You’ve been married for years. There have been ups and downs, good times and bad. The secrets have been exposed and the perfect dating facade has long been lifted. Maybe you feel more like roommates than lovers. Now what? In this final post in my marriage series I want to talk about how to rekindle that flame with your spouse into a deeper kind of love.
Over a year ago I was laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and I had the thought to do a marriage post. So many ideas followed and flooded my brain that I had to sit up and type them into my phone. That ended up being my outline for this 4-part series.
When I saw that I had too much to say for one post, I prayed about it and looked to see how I could break it down. I quickly saw that all the points fell easily into four categories — priorities, disagreement, protection and love. I believe the Holy Spirit helped me with the outline, so I pray that I did my part with the words. I hope that you’ve taken something away from the series so far. If you have a moment at the end, I’d love it if you’d tell me one point that made you think, or even better, maybe offer your own valuable advice that has helped your marriage.
Go back and start with the first post if you haven’t read it yet. The points build on top of each other.
In this final post, let’s jump into the last five points on how to have a lasting marriage. Some of these ideas you might not have heard, some might seem old fashioned, yet try to take them in with fresh eyes. Read them with your own behavior in mind, not your spouse’s. Think about how these can apply to you and what you need to work on, not what he needs to work on. Ok? I promise it will be more fulfilling this way.
And while I’m being bossy, I’d ask that you not skip over reading the few scriptures included. My words have no supernatural power to speak to your soul, but His words do. Enough introductions, let’s get started.
#12: Learn your partner’s love language.
We each receive love differently and it’s rarely in the same way that our spouse receives love. Gary Chapman identifies five ways in his book “The Five Love Languages.”
The five love languages
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Marcello and I are very cognizant of each other’s love language and it has proved invaluable. Let me explain.
Mine is quality time — probably the most annoying of all the languages, of course. I value spending time together and talking. When he’s not able to give me this time, I tend to withdrawal, become sarcastic and cold. Sounds like a dream, right? So basically I’m mad at him for not spending time with me, but I’m acting like a jerk. So why would he want to spend time with me exactly? I know. I even annoy myself.
Marcello’s love language is acts of service. One time I said, “So let me get this straight. If I do the laundry you feel loved?” To which he answered yes. And I still don’t get it, but I’m grateful I know because I would never have come up with this correlation on my own. Your shirts are washed, feel the love.
In fact, he is always doing thoughtful things for me. Sometimes he makes coffee and sets out a mug and spoon for me. Or cuts a rose and puts it on my desk. Or even when he gets the oil changed in my car, he’s showing me he loves me. Because that’s his love language. As a quality time gal, I think all these things are very sweet, but I’d still rather have a chat on couch or go for a walk together. You see what I mean?
You might be speaking to your spouse in your love language, not his, and be missing a huge opportunity. Gary says most people don’t marry someone of the same love language, so chances are you will have to learn how to best love your spouse. And just in case you’re curious, love languages tend to stay the same for a lifetime.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. — 1 Peter 4:10
#13: Reignite the passion.
Marriage is what you put into it. Some people say they’re just not in love anymore, but what are they doing to change that? Movies tell us that love is a chemistry that just exists and that you can live happily ever after based on that, but that’s a lie. Love is a choice. It’s a choice you have every day. So let’s set chemistry and fairy tales aside and think about what we can do to reignite the passion.
Turn up the romance.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been married, these sweet expressions make a difference. Go ahead and gross out the kids!
- Hold hands.
- Snuggle on the couch.
- Caress his hair.
- Offer a back massage.
- Leave a love note.
- Send flowers or give a gift for no reason.
- Text that you are thinking of him.
- Write a list of why are grateful for her.
- Tell him he is appreciated.
- Plan a surprise date.
- Wink at her from across the room.
- Be happy to see him when he comes in the door.
My more-passionate Italian husband had to teach this cold Americana about giving a kiss on the lips when coming or going. He will not leave without it and usually it’s the first thing he does when he walks in the door. He walks straight my way. I’ll be honest, at first I thought it was a little silly or even repetitive, but over the years I expect it, wait for it, reciprocate it. It makes me feel special and cherished. Now I don’t leave without a kiss either. I’m a little on the slacker side when it comes to giving a kiss upon return, but that’s something I’d like to get better at.
