How to Make Marriage Beautiful

I have been deeply thankful for the gift of marriage in my own life–and also deeply challenged by it, as well. If you’ve walked with me for very long, you know that I have a lot to say (and write!) about marriage. This is why I am so thankful to have the privilege of interviewing a fellow author, Dorothy Greco, in this space! I was able to get an advance copy of her recent book release, Making Marriage Beautiful, and it is a thoughtful, balanced, helpful book about the ins and outs of marriage–and how to navigate the ups and downs from a healthy, Biblical, hopeful perspective. I definitely recommend it!

I’m grateful to welcome Dorothy to my blog!

making marriage beautiful image

 

Ann: Dorothy, why did you write this book?

Dorothy: Everyone who says “I do!” wants a great marriage. I truly believe that this book will help husbands and wives achieve that goal. There’s no such thing as too much support or encouragement when you’re married. We all know, creating and sustaining a great marriage requires time, intentionality, and sacrifice. After doing more than twenty years of pastoral care and being married for twenty-five years, it was obvious to me that married couples are hungry for help, hope, and wisdom. I addressed these needs as I wrote Making Marriage Beautiful.

To clarify: I did not write this book because we have a perfect marriage or because I am a marriage expert. I wrote the book because my husband and I needed it. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, life got very difficult four years ago. As we struggled to love each other, I started thinking about what differentiates a joyful, dynamic marriage from a frustrating, unhappy one. Ideas started flowing and I broached the topic with Christopher. It would have been awesome to write the book together but he works two jobs and is finishing his graduate degree so that was not going to happen. Instead, I brought his voice in for most chapters.

Ann: So, how is your book different from other marriage books out there?

Dorothy: I’m so glad you asked this question! Making Marriage Beautiful is truly unlike many other marriage books. First, it’s written by a woman to both men and women. This is almost unheard of. Adding Christopher’s words and the eight other husbands ensures that men are well represented. Second, the book contains very vulnerable, real-life stories. Most authors who write about marriage tend not to be as honest as Christopher and I chose to be. I think readers will easily engage and trust me because I’m choosing to trust them. Finally, I refuse to depend upon cliches or formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation is a process and my goal in writing this book is to help men and women navigate that process well. For the long haul.

Ann: What hopes do you have for the book?

Dorothy: I believe that the healthy marriages are important for so many other aspects of life: raising children, stabilizing communities, helping us to mature, etc. Though the divorce rates continues to drop (contrary to cultural narratives that tend to decry the ever-rising divorce rate), many of us struggle to deeply, consistently enjoy our marriages. It might be hubris, or it might be faith, but I hope that this books helps couples all over the globe who are hungry for guidance, encouragement, and hope.

Ann: One last question, Dorothy. Why, in your opinion, should couples keep working on marriage when it’s so hard at times?

Dorothy: Indeed, marriage is hard work. It’s the most difficult, and the most rewarding endeavor that I have ever embarked upon. When things get hard, and especially if they stay hard, most of us find it easier to give up, resign ourselves to a mediocre marriage, or in some cases, to sever all ties and hit the restart button. Any of these choices are understandable (and in the case of abuse, it may be advisable to separate or divorce). However, choosing to stay and work gives God an opportunity to change us. To help us mature. As this happens, we learn how to love more fully and truly, and this is a beautiful and profound thing. When we learn how to love others, perhaps especially when they are difficult, it allows us to become more like Christ.

Please do yourself–and your marriage–a favor and pick up a copy of Making Marriage Beautiful, available now everywhere!

17 Ways You Can Pray for Your Husband

17 Ways to Pray for Your Husband in 2017 at www.annswindell.comI had the honor of getting to write for Way-FM recently about one of the topics I love the most: marriage! The start of the article is below; you can read it in its entirety here!

As wives, perhaps one of the most important things we have the opportunity to do in 2017 is to pray for our husband. No one knows him as closely as you do, and this offers a unique chance to come before the Lord and ask him to guide and protect your husband in a powerful way.

