How can you expect me to ______________ when you won’t __________?”
The Generous Spouse is one who exemplifies the desire to serve, rather than seeking to be served. It’s never about keeping score to make sure things are fair. Rather, it’s about earning brownie points by seeing how often and in how many ways they can delight their mate. They are very effective at inspiring cooperation rather than requiring it, which is a far more effective approach. Some examples of what the Generous Spouse might sound like are:
- “Is there anything I can do for you to make life a little easier right now?”
- “You’ve been working hard lately. Why don’t you take a few hours this weekend to recharge your batteries?”
- “I’ve been having all kinds of racy thoughts about what I’d like to do to you tonight!”
- “All my emotional eggs are in your basket, babe. You’re it for me!”
Of course, sometimes we exhibit all three of these attitudes in the same day, but what would it look like if our main goal in marriage was to strive toward being that Generous Spouse as often as possible? What if pressing the pause button to give thoughtful consideration toward some way to bless our mates became a natural part of our day, like brushing our teeth or making breakfast or feeding the cat? I think that through such simple endeavors, we’d discover that the real secret to staying together forever is simply to have a wild, passionate love affair . . . with your spouse . . . every single day.
Want to win a copy of Shannon’s new book??? Leave a comment on any or all of the 4 posts from Shannon over the next week and your will be entered to win. We will pick a winner after her series is done! If you comment on all 4 you will be entered 4 times!
Photo courtesy of DXfoto.com and © photoxpress