This small act connects a couple physically and emotionally. It makes a statement that your spouse is a priority, that you have a special and intimate relationship. Studies have show that the feel-good hormones — serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin — are spiked too with passionate kisses!
Have sex regularly.
We talked about how regular intimacy safeguards your marriage from temptation in part 3, but there are, of course, many more benefits to having a regular sex life. One is a release of the hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin is called “the love hormone.” It is spiked especially during sex, birth and breastfeeding. If you’ve ever wondered why it can be harder for a man to bond with a brand new baby than the mother, it’s because women get this liquid love coursing their veins after delivery and it continues during breastfeeding. I guess it’s God’s way of helping us adjust to a new, wrinkly, crying, eating, pooping machine who wakes up every two hours!
Women have higher levels of oxytocin than men and it’s why they tend to be more emotionally invested in relationships and can spend hours chatting with girlfriends.
“There’s only one time in human experience when the husband’s level of oxytocin begins to approach that of his wife’s: immediately following an act of sexual intimacy,” Gary Thomas explains. “A man’s brain literally re-bonds with his spouse, making him, at that moment, more committed to his family, more satisfied with his wife, more invested in his home. Wives, why do your husbands want sex with you so often (whether they know this is the reason or not)? It’s because they never feel closer to you than immediately following that encounter.”
In addition to deeper intimacy and higher self esteem, sex offers great health benefits as well. Sex lowers cortisol levels, which reduces stress, boosts immunity, aids sleep and even helps with weight loss. The increase of endorphins acts as a natural pain killer and reduces pain. Sex even improves “neurogenesis” in the hippocampus, or growth of nervous tissue, to improve memory function.
Health benefits of regular sex with your spouse:
- Reduces stress
- Improves immune system
- Contributes to better sleep
- Helps with weight loss
- Reduces pain
- Works against depression
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Less chance of yeast infections
- Lightens menstrual periods and cramps
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps digestion
- Aids bladder control
- Improves memory performance
- Boosts libido
Do something new together.
Another way to reconnect is to try something adventurous together. It would even be better if neither of you have ever done before. It will bond you to have the new knowledge or adrenaline rush together.
- Take a cooking class.
- Take a yoga or exercise class.
- Take dance classes.
- Take a wine tasting class.
- Take a language class.
- Go kayaking.
- Play paintball.
- Go to a theme park just the two of you.
- Plan your dream trip (you can save for it together).
- Volunteer in a soup kitchen.
- Go on a mission trip with your church (this is life-changing).
- Try rock climbing (indoor or outdoor).
- Go skydiving!
All of these little efforts add up, strengthen your bond and steady your foundation. When the kids are grown and gone, you won’t be staring at a stranger, you’ll be staring at the person you did it all with!
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
and let his banner over me be love.
Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.
— Song of Solomon 2:3-5
#14: Look to serve instead of be served.
A big key in turning your marriage around is to start thinking about what your spouse needs and less about what you think you should be getting out of the relationship. What would a marriage would look like if both mates were concerned about their partner’s happiness before their own?
Jesus, fully man and fully God on Earth, could have lived a life of luxury and pleasure. Nothing was beyond his reach, but instead of getting his every wish and demand, he chose to serve. He taught us to serve one another. When you serve others, you are also serving God.
Think of how many famous people use their power to get what they want. They might demand VIP treatment, the best hotel room, an entourage to take care of their every desire. “A contrasting example of the appropriate use of power is seen most clearly during Jesus’ last night on earth,” Gary Thomas explains in Sacred Marriage. “The apostle John tells us that ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under is power’ (John 13:3), but instead of acting like a spiteful tyrant, Jesus got up from the meal and washed his disciples’ feet. Instead of using his power to pout, chastise, or gloat, Jesus uses it to serve.”
Think about one way you can serve your spouse this week and pledge to do it. What would mean the most to him? How surprised and delighted would he be? What a different environment this would make in the house.
Gary says, “So many marriages are filled with resentment, but voluntary acts of service can be the quickest way to replace resentment with love. When we act in service with godly motives, resentment suffocates and dies.”
We can serve our spouse in three ways: emotionally, spiritually and physically. We’ve discussed much of those ways in previous posts, so now I’ll share a little list of practical things you can do to serve your partner.
Ways to serve your spouse
• One way to serve might be simply listening. Ask him about his day without multitasking, just focused on him. Ask questions and just listen without trying to fix or offer opinions.
