IS IT TIME TO SPRING-CLEAN YOUR MARRIAGE?
By: Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Just as a house needs a thorough spring-cleaning after a long, dormant winter, so do our marriages. As we sweep out the cobwebs in the neglected corners of our lives, we’ll discover a new sparkle and shine. Here are eight ways to freshen up your marriage:
* Develop a plan for your cleaning ritual. What areas will you attack first? Personal disciplines? Attitudes? Neglected appearances? Habits? Expectations? Communication? List the goals you want to accomplish in your marriage. Be specific. Without a detailed plan, you’ll miss some hidden corners.
* Sort through accumulated expectations. Most marriages begin with hidden agendas of his or her expectations. If a wife expects her husband to continue romancing her after the honeymoon and he fails, resentment may follow. A husband who secretly longs for a wife like his mother may set himself up for disappointment when his wife exhibits the opposite behavior. Be realistic with each other about meeting needs. Although God is the only one who can meet your total needs, a mutual exchange of longings and wishes will encourage give and take and help avoid unnecessary hurt.
* Discard old habits. Keep a journal of old personal patterns and childish behaviors. Note negative emotions and describe your feelings. Ask yourself, “Could I be taking this situation personally? What does God want to teach me here? Did I in any way cause this?” Even housecleaning experts need extra help to destroy unwanted, moldy habits and to filter out compacted dirt.
* Mend the tears of broken relationships and hurt feelings. A stitch in honesty and forgiveness will save years of unraveling. Contrary to the famous line from the movie “Love Story,” (‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’), love is eager to settle differences. Godly love is neither blind nor faultfinding. True love sees weaknesses but rallies to cover them with strength, compassion and encouragement.
* Clean out forgotten closets. Dixon Murrah, a family therapist in Houston, says, “Secrets destroy family unity.” Though you may hesitate to reveal hidden skeletons to your mate, remember that marriage intimacy is based on honesty and trust. As you share your family background, open your heart to the negative hurts as well as to the joys of your past, It is always easier to deal with the known than the unknown. And when you understand the “whys” of your mate’s compulsive behaviors or peculiarities, you’ll find a greater capacity for gentleness and love.
* Replace worn-out clothes of bitterness with new garments of praise. This will require time for personal discipline with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Meditate on His Word daily, and you will find your marriage adorned with new beauty. The Psalms tell us that God inhabits the praises of His people.
* Vacuum up the spills of harsh words and thoughtless deeds. During emotional or physical stress, even the best of marriages suffer temporary dysfunction. Chart monthly cycles if necessary, and plan your activities accordingly. After years or premenstrual syndrome suffering, I finally learned to program my schedule around high energy days.
* Polish your marriage often with generous coats of compliments and caring behaviors. Continue this maintenance program daily, not just at once-a-year spring-cleaning time. Catch your mate doing something noteworthy, and give word gifts of praise. Exchange caring behavior lists with each other… the things you want yourmate to do for you.
No matter how perfect a housekeeper you think you are, stop and spring-clean your marriage often. You’ll improve its value by 100 percent.
(The above material appeared in the April 1993 issue of Focus on the Family).
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