When it comes to keeping your marriage strong, winning is more about your follow through than your strength going in.
Have you ever tested your strength on the High Striker at the county fair?
Not me. At least, not to date. Primarily because I doubt my underworked arm muscles would win me a prize. That said, I have stood witness as others have.
I’ve watched as a hopeful firmly grips the Popeye-sized mallet, confidently raises it up over his or her shoulder, and slams it as hard as possible on the pad connected to the Strength-O-Meter tower. I’ve held my breath waiting to see if these efforts will ring the bell. Or if this contestant will join the ranks of the disappointed and prize-less.
When someone wins, I’ve always assumed their victory was the result of sheer strength. Turns out, most of the time, it’s not. Brett and Kate McKay, over at the Art of Manliness, say that it’s swing accuracy and swing technique, not pure muscle, that truly make a winner. Yep, it’s not about dependence on muscle strength, but rather follow through once that mallet is in hand.
What does this have to do with marriage?
Well, when it comes to keeping a marriage strong, I think the secret to winning is more about our follow through than it is about how strong we are going into it.
So what are some techniques that can help you score high on the Strength-O-Meter of marriage? Here are three things you can practice.
1. Actively Feed Your Marriage
You and I aren’t static. As long as we’re living, we’re changing. The same is true of our marriages. This means that if we want our marriages to stay strong, we have to “feed” them on a daily basis.
What does it mean to “feed” your marriage?
Obviously, the word “feed” is a verb; it’s a word that denotes action. And, just like eating to nourish our bodies is more than simply putting hand to mouth, feeding your marriage is more than merely interacting regularly with your spouse. It matters what kind of sustenance you supply your physical body; similarly, it matters what kind of interactions fuel your spousal relationship.
So what can you actively feed your marriage so it stays strong and healthy? Here are a few ideas:
- Give your spouse praise
- Approach conflict like an adventure
- Create and cultivate shared interests
- Pursue your spouse regularly
2. Diligently Protect Your Marriage
It’s not enough to feed our marriages, we also need to diligently protect our relationships. What does that look like?
“Protect,” according to Dictionary.com means “to defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult.” Often, the first things that come to mind when we think of protecting a marriage are the “big, bad” things like infidelity and divorce. While we should certainly strive to safeguard our relationship against these things, let’s not forget to also be on the offense when it comes to seemingly smaller things. For example, things like passivity, disconnection, and bitterness.
What are some ways you can be diligent to protect your marriage in both the big and small areas? Here are a few ideas:
- Keep it your #2 priority, after God
- Be selective of the friends you keep
- Connect in busy seasons
- Rescue days gone wrong
3. Freely Enjoy Your Marriage
Feeding and protecting are important, but I believe enjoying is too. To “enjoy” is to “experience with joy; take pleasure in.” While it’s often said within Christian circles that marriage is about holiness and not happiness, I don’t believe that means we can’t and shouldn’t enjoy our marriages. When I reflect on the Garden and that first, now infamous couple, I remember how God called everything He created–including marriage–good.
What are some things that can help you more freely enjoy your marriage? Here are some thoughts:
- Laugh together
- Get away together
- Write your story together
- Practice Christ-like love
The next time you glimpse a High Striker, or dare to try out the Art of Manliness’ tips for beating this carnie game, I hope you’ll also remember that technique is important in marriage too. It can help keep your marriage strong.
About Team Us
The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Spouses serve each other, support each other, and celebrate each other. They tackle life as a unit, and when one slips, the other gives grace. They can be vulnerable together because they know they rise and fall as one.
Do you want a marriage like this? Team Us: The Unifying Power of Grace, Commitment, and Cooperation in Marriage. will help you and your spouse cultivate a teamwork mentality. Ashleigh Slater shares observations from her marriage while offering practical, realistic ideas for unifying yours.
Even if just one of you reads, your marriage can grow in intimacy and joy, providing momentum for the changes you long to see.
A version of this post first appeared at For the Family in August 2105. Read it here.