Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Webster’s defines a rut as, “a usual or fixed practice; a monotonous routine; a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage.” Some might call it “a funk,” or a “stale season.” Ruts can develop in the work place, our spiritual life, personal growth, as well as relationships. Regardless of how we define it, chances are most people have been in a rut. The good news is ruts are normal and can be effectively eradicated with some effort.
Case in point: I live in Virginia Beach and we generally do not get large amounts of snow during the winter. However, when we do get snow the city has a hard time and havoc usually ensues. This winter was an exception; not the havoc part, the measurable snow part. One storm in particular dropped almost 10” in my neighborhood. It was a beautiful thing, but the storm knocked the power out and power equals no morning coffee – Havoc! I own a 2011 Honda Pilot as assumed I would be able to navigate the fresh powder and acquire the desired morning beverage. You know what they say about assuming… I didn’t make it 500 feet before I was stuck in rut and the snow had lifted the Pilot up and I could not get any traction. I was in a rut! I could not turn left or right; I could not go in reverse either. I was lucky enough to have a nice guy in a lifted truck tow me back home and I put the Pilot back in the driveway.
Now this is obviously an example of a physical rut, but I want to talk to you about relational ruts; especially in married relationships. I have a desire to help married couples achieve the marriage of their dreams and those marriages do not come with ruts. Yet, every married couple gets stuck in a rut, and if you have not been stuck yet, you will. Before I share three easy tips with you, it is important to be intentional in your relationship. You might feel your marriage is in a rut, but your spouse may not. Intentionality brings the subject to light. When intentional focus is at hand corrections can be made. No two marriages are the same, but these tips will help you move in the right direction.
Sometimes in life we get stuck on auto-pilot. Things are not necessarily bad, but you may feel the calendar is just flying by and life is stale. This is where intentionality takes place. Get out the pencil and paper and list the aspects of your relationship. Check off the ones that are fine and highlight where there needs some improvement. Here are some common areas where couples can fall into a rut:
If there is mutual agreement to any part of your life where you feel like you are in a rut, prioritize those areas. First, start making changes to the areas highlighted that works best for your relationship. You must be intentional and start somewhere; even if it is a small step. The hardest part of getting out of a rut is making a course change. The smallest degree in changing course will lead to a totally different destination. Breaking out of a rut takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. Ready to liven things up?
Once you have highlighted the areas in your marriage that need a little tweaking, it’s time to put a plan into action. Here are a few ideas for the areas I listed above:
The smallest change in the routines of life will help you get out of the rut you are in. Things will become a little more exciting and will springboard into the final tip.
Isn’t that some sort of oxy-moron? If you and your mate do not intentionally plan to be spontaneous more often, spontaneity simply will not happen. Look at your calendars, make a reminder every week to do something unplanned that will be fun, romantic, or exciting for you both. Spontaneity is fun, and most people deeply desire a measure of it; especially in their marriage. Intentionally planning to be spontaneous may sound strange, but it will pay off and get you out of the “same ole, same ole.”
We are all busy and getting busier all the time. Things can get ordinary, common place; and the only way to eliminate that is to decide you’re not going to let it stay that. Again, be intentional. I cannot stress it enough. Don’t wait; talk about it, then move.
When I was doing my undergrad work at Liberty University, part of the required reading for one of the marriage and family courses was the popular book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It’s a wonderful book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Dr. Eggerichs uses the basic, yet profound, principles found the Bible to show how a man should love his wife. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians we read how a man should “love his wife as Christ loved the church,” and a women “shall respect” her husband. Yet, I believe love and respect are very similar and husbands and wives need both. If you have read Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages,you know people have several ways of giving and receiving love. However, the following list will help husbands love their wives in a deeper way regardless of their love language.
Regardless of how you see your wife, she should be your prized possession. No, I’m not saying your wife is your property, but she must be the most valuable thing in your life. You must have eyes only for her and not get a crook in your neck taking a “double take” at a pretty girl passing by. A man loves his wife by never comparing her to an airbrushed supermodel or another beautiful woman. Men, you make your wife feel safe, adored and loved when your eyes are “monogamous.” Remember, your eyes are the gateway to your heart.
Meaningful, intimate communication is extremely difficult for most husbands. Yet, if a man can understand the typical wife’s need for communication may very well be as a powerful as his need need for sex, they may put forth greater effort. However, communication is far more than one person doing a bunch of talking. In his book,Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell describes how our deepest desire is to be truly known by someone else. The way you get to know your wife is to ask questions and then actively listen. He goes on to say, “Communication is the language of leadership.” I say it’s the language of a solid, loving marriage. Men, you show love to your wife when you turn off the phone, turn of the TV, and engage in meaningful, transparent, and truthful conversation.