• Ask “How can I pray for you?” Diligently pray for her throughout the week. Tell her you are praying for her.
• Ask “How can I help you today?”
• Pick a chore that usually falls to your spouse and do it yourself.
• Make your mate’s favorite dinner and clean up the kitchen as well.
• Volunteer to take the kids out for the evening so your mate can have some alone time.
• Fill up the car with gas or get the oil changed.
• Wash and vacuum your spouses’ car.
• Make the coffee and set out his favorite mug.
• Take him a surprise lunch.
• Don’t complain for an entire day.
• Watch a video on how to massage and set up your own spa at home with candles, music and oil.
• Occasionally spoil your spouse in an over the top way. Get drinks and snacks ready for him to watch the big game. Baby her while she’s sick, making her tea and bringing breakfast in bed.
A self-pity side note
When you do one of these things, don’t expect anything in return or to be praised to the moon and back. Do it selflessly, out of love. These are ways you can choose to love your spouse.
If you have a bend toward self-pity, kick it right on out of your thoughts. If you think, “Look at all I do and who appreciates it?” or “Who does these things for me?” then you need to do it for Jesus. Yes, you can do the dishes for Jesus. You can rock a baby to sleep and fold laundry for Jesus. He sees you. He rejoices the everyday things done in his name:
“Come, you who are blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:34-39)
True service is done cheerfully, without complaining. Don’t play the martyr. Self-pity is a trap where you will never find what you’re looking for. It is self idolatry. Joyce Meyer says, “We can’t be pitiful and powerful at the same time, so let’s decide to give up all self-pity.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. — John 12:13-14
#15: Give it time.
One fascinating thing I learned from “Sacred Marriage” is that it takes a decade or more to experience the true bond and intimacy that marriage has to offer. This is because it takes ten plus years to go from thinking as a “me” to a “we.” The way you think actually changes the shape of your brain. It determines your thinking patterns and engrained behavior. It’s called neuroplasticity.
“Repeated actions create neurological ‘grooves’ that eventually become automatic,” Gary explains. He compares it to driving home, pulling in the driveway and not really remembering the drive. It was automatic. The same thing happen in our marriage. It takes time to change the grooves in our brain, but when we start thinking as a couple instead of as an individual is when the journey becomes rewarding and truly intimate. After time, you can truly operate as a team.
“When couples break up after just six or seven years, they haven’t even begun to experience what being married is really like,” Gary says. “It’s sort of like climbing halfway up a mountain but never getting to see the sights; you’re in the middle of the task and your soul is consumed with the struggle, but it’s much too soon to experience the full rewards.
“On the flip side, if you abort your marriage, say, seven years in and remarry someone else, you will have to spend several years ‘untangling’ your brain from your prior marriage before you can fully give yourself to the new marriage.”
He goes on to say in this chapter, “The payoff is that after several decades together, our brains will have formed around each other, providing a certain comfort and intimacy that newlywed couples can’t possibly experience. Now married almost thirty years, Lisa and I are a part of each other in a way that we couldn’t have been twenty years ago, or even fifteen years ago when I first wrote this book.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Our brains figuratively grow around each other, creating a unique bond and intimacy that can only exist with time. In fact, some studies show that after 35 years of marriage couples can experience those euphoric feelings of newlyweds again!
I can’t help but insert one funny story from my studies in this book! I was so impressed with this information in chapter 8 of “Sacred Marriage” that I wanted to share it with Marcello. Our praying wives group was over and he had come back with the kids and put them in bed. He wasn’t in the mood to watch a marriage sermon. He thought he’d mess with me instead. (Keep in mind that English is not his first language and he has a thick Italian accent.)
I waited forever for him come out of our bedroom. I thought he was in his “office” or something. I prayed on my knees while I waited. I had done some things I hoped would be for God’s kingdom that day and was too tired for spiritual attacks that night. I prayed I would not be scared in my room, that God would protect me.
Finally Marcello came out, exasperated. “What if I would have died? You wouldn’t come find me?” He mentioned something about “scared marriage.” Then I started laughing hysterically, crying even. He had been waiting in my closet the whole time to scare me! “SACRED marriage!” I said. “Not scared marriage.” Too bad for him I had prayed I wouldn’t be scared in that room that night. Power of prayer. Bam!
