Healthy Rhythms for Your MarriageBy Garrett Higbee
June 7, 2022
Anyone who has been married for a while knows that a godly marriage takes work. The Scriptures sets the bar pretty high for marriage and points to marriage as a picture of Christ and the church (Eph 5:21-33). A beautiful example of love and respect is laid out in that passage. But that picture over time in our marriages can get deeply distorted by neglect and even torn up by selfishness if we are not careful. All we have to do is lack intentionality to let work, parenting, selfish pursuits, or the stress of life threaten the health of our marriage.
You often hear about trying to maintain balance between home and work or leisure and family. That balance is usually measured by time invested. I have come to believe that trying to maintain balance in this way is actually counterproductive. You really can’t compensate by making up time for relational neglect or a lack of priorities. A friend and I were talking about challenges of balance recently and he said if you put your head in the oven and your feet in the freezer your average temperature might be okay, but the damage at the extremes will be substantial. Running hot and cold in a marriage is not healthy or sustainable. So, what should replace this balancing act? I would like to suggest we give up balance and go for healthy rhythms.
The Power of Rhythms
A rhythm for our purposes is defined as a particular pattern, discipline, or habit repeated over time. But like rhythms in music the ebb and flow might change depending on the season you are in. For our marriages to be God honoring and healthy I would suggest that we need to assess our season and create appropriate rhythms. Whether it is a rhythm of praying together, times of rest and reflection, increased communication as a couple, setting a date night to look forward to, or simply saying I love you more often, we need to establish sustainable ways to stay healthy in our marriages. The power of rhythms is that we aren’t compensating from a place of neglect instead we are building long term habits of health. Applied to our marriage they can impact our daily living as a couple and increase our marital satisfaction.
Establishing Healthy Marriage Rhythms
Consider your existing healthy habits. Perhaps you exercise three days a week or spend time in God’s word daily. Now think about your marriage. What are things you do every day, weekly, or monthly to keep your marriage healthy? In most cases this seems hard to quantify because have unspoken rituals or we just don’t put that much thought into it. The first step to build on any healthy habits is to set aside more time together. Then we set some goals based on how much time we have and what needs attention. For rhythms to be established let me share two helpful concepts, margin, and minimums. Margin is discretionary time you set aside from the demands of work and the stresses of life. Minimums are initial goals you set for disciplines that are reasonable and attainable to start with.
A few years ago, I sat down with my wife and we decided we were a bit child-centered in our marriage. Things like taking the kids to the Starbucks or to one of their sporting events did not qualify as life-giving to our marriage. We needed more margin to go on dates as a couple, which was no longer a rhythm after we had three kids. The next step was to say how often we would commit to new habits. We decided a minimum frequency was every other week. We knew we had to pick a consistent night and put it on the calendar. To be candid, this has been hard to achieve, and we eventually adjusted our date night minimum to once a month.
Next, we decided prayer at dinner or only in a time of desperation was not growing our spiritual intimacy. We needed margin to pray together as well. This time we decided a minimum frequency was three times each week. We have done pretty well at that, so we have kept that minimum. Both rhythms took planning and, for a while, dates meant childcare, think of things to do we both liked, picking the best time to go, etc. When making your goals focus on your season of life you are in, what’s realistic to start and what is important to cultivate a healthy marriage (revisit dreams, values, convictions). It may be that you simply start tonight by putting the kids to bed, making a late-night snack and asking each other how you are really doing. No phone, no TV in back ground; just talking for 30 minutes or more. Praying together may mean getting up earlier to grab coffee and going to a quiet place in the house before the rest of your world wakes up. Don’t over complicate it and make it repeatable on a regular basis. If you never do it, then start one a week!