Still, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start or how to focus our prayers, and so, below, you’ll find 17 ways to pray for your husband this year. You can pray through the whole list at once, or pray for specific aspects on different days of the week or month. Even if your husband does not yet know the Lord, you can pray these prayers for him, trusting that the Lord hears you and he loves your husband even more than you do.

1. Pray for your husband’s relationship with Christ.

No other relationship in your husband’s life is as important as his relationship with God—not even his relationship with you! The good news is that as your husband grows in closeness with the Lord, his love for Christ will start to spill over into every other relationship in his life, including his marriage. So, pray that your husband will be motivated and excited to spend time with the Lord, praying and reading the Bible.

2. Pray that the Lord will give your husband godly friends.

We become like the people we spend time with, and so your husband’s friends have a huge influence on his life. Ask God to give your husband close friends who are also pursuing Christ, and that they would “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Pray for favor on your husband’s life.

Your husband has already received favor in having you as his wife, for “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22)! Now, pray that God will increase your husband’s favor with bosses, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances!

4. Pray that your husband will thrive in his job.

Few things matter more to a man than knowing he is making significant contributions in his work. Pray that God will give your husband joy in his work and breakthrough in any difficult situations at his place of employment.

Read the rest of the article here, at WAY-FM!

Looking for more marriage encouragement? 
Read 10 Ways to Grow Spiritually with your Spouse!
Read Cultivating a Joy-Filled Relationship with your Spouse.
Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage

Michael and I just recently celebrated our tenth anniversary, and this article seems timely in its publication; friendships between marrieds and singles are necessary, beautiful, and valuable in the Kingdom of God. You can read the article in its entirety here, at Today’s Christian Woman.

What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage. Great insights for marrieds and singles!

When I got married ten years ago, there were certain things I expected—things like love and struggle and joy and pain. But what I didn’t expect was that those emotions might not only occur within my marriage, but also between me and my single girlfriends. As I learned what it looked like to be married to Michael, I was also trying to learn how to re-build friendships with the women in my life.

It wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I was in a different stage of life than they were, navigating different questions and concerns. Our seasons of life were different, and we had choices to make: Would we stay connected, work for deeper friendship even in the midst of life change? Or would we slowly fade apart?

Five Honest Admissions

Here are the things I wish I would have said ten years ago to my single friends—and the things I still may need to say to my single friends. Because friendship in any season is worth the time and intentionality it requires—even if it does get a little awkward as we figure things out along the way.

1. Sometimes I don’t know how to relate to you. I know that sometimes you feel like you can’t relate to my life situation—and I actually feel the same way about you. Our seasons of life are markedly different, now, and I’m not always sure how to connect.

Maybe it’s because I was the first among my friends to get married, and it was as if an invisible wall went up in some of my friendships—a wall I didn’t know how to break through. Some of my friends were jealous; some were unsure of how our friendship would shift now that I was a Mrs. It made me gun-shy, and I felt the shift. I worried that I would misstep in my friendships with single women.

How do we relate now? Singles and marrieds--building a strong friendship is worth it. #marriage… Click To Tweet

What I’m saying is that I’m not sure what stories you want to hear from my life. Should I avoid all of the stories about our marriage? I don’t know how painful it feels for you when I bring up my husband in conversation. And I have no idea if you want to talk about your singleness of not.

I might need you to tell me; I might need you to open up the conversation and share where your heart is with singleness, with marriage, with Jesus, with the church. And I might need to share with you about my marriage. We might just need to work through the awkwardness together. Because I want to love you well, just as I want to be loved well by you. But I’m not always sure how you want me—and maybe even need me—to relate to you. Please tell me. I won’t be offended. I’ll be thankful.

2. Yes, it really is wonderful. And yes, it really is hard. Even though I’m not in your shoes, I know that being single can be really, really hard. What I need you to hear from me is this: sometimes marriage can be hard, too.

