Many couples today are not prepared for the problems that will show up in their marriage. When issues do arise in your marriage, it’s important that you and your spouse are ready to respond to them; otherwise your relationship may be headed for serious trouble. Here are seven ways to enrich your marriage, based on the book “The 7 Rings of Marriage” by Jackie Bledsoe. In the book, Bledsoe outlines the seven stages that will equip couples for all stages in their marriage. Allow these tips to serve as your model for a lasting and fulfilling marriage, and deal with the challenges you may face along the way.
Have a Strong Foundation
In order to have a lasting and fulfilling marriage, it’s important that you have some sort of a foundation. These foundations look different from marriage to marriage. Some are solid as a rock and able to stand the test of time, while others are like sand and easily blown away, Bledsoe says. The foundation is so important because it directly correlates with the “return” or fulfillment you will receive in your marriage. The foundation may be laid at different times for different people.
“For some of you, this means laying the proper foundation at the beginning; for others, it means restoring the foundation; while others it means some major rehabilitation, or a complete tear down and rebuild are needed,” Bledsoe says.
Married couples should constantly work at strengthening foundation issues. Think of a house. The property may have started with a strong foundation, but over time, certain problems occurred that began to eat away at the foundation. When we don’t care for own marriages, the foundation our marriages stand on can be weakened.
Creating a Shared Vision
It’s important that married couples have a shared vision. Begin by letting go of your previous ideals and notions related to marriage. When you start with a goal, but the goal isn’t shared by your partner, it can become a failed strategy as the goal is painted by you alone. When God brings a couple together in marriage, it’s not about you anymore. Pray, discuss and jointly plan how you want things to look together. Make sure your together vision isn’t focused only on the visions of one person, based on the things that are exciting and engaging to one but not the other. When you recognize God’s plan for your marriage are linked to each other, you are more energized by the things you are working on together. When you’re ready to create things together, like how your relationship or family will function, make sure your decisions are something the two of you can get behind.
You will learn a lot about your spouse in the beginning years of marriage and discovering things about your spouse is one of the greatest gifts you have in marriage, Jackie Bledsoe says. According to Bledsoe, discovering will make you do at least these three things in your marriage: (1) Make you second guess your decision, (2) Make you feel like marrying him or her was the best decision you ever made, (3) Make you realize you’re not so hot yourself. While this can be the beginning of the end for many couples, it can be the beginning and crucial part of a lasting and more fulfilled marriage for others. When you discover new things about each other, you grow together in your marriage and continually pull back layers that help reveal that person to you at a deeper level. Make sure that you don’t allow discovering to dictate how you relate to your spouse. While this may be one of the first real challenges you face, if you show your partner respect at all times and work through it, you can learn to appreciate and love your spouse even more.
Understand That Buttons Will Be Pushed
When it comes to “For better or for worse”, sometimes the better comes after the worse. No matter how long you’re married to someone, you and your spouse will push each other’s buttons sometimes. Bledsoe uses Christian rap artist Lecrae’s song “Buttons” as a blueprint for what you can do when your spouse pushes them: (1) Remember your promise, (2) Understand there will be issues, but work through them, (3) Be there, (4) Accept your spouse as he or she is. If and when you’re at this point in your marriage, apply these in your marriage.
If you feel like your marriage has reached a dead point, it’s important that you focus on restoring. If you’ve reached the point where your marriage is dead, it happened over time, Bledsoe says. But there’s good news.
“Just as a series of choices can lead to massive debt, or a dead season in marriage, a series of choices can lead you out,” Bledsoe says. You can bring your marriage back to life by starting with these five things: (1) Rebuild your foundation, (2) Go to school and “major” on your spouse, (3) Draw a line in the sand that says we will not entertain anything except making our marriage work (4) Put things back in place through unconditional love, (5) Appreciate and enjoy your marriage. Instead of taking life from your marriage, these actions will restore and give life to it.
Remember That Love Is More Than a Feeling
You must love your spouse at all times and in all circumstances. It’s that simple.This isn’t the emotional, mushy feeling of love that goes away the minute you’re turned off by something your partner does or doesn’t do, but real love. The unconditional love God has for us, the love that isn’t based on things or circumstances. The love that never fails. Even when you’re not feeling it, Bledsoe points to what the apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. Remember, love is an action and when love is placed into action, your marriage can really prosper.
When you’re in partnership with someone, you have the opportunity to share your marriage with others. You can be the couple who helps restore hope in another couple or encourage them as they are working on growing together in their marriage, Bledsoe says. Think of opportunities where you can use your marriage as a ministry. This can show up in the form of couples date nights, counseling others, speaking in a church or marriage class, even writing your story down. The challenges you’ve faced in your marriage can equip you to help someone else through their challenges.