The Intentional Marriage

{This article originally published 8/25/08. Edited & republished 10/8/13.}

In life, we could just put one foot in front of the other and "make it". OR, we can live intentionally and really engage in the adventure of sanctification God has laid out for us.

This is true of all areas of life, but it's definitely true for married life. Here are some ways that Doug & I have gone about intentionally living in, growing in, and fortifying our marriage:

WE TALK, TALK, TALK. That doesn't mean that's all we do... but we talk through the things on our minds and hearts. The stresses, the good things. The difficult and wonderful things.

Here's one way that we initially started doing this:
"HIGH/LOW"-- with this, you just share the "HIGH" and the "LOW" for that particular day. It's a low time commitment, but that way you're seeing the good and hard things in each other's lives. We don't do this very often now, because we're so used to talking about life together. But in the beginning of our marriage, particularly in the seasons where we were spending more time apart than together, this helped us to develop the habit of regular communication about the things that matter.
Now, our conversations usually start with, "what's on your mind?" Or, "what are you reading about?"

WE SERVE EACH OTHER. He pours me big glasses of sweet tea. I make meals that he specifically likes. He gives me a foot rub several nights a week while we talk on the couch. I organize his books. He'll take the kids to the park so I can have some writing time. I keep the kids quiet some mornings so he can sleep in an extra hour or two. We BOTH contribute to each other's sanity in big and small ways.

WE KEEP THE PHYSICAL "FIRES" BURNING. If you've read here much at all, you know this is a big one for me. It's also one that I don't want to give too many specifics about in such a public forum. You can always e-mail me if you want to talk through specific questions/situations, etc.

But I will say these things: He's not the only one who initiates. We make this part of our relationship a very crucial, regular, fun, growing, and passionate priority. We work hard to make this a really wonderful time to come together and re-connect. We still flirt with each other.

And we don't say no.

On that last point, here are some things that help me put it into perspective:
  1. When I'm 75, or one day at my husband's funeral, will I look back with regret at consistently (or even occasionally) having told him "no" when he tried to pursue me? Or with satisfaction and thankfulness because I really did get outside of myself and love and serve my dh in this area of marital intimacy?
  2. Have I ever regretted doing it? (For many women, "it's like exercise"-- even when you weren't wanting to, you're never sorry once you've done it.)
  3. I'm the only woman who can righteously love my husband in this way.
  4. A friend of mine likened intimacy for women to a campfire... if you keep the coals warm, it's easier to get things blazing again than if you let the fire go out between uses. SO, don't go too long between times. Keep those coals warm and ready for a regular fire. Yes, I'm saying have sex more often, not less.
  5. The optimal sexual encounter lasts between 3 and 13 minutes. SURELY we can make time for 3 to 13 minutes, even on our busiest days!
WE STILL DATE EACH OTHER. Ours doesn't look like actual "go out to the movies" kind of dates very often ... BUT, our kids are in bed every night by 7:30/8pm. So, we can kind of have a date night whenever we want. Sometimes we'll watch a comedy and laugh together. Or we'll sit on the couch and read together, with our legs touching and the occasional smile and wink as we turn a page. Little things like that can really re-connect you in the midst of the storm. The point is to take time to BE together and enjoy it.

  • Before he leaves for work, tell him something you respect him for, and give him a big nice long kiss.
  • When he passes you in the kitchen while you're making dinner, flirt with each other... don't lose sight of the fact that this was the man that 3, 10, or 35 years ago, you couldn't WAIT to be around!
  • At dinner, make a point to really talk and listen to each other. Even if it's only for 5-10 minutes of the meal, intentionally connect during that time. Sure, when you have little ones, one of you is cutting pieces of chicken into smaller bites and the other one is grabbing a dish towel cause the child who always spills something at every meal has struck again... but that's life. Smile. Look at one another. Enjoy those moments together.
  • Get on the same page about the things that matter... money, kids, extended family relationships, time management, etc. Talk through these things and approach them as working together as a team rather than as each of you picking the other apart or trying to "fix" what's wrong with the other person. And respect his leadership in these areas as the head of the home.
  • Try to still do the things that connected you early on... holding hands, kissing for more than a short peck, leaving each other notes (if you did that), talking about baseball/music/politics (whatever it was you loved discussing together), etc.
  • BUT ALSO-- find some new things that can connect you. Perhaps he's knee-deep in learning about real estate, or the five points of Calvinism, or various approaches to website building, or some such thing. FIND POINTS of discussion and sharing about those things. And share with him the things YOU'RE thinking about and learning. Don't brush each other off and just say, "oh, he's talking about x... I'll never understand why he cares about that." Or "homeschooling is my thing..." and then zone out. Bring each other along for the journeys you're both on. Delight in the things that the other is delighting in. Learn about the things that matter to him (like drafting a killer resume for his upcoming job search, or March Madness). Talk through the things that are troubling you. Share the concerns you have about a particular child's behavior, or the relationship with the in-laws, or the direction your church is heading.

Don't just live life on parallel tracks... get on the SAME track and travel it together. Something I find helpful during stressful moments is to realize that this is God's adventure for OUR lives. This is my real marriage. This is my real family.

I won't get these moments back; 
I won't get a re-do. 

The way I'm living now can't be altered later. The way my marriage is now can't be erased and re-written. I need to walk in the way that I will want to have walked when I am old.

Thoughts? Anything you want to add?


Jamie Butts said...

And highly, HIGHLY recommend this book - What Did You Expect, by Paul Tripp. For a sampling, if you don't have time to read it, covers some of the big principles.

Jessica Connell said...

Thanks for recommending that book- I read it a couple years ago and absolutely LOVE it. Definitely a worthwhile, biblical read, no matter whether you're engaged, newly married, or married for decades.

I have enjoyed hearing from a new set of women about this post, from when I first wrote it 5 years ago.

One of the interesting things to me is how 5 years ago, people commented here at the blog, and now people are still reacting to the post but that reaction looks different.

Throughout the day today, women have been private messaging me, commenting on my facebook post, and sending me private emails. I am thinking about these things and wondering if a different means of connection would be more fruitful than relying on blog comments. Thoughts? Anyone?

Perhaps I should ask on Facebook, LOL. :)

Sandrine said...

Maybe there is a shift in how people use electronic media now - almost everyone in on Facebook today, for example. But for myself, I'm not there and I have no intention of going there either, so if it doesn't happen on the blog, it's lost for me.

On the other side - maybe there is more people using private messages because this is a sensitive topic? I would not really like to discuss private stuff in public, and the more the time goes by, the more I'm aware of how the internet is a very public place!

Jamie Butts said...

I think people just don't comment as much these days as they did 5 years ago. (Challies might be an example.) What are your goals for the blog? I see them on the top of your site, but additionally? A bit of extra income? Fun outlet of writing? Or just mainly to encourage women? We could dialogue on e-mail about it if you want...