Yes, I am grateful that I have someone to come home to, to lean on, to process life with, to live alongside. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Michael’s sharpening and loving presence in my life. But marriage is not all sunshine and roses. It is a daily choice to keep our communication open, our love pure, our dreams shared. We are two different people with sometimes markedly different views of how we should live, eat, work, and parent. And it can be exhausting to try and work things through one more time, when it would feel easier to throw in the emotional towel.

So there are going to be days when I need you to help me cherish my vows, and days when I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. I think we can help and love each other in these places if we can make room for each other’s struggles, no matter how different they are.

I need you to help me cherish my vows, and I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. #marriage… Click To Tweet

3. There are days when I envy your singleness. I relinquished a lot of freedoms at the altar because the marriage vow necessarily requires tethering: I can’t up and go whenever I want, I can’t choose a new job based only on my personal desires. I’m not free to spend money any way I want, or use my time solely in the ways I see fit. Those were freedoms I traded in order to have a healthy marriage. And while I know we are all called to shape our lives around Christ and live accountably to him and his church, there are days when your life seems very alluring to me: You don’t have to make decisions with someone else, or shape your life around another human. Some days, your freedoms sound luxurious to me. I know you might be rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true.

Paul warns about this reality in the Scripture—it’s not like I went into marriage blind:

I want you to be free from anxieties. . . . And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32, 34-35)

I made this choice when I got married—to have, to a certain degree, my attentions divided between Jesus and my husband, my family. I seek to keep Christ at the forefront of my life, and often serving Jesus means serving my husband and family. But there are days when I feel torn in my attentions, and I look at your life with longing.

Read the rest of the article here, at Today’s Christian Woman!

Marriage Shouldn’t End Your Dating Life: An Article for RELEVANT Magazine

Dating Each Other for a Healthy Marriage www.annswindell.com

This is my newest article for RELEVANT. Read the entirety of the article here!

Dating—in person, online or blind—is prized in our culture, and most of us think of dating to be an important part of any meaningful, romantic relationship. Whether casual or glamorous, expensive or on a budget, we intuitively know that dating is a central way to get to know someone, win his or her heart and build a romance.

So why wouldn’t dating continue to be important after marriage?

Marriage is meant to be an earthly picture of Christ and the Church, a relationship that points to the love and affection between Jesus and His people. But if a husband and wife hardly spend time together, it’s difficult for that love and affection to grow.

Dating your spouse doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, but to maintain—and grow—a healthy marriage, consistently dating your partner is important to do.

Dating your spouse doesn’t have to be expensive, but to grow a healthy marriage, dating your… Click To Tweet

Here are some of the reasons we all need to continue to date our spouses after we say our vows at the altar:

Time Is a Valuable Gift

Making time to date one another in a season of life that is very busy (and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon) is a powerful gift you can offer your spouse. Time is a precious commodity to any of us, and when we willingly spend that time with one another, we are saying “You are worth my time.” And because our lives are made up of just that—time—we are saying, in essence, “You are worth my life.”

We Invest in What We Value

If you’re like me and you’re not rolling in money, the components of getting a date with your spouse can seem too costly sometimes—paying for a date (and a sitter, if you have kids) can start to add up.

Yet, we invest in what we value: we do this all of the time with our food choices, our clothing purchases, our donations. It doesn’t mean we have to spend loads of money to date, but we do have to invest in growing our marriages as a couple—and it will cost us money, as many things of value often do.

When We Short-Change Our Spouses, We Short-Change the Family

Even if the family is just the two of you right now, if you ignore the need that your spouse has for intentional, invested time together, you’re hurting the family dynamics. The cracks may not start to show for a while, but the foundation of intimacy and friendship will weaken if you’re not building in to your relationship as husband and wife.

Once we have kids, I think it’s just as important—if not more so—to keep dating one another. As a mom, I want my daughter to have everything she needs (and more). But more than many other things, children want to know that their parents are in love and that they enjoy one another. this brings peace and stability to a home.

Children want to know that their parents are in love and that they enjoy one another. #marriage Click To Tweet

Having a consistent date night won’t guarantee a healthy marriage, but it provides intentional space to grow together as a couple.

 

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT Magazine!

