After being married for 18 years, it is easy to go through the motions of my marriage. Similar to going through the motions of faith, my husband and I get stuck in a marriage rut. When we go days without having a real conversation or taking time to date each other, I quickly feel distant. When this happens, negative thoughts and a tendency to focus on his weaknesses rather than his strengths emerge. In order to avoid this, I need to conduct marriage check-ups or tune-ups to make sure our marriage is as healthy as possible.
So, what do you do when you feel like you are falling into a marriage rut? Start by engaging in conversation. Here are 10 questions you can ask to get you started:
1. Are we connecting?
It is one thing to be in the same place physically, it is another to connect spiritually and emotionally. If you are not connecting emotionally with your spouse, you will eventually work to meet those needs elsewhere, which can be a slippery slope. You can’t just say you want to, you must take the steps to make sure you are connecting. How do you connect with your spouse? Repeat the same steps you took to get closer to each other when you were first dating. Every step counts, and may establish the intimacy you are craving.
2. When is the last time we really talked?
When you are newly married, you have lots to talk about. But as you get to know someone, and your days revolve more around routine rather than excitement, it is easy to only talk about how your day went and what needs to happen tomorrow rather than talking at a deeper level.
One of the keys to a good marriage is to carve out time in that routine and talk to each other. Allow each other to talk without judgment and express your feelings. Don’t allow any topic to be off limits, including your marriage. Clearing the air is cathartic for you and you spouse and may soften an angry heart.
3. How are you doing spiritually?
If communication is one of the keys to a successful marriage, then Christ at the center is the most important key. Marriages are failing at an alarming rate. Without putting God, the creator of marriage, at the forefront, marriages falter. Treat your relationship with God the way you do about the most important people in your life.
Do you communicate regularly? Do you get to know each other like you do with God? It’s no coincidence marriage is the best mirror to our relationship with God. If your marriage isn’t going well, chances are your spiritual life isn’t going well either.
4. Would you like to pray together?
At a craft show, I saw a beautifully crafted sign that displayed the phrase, “the family that prays together, stays together.” Prayer is one of the most underrated powers a Christian holds in this life. We don’t fully understand the impact our prayers have to change the world around us. This includes our marriages.
If you have hit a rough patch in your marriage, ask yourself, “when is the last time I prayed with my spouse?” It’s hard to stay angry at the person with whom you are petitioning heaven. Yet the busyness of life often crowds out time to pray. Make a point to pray at least a couple times a week. When people pray, hearts change. Trust emerges. Love abounds.
5. What is God saying to you recently?
A vibrant Christian life gives people hope that this life is not all there is. But like anything, we can lose sight of that. We can sit in a pew each week, attend all the church events, but have a lackluster or even non-existent faith behind closed doors. God desires the same intimate relationship today that He did with the people we read about in the Bible. God still speaks through visions, dreams, people and his Word. Sharing what God is doing in your life with your spouse gives that same hope to them as it does to you.
6. What are your hopes and dreams?
As kids, we love to dream. We think about what we want to be when we grow up, what the future holds and what life will look like in the future. But when we get to be adults, many of us stop dreaming. If we have achieved our dreams, (or worse: life didn’t turn out the way we had hoped) we fear dreaming again. But the prophet Joel reminds us that God instills his dreams and vision into Hs people: “'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Joel 2:28.)
No matter how difficult your marriage is, God has a plan and purpose for it. Strive to allow God to use you and watch your life (and marriage) flourish.
7. What are your goals?
Do you have goals for your life? Are there areas in your life that you would like to improve? Do you make goals then shy away from it, afraid you will fail? This along with dreaming may breathe new life into a spiritual or marriage rut. People who are happier in their personal lives will feel rejuvenated to give more of themselves in their marriage.
One way my husband and I train leaders in our church is to help them create a life plan, which is like a blueprint for their lives.
They choose six areas of their lives to improve. They then create a vision for what they want each area to look like. Then they compare it against how they are doing in that area right now. They then create three to five goals to help achieve their desired reality. They also are encouraged to keep each other accountable and check in with each other regarding their progress.
It’s a great way to get closer to your church community and move forward in your personal life as well as their marriage.
8. What is your vision for our marriage in the future?
The best companies all have a vision and mission statement for their businesses. All employees ascribe to this vision and work to achieve it. In the same way, all couples must have a vision for their marriage in order to ensure its success.
Take a sheet of paper or a white board what you believe are the components of a great marriage. Then, craft a one-sentence vision statement that encompasses these values. Write it down. Post it in a place where you can see it often. Craft three or four practical ways you would like to achieve that vision. Keep each other accountable and work on achieving that mission and vision together.
9. Would you like to go out on a date?
When is the last time you dated each other? Dating someone who is your future spouse helps you get to know that person well enough to find out if they are the right person for you. When you get married, you date to keep the spark and chemistry you once had alive. God warned the church in Ephesus that they had lost their first love and to return to the love they once had. Although that was intended for the church body, the word is applicable to your marriage too. Return to the things you did at first. See if those things rekindle a dying flame.
10. In what way can I bless you today?
Despite the common belief, marriage is not 50/50; it is 100/100. Each partner must be willing to give himself fully to the other without expecting anything in return. One way you can give yourself fully to the other is to seek to bless the other all day long. In what ways can you bless our spouse in a way that will make them feel loved and special? Does your spouse like encouraging cards or gifts? Do they like to spend time with you or are they partial to hugs and kisses? It doesn’t have to be expensive to bless your spouse. In this case, it really is the thought that counts.
Everyone struggles in his/her marriage at one time or another. The important thing to do is not give up. Asking the right questions could mean the difference between a marriage in survival mode and one that is thriving.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.