When you have engaged in meaningful conversation you should be able to pick up on your wife’s goals and dreams. Although you may have dreams of your own, a husband will show love to his wife by making her dreams his priority. The “agape” type of love described in the Bible is putting other’s needs before your own. Men, when encourage your wife you become her biggest cheerleader, biggest fan. You stimulate growth and inspire her with courage; helping her to reach for her dreams regardless of her fear. A key role of a husband is to place his wife in such a position so that she may achieve her God-given potential.
For most men, their profession is a major part of their self-image. Good, bad, or in different, when a husband works hard to provide for his wife it communicates love. Jimmy Evans, with Marriage Today, states statistics show a women’s number one desire in marriage is to feel safe and secure. When a husband works hard, it communicates safety and security to his wife because she knows he’s doing all he can to provide for her. In contrast, a lazy husband communicates a totally opposite message.
I get it. Each household is different, and sometimes both spouse work full-time jobs. You are tired. She is tired. Yet, when a husband willing performs duties around the house that may have traditionally been left up to the wife, it communicates love. Gary Chapman calls this love language, “acts of service.” In homes where the wife manages the domestic duties, the husband should still be willing to jump in and help. Doing the dishes or folding laundry is a simple way to add value and show love to your wife. There may be a little reward in your future if you follow this practice.
Men, we have our priorities. But if we are to keep our eye on the prize, we must make our wives our number one priority. You career should line up number three behind your relationship with Christ, followed by your wife and family. A husband shows value in his wife and marriage when he makes her a consistent priority on his calendar. Men, don’t give your wife your left-overs. Give her the very best of yourself.
If you have been married for any length of time, you have probably forgotten the amount of energy you invested in winning your prize. Men are natural hunters and most guys are great at pursuing something desired. Sadly, when the desired object, in this case your wife, is obtained, we tend to get lazy. Men, you must develop a consistent and steady way of chasing after your bride. Pursuit equals passion, and when you passionately pursue your bride you communicate your love for her.
The Jimmy V Foundation has coin the phrase, “Never give up, never-ever give up.” Although the foundation’s focus is on cancer research and finding a cure, the phrase, “Never give up,” must apply to your feelings toward your wife. A husband shows love to his wife by believing in her, even when she struggles to believe in herself. Never give up on your wife. Bring out the best in her by build her up through your words, your actions and your respect. Let her know that your promise to her and your love for her is unconditional and unyielding. That will give her the confidence to take on the world knowing you are always there for her.
When I think about my marriage, and marriage in general, I firmly believe our spouses must be our best friends in life. After all, this is the person you will do life with. The romantic aspects of a marriage will be built upon a base of friendship. Sadly, many marriages fall into this “auto-pilot,” stagnate status because we quite putting for the effort to be friends. In a recent newsletter from Marriage Today, Pastor Jimmy Evans shares seven tips to consider when trying to foster a solid friendship with your mate. I’ve taken some liberty to add a little here and there to what Evans shared.
When a marriage struggles, it’s often because a husband and wife have lost focus. They’ve poured their energy into work or into their kids and they’ve forgotten that they are supposed to be best friends. Re-establish your friendship and a more successful marriage will follow.
I believe everyone who enters the covenant of marriage has a sincere desire to be successful. No one walks down the aisle, says, “I Do,” only to think about the first visit to a divorce attorney. However, although divorce statistics seemed to have leveled off at around 50%, divorce and broken homes continue to wreck the fabric of society. Depending on what poll you look at, fidelity is one of the top, if not the number one reason for divorce. People of faith, and the secular population, all could use a little help in bolstering their marriage. One aspect of strengthening your marriage is to be proactive in some habits that will honor your spouse.
Since strengthening marriage is a calling of mine, I follow several experts in the field. One such expert is Dave Willis (http://sixseeds.patheos.com/davewillis/). Dave and his wife, Ashley, have made it their point to help and strengthen marriages around the world. In a recent blog, 9 Rules to Affair Proof Your Marriage, (http://sixseeds.patheos.com/davewillis/9-rules-affair-proof-marriage/) Dave shared some practical ways he has attempted to affair proof his marriage. It is my desire to share these ideas with you and how they apply to my marriage. You may feel some of these ideas to be old-fashioned and out of date, but I can assure you they have value and would prove beneficial if practiced. So, here we go:
I hope you can see how these ideas can benefit you and your marriage. These steps do not diminish your individuality or trustworthiness. They prove to add an additional buttress to the foundation of your marriage. Thank you for sharing your time with me and I hope you were blessed.