Related: Dating Your Husband: The Hows and Whys

Celebrating Marriage: Cultivating a Joy-Filled Relationship With Your Spouse

This last week held some wonderful milestones for our little family. Our sweet girl celebrated her second birthday, and Michael and I celebrated our ninth anniversary–all on the same day! We have walked through much together in these last nine years, and my hope and prayer is that Michael and I will have the gift of continuing to walk together for many, many decades.

Celebrating Marriage: Cultivating a Joy-Filled Relationship With Your Spouse www.annswindell.com

One thing that Michael has learned about me in these past years is that I am, by nature, a celebrator. I love any excuse to throw a party, share a special meal, or take a short trip. I grew up in a family full of celebrators, and I also think that God values celebration: his Son’s entrance into the world was marked by a heavenly chorus of worship and joy, Jesus loved to share meals (with sinners!), and the end of all time will be marked by a wedding feast. God is, by nature, abundant and generous. The best kinds of celebration are full of those things, too.

And this past week, when Michael surprised me with a surprise stay at a favorite hotel and dinner out, I was reminded, again, at how important it is for us to celebrate each other. The time away as just the two of us–even thought it was less than 24 hours–focused us, again, on the beauty and power of marriage. We reminisced on all that we have walked through in the last years; we dreamed about what is ahead. And we praised God for the gift of one another, celebrating Him and the Us that He has been making. It was a gift.

Here are ways that we can celebrate one another in marriage–in big and small ways, every day of the week:

1. Celebrate the small things. Praise from a boss on the completion of a project? A child that is finally potty-trained?  Overcoming a personal obstacle? Look for ways to celebrate each other–search for ways to celebrate each other. Our marriage has been one in which we have come to enjoy celebrating one another, not just on anniversaries and birthdays, but for any number of reasons. Celebration doesn’t have to be big all the time, just intentional. An unexpected cupcake is a great way to celebrate a small victory, as is coming home with balloons to acknowledge the end of a challenging week!

Look for ways to celebrate each other--search for ways to celebrate each other. #marriage… Click To Tweet

2. Celebrate what you love about one another. One of the worst patterns we can fall into as spouses is focusing on what we dislike in our partner. We can become nit-picky, discouraging, and frustrated when we think about all that we don’t like in person we married. Instead, choose to celebrate–not just acknowledge–the wonderful aspects of your spouse. Is she a woman who is gifted in hospitality? Consider celebrating her abilities as a host by buying her something that will encourage her gift–a new set of sheets or a cookbook she’s been eyeing. Write her a note telling her that you see and appreciate how hospitable she is with others–and that you want to encourage her gift. Is he artistic? Purchase an art class voucher for him at the local community college, or set up a mini work space in an unused space in your home. Write him a note acknowledging that you value his artistic abilities and that you celebrate him pursuing that gift!

Choose to celebrate--not just acknowledge--the wonderful aspects of your spouse! #marriage… Click To Tweet

3. Celebrate in unexpected ways. Does your spouse love camping but you avoid sleeping under the stars? Consider a mesh of what you both love when it comes time to celebrate something big: perhaps glamping could bring your worlds together! Is one of you a die-hard sports fan while the other could care less? Consider getting tickets to the big game and give the gift of your time and attention to what your spouse loves for an evening or weekend–knowing that the celebration will mean that much more to your partner. When we stretch ourselves to celebrate the other in ways that are outside of our comfort zone, we may find ourselves surprised at how much fun we have!

No matter what type of celebration you bring into your marriage, the important thing is to celebrate the gift that you have in one another. Any marriage that stays together and honors the Lord is a miracle in itself–worth celebrating any day of the year!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Dating Your Spouse: No Excuses

My newest piece is up at Todays Christian Woman, entitled “5 Reasons to Avoid Date Night (But Why You Should Date Your Spouse Anyway). Michael and I have had a standing date every week of our married lives–this article shares my heart behind why we’re so committed to dating one another in every season of life!

Dating Your Spouse: Connection, communication, partnership, love. Read this!

