Thursday, January 14, 2016

Invest (part II)

A new year, a clean slate... as a follow up to last month’s moment, here’s a "greatest hits" list of ways to invest in your marriage in the new year. (with a new one or two) Just like supporting the church, you can give of your:

> Pray together. More than just at mealtimes, make a serious effort to regularly go before God together with humility and gratitude. Be transparent, honest and vulnerable.
> Do a marriage devotional together. There are tons of resources out there for couples who want to reconnect and foster deeper, stronger intimacy - in all it's forms.
> Schedule regular date nights. Put them on your calendar, and declare them non-negotiable. Declare them sacred! Make a plan that works for you both, and share responsibility for specifics. Take turns planning; arranging sitters for the kids, choosing a place, etc. How often? Monthly? Weekly? Up to you! Choose a timeframe that you will be able to maintain.
Note: Sex does not have to be part of the date, so...
> Schedule sex too! Don't fall off each other’s "to do" lists. Again, take turns initiating so that one partner doesn't always feel like they have to bring it up or else it won't happen. That's not healthy, and can lead to resentment and unfulfillment. Mix it up, so your romantic encounters don't always happen in the same ol' place, time or way.

> Date nights don't have to be extravagant or expensive. A walk in a park can be every bit as romantic, affirming and encouraging as a weekend getaway or fancy dinner. Sometimes though, splurging on a special night out is necessary. Getting out of your normal context will help you see each other in new ways, and it will foster conversation that is also out of the ordinary. Think outside the box though; dinner and a movie are cliche! Exercise together. Take a class together. Learn to cook a new recipe, dance a new step, or create a piece of art. Visit a museum. Take in a play or a concert. Heck, skydive! Shared (new) experiences are conducive to strengthening bonds.
> When you do decide to really "go out," buy some new date-night duds. Shop with each other - or if you're really brave, shop FOR each other. Again, breaking out of the same old routines will liven things up. Surprise and excitement are powerful aphrodisiacs!
> It may seem counter-intuitive, but invest in yourself. Whether it be a hobby that you've been neglecting, a book you want to read, or a something you've always wanted to do, doing something for yourself can make you feel happy and alive, and improve your attitude. Bringing that fresh outlook to your marriage can have far-reaching positive consequences.

Talents (and gifts):
What is unique about you?  What are those interests and hobbies? How have you been gifted by the Spirit, and what skills have you developed? What things do you know that would surprise someone to discover? How can you bring those to bear on improving your marriage?
>Play a trivia game with (or against!) each other. When they come up with an obscure answer that you never would have guessed, ask them how they know that.
>Take a spiritual gifts quiz. Volunteer together in areas of each others giftedness.
>As healthy as it is to have your own interests and pursue them, it can also be beneficial to share them with your spouse. I read recently about a couple that was on the verge of divorce until the wife asked to go hunting with her husband, a passion of his. The shared experience helped her to understand her husband better, and the conversations that ensued brought them closer, and eventually back together. Never stop learning about who your spouse is, and what makes them tick!

With St. Valentine's Day approaching, commit to passing on the cliché chocolates or expensive, crowded dinner and use this list as a starting point! Brainstorm with your spouse and come up with ways to invest in each other that are unique to you. DO those things to celebrate your love and strengthen your marriage.