“Whatever. I don’t want to watch your secret marriage stuff anyway,” he muttered under his breath to which I could only laugh harder. I’ve never looked at the title the same way again.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” — Ruth 1:16-17
I’ve made this printable to go over with your spouse. There are questions from each post to ask each other and spark conversation. Listen to your partner and take note of his or her responses. How can we lift current cycles that are not working and think about them when we are calm?
Click image to download.
“I hear you, but my marriage feels hopeless.”
If your marriage is in crisis, get Bible-based counseling ASAP. Talk to your pastor. Just do it. Throw out the excuses and make some calls today. Don’t put it off. Don’t worry about your reputation. You can change the course of your family’s life.
Completely envelop yourself in God. I’m very serious about this. What you need right now is truth, not sitcoms making light of divorce, not your well-meaning friend who says you’d be better off, not self-medication. Just truth. The only place to receive truth is from God and his word. He’s been there with you all along, now it’s time to open your ears and heart to his voice. Turn everything else off. Turn off the TV and watch or listen to sermons — they don’t even have to be about marriage. Turn the radio station to uplifting worship music. Make a commitment right now.
Start praying like you’ve never prayed before. I’ve never seen a change in my life like I have when I started spending an hour with God several mornings a week. I spend that time praying, journaling, reading, learning and thinking how I can serve others. Read more about how and why to pray in this post. “Worrying about your marriage changes nothing,” author Stormie Omartian says. “Praying about it can change everything.”
This prayer is from Stormie Omartian:
Lord, I pray for an end to this conflict and breaking of the hold strife has had on us. Take away the hurt and the armor we’ve put up to protect ourselves. Life us out of the pit of unforgiveness. Speak through us so that our words reflect Your love, peace and reconciliation. Tear down this wall between us and teach us how to walk through it. Enable us to rise up from this paralysis and more into the healing and wholeness you have for us.
There are so many Christian marriage resources out there. Clearly I haven’t read or watched or listened to all of them, but each of these have made a deep impact on my life and marriage. If you need a place to start, these are my recommendations:
- Sacred Marriage: As you can see from all my quotations, this book flipped what I thought about marriage on its head. I realized I had no idea what marriage is for or what it is to accomplish. It’s safe to say I’ve never learned so much from one book.
- Power of a Praying Wife: Stormie Omartian gave me the words for prayers I didn’t have. She taught me how to pray in this book.
- War Room: Watch this one today whether you have marital problems or not. It will change you. I cannot possibly recommend it strongly or enough.
There are so many talented speakers and information-packed sermons, these are just some in my podcast feed. Tell me your favorites in the comments! I always like to add more.
- J.D. Greear: A fast-talking speaker who mixes information and history with a powerful punch. I can’t stop listening.
- Tony Evans: Get ready to be fired up. Tony has a way of getting his audience excited, nodding their heads and ready to jump into action.
- Alistair Begg: How does Alistair always have a sermon airing that pertains exactly to what God is trying to teach me? I don’t know. His grasp of scripture and well-studied sermons will not disappoint.
- Ravi Zacharias: Ravi is an apologist, debater and true philosopher. His intellectual speeches and reason will appeal to your logic and heart.
- Joyce Meyer: After I’ve listened to Joyce, I feel like my mom has given me a real good, much-needed talkin’ to and now I can head down the right path.
- Focus on the Family: If you are looking for guidance in parenting or being a better spouse, this podcast is a great one. Listen to biblical, practical solutions to having a building solid family foundation.
- Moody: The speakers through this radio station have given me a vast amount of knowledge. Its uncanny how relevant the topics are in my life. I can honestly say this station has made me a better wife, mother, friend and Christian.
- K-LOVE: Christian music is no longer trying to catch up to the quality or trend of mainstream music, it is pushing beyond with innovation from talented artists. I like K-LOVE because they don’t play the same five songs over and over.
- WAY-FM: Music has power and singing along with a positive message can change your day. Also, there is no need to check lyrics for little ears that are listening. You’ll even want them to listen to the words!
- Spotify: Check out this worship playlist I created with my faves.
What are your thoughts? What advice would you add here? Has this series encouraged you to change something or establish a new goal or two? Please share in the comments below!
15 secrets to a lasting marriage
- Part 1: How to make your marriage last
- Part 2: How to stop fighting
- Part 3: How to protect your marriage
- Part 4: How to fall in love with your spouse again