We’ve all heard about the importance of consistent dates with our spouse. It sounds ideal—a romantic date every week—but there are a thousand reasons why it feels difficult (if not impossible) to make happen.

Here are five reasons to avoid date night. Oh, and why you should date your spouse anyway.

1. “Dating Is Too Expensive”

If you’re talking about the versions of dating that pop up on social media and TV, then, yes, you’re probably right. Expensive restaurants, Broadway shows, sparkling jewelry—most of us would be thrilled if we got a date like this with our spouse once a year, or even once a decade. Because those kinds of dates, with the wining and dining and trying to impress each other all the time, aren’t feasible for most of us.

But there is something that is feasible: connection. Connection comes not through the amount of money spent, but the amount of heart invested. Some of the best dates my husband and I have had took place during walks at the local arboretum. Strolling on the paths, we had time to unfold our hearts to one another and to enjoy holding hands in a lovely setting.

Connection comes not through the amount of money spent, but the amount of heart invested. Click To Tweet

Now that we have a child, if we want to have any meaningful connection, it usually has to take place after she’s asleep or when we’re out and she’s with a babysitter. We try to have a date night out at least once a month. If we’re paying for a babysitter, our date is usually cheap (or free). We go for walks in the park, have coffee at a local café, or read part of a book together at the library. Make a list of cheap date night ideas with your spouse and pick one!

If money is really tight and there’s no option for paying a babysitter, consider swapping childcare with friends. You can also get creative with at-home dates. Turn your phones off and cook a late meal together after the kids go down. Watch a unique film you’re both interested in, and if you are so inclined, talk about it afterwards. Get competitive with a card game. Relax with a new flavor of ice cream bought especially for date night. What you do doesn’t matter as much as the choice you make to invest your time and attention in one another.

2. “I Don’t Have Time”

If you let other people control your calendar, then, yes, you’re probably right. There’s always going to be one more meeting, project, or sports practice that you—or one of your kids—has to be at. But ask yourself this:  Would you ignore your child’s query for dinner as easily as you can ignore your spouse’s (or your own) need to talk?

Would you ignore your boss’s requests for that deadline as easily as you ignore your marriage’s… Click To Tweet

We make time for what we value. If you value your marriage and the person you made a covenant at the altar to love, you need to make time for your spouse.

Prior to marriage, many of us had months—perhaps even years—of lavishing time upon one another. Dates stretched into hours upon hours of conversation and laughter. We prioritized our significant other above other relationships and our time bent toward him accordingly. While we may not have time for hours-long dates any more, we can make intentional time for one another if we really want to. We can say no to another meeting, no to another sports team, and no to another obligation. And in the process, we can say yes to a standing date with our spouse on Tuesday nights or Friday mornings or Sunday afternoons—no excuses. Just as no friendship is sustainable without consistent connection, no marriage will thrive without consistent time together.

When you put a consistent date night on the calendar, you’re telling your spouse that you value your relationship above all others. It’s worth it.

3. “My Marriage Is Beyond Help”

If your marriage is in a difficult place, sometimes the thought of spending intentional time together feels confusing—or even painful. The idea of a night full of forced conversation (or lackluster intimacy) may not be your idea of a good time. But if a marriage is going to heal, connection has to start somewhere. And dates don’t always have to be fun to be meaningful. Sometimes working through deep issues on a date night is just as important as laughing together.

Perhaps your date nights don’t look like a cozy evening on the couch or a hand-holding walk through the park. Where can you start? Might a meal together outside of the home provide an opportunity for conversation that doesn’t revolve around the kids or work? Could a morning jog together offer a chance to connect in a different—and still meaningful—way? Would you be able to attend a Bible study or small group together?

If all of this still feels too hard, it might be that your dates need to be at a counselor’s office, where you can work through pain in a safe environment. The point of a “date” is to get closer to your spouse. Don’t assume that dating your spouse has to look one particular way. Start where you are, and move forward from there.

Read the final two reasons here, over at Today’s Christian Woman!

If you liked this post, you might enjoy: Dating Your Husband: The Hows and Whys.

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