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!

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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.

 
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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!

The Power of Mini Marriage Retreats

Mini Marriage Retreats--how to make them happen even if you don't have much time or money!

Michael and I had a great rhythm of consistent date nights and quarterly marriage retreats (read: weekends away) prior to having our daughter. Now (ahem), while the date nights still happen every week, the quarterly marriage retreats have kind of fallen off the map. And we’ve realized, afresh, why they are so important to our relationship. Time away together gets us out of the normal rhythms of our lives, which, while helpful, can also lead to ruts of communication and connection. When we are in a new city, eating new food, seeing new sights–that’s when we find out new things about one another and, often, new conversations and dreams bubble up between us.

Getting away together doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive, or exotic. It just needs to happen. Here are the hows and whys for getting away with your spouse–in a meaningful way.

Getting away together doesn't need to be fancy, expensive, or exotic. It just needs to happen. Click To Tweet

1. Aim for easy, not exotic. Now, don’t get me wrong–I would looooove to head to Hawaii for a weekend away. But we live in the Chicago area, and we have neither the time nor the money to go to Hawaii regularly (or, actually, ever). So we explore the surrounding suburbs–the towns 20 minutes away–and walk through their shops and try new restaurants. When we haven’t had the money, we drive back to stay in our own home overnight.

2. Make time for intentional connection. Time away together is wonderful–but it won’t accomplish much if we’re still focused on work or tied to our phones. Make sure that you engage in meaningful conversation–buy a book that opens up new conversations, or start reading a marriage book together (this one is our favorite!). And make sure to spend time meaningfully connecting back at the hotel, too! :)

3. Try something new. New experiences spark new connections–and are part of the reason why getting away really matters. So, along with trying a new restaurant, do something fun–and new–together. A chocolate tasting night, a boat tour, go-karting, an opera–with an open mind and some creativity, even small towns offer opportunities for newness together!

If we are willing to invest our time and money in our spouse, our marriages will only be strengthened. It doesn’t have to be expensive or long, but time away to refresh an renew as a couple is important for any marriage. And of course, if you can afford to get away to Hawaii, please–go for it!

Was this blog post encouraging to you? I would be honored if you would consider partnering with me as a writer! Click here!

Related post: Three Ways to Make Your Marriage Better

3 Ways to Make Your Marriage Better

Better Marriage

Michael and I are leading a couple we love through some premarital counseling right now–something we always feel so privileged to do–and I’m reminded, again, why we are so committed to our marriage and to marriage in general.

Marriage, more than most other relationships, has the power to harm and to heal. Click To Tweet

Marriage, more than most other relationships, has the power to harm and to heal. And in the daily grind of life and relationship and kids and jobs, sometimes our spouse gets the short end of the proverbial stick. They get our frustrations and our shortness, our exhaustion and our failures. They often get our worsts.

But our spouses also get our bests–if we let them. 

It’s a sad reality of life that we often become the most flippant and casual with those we love and need the most. If familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it can at least lead to a unspoken type of expectation where their presence and love is expected rather than treasured.

I don’t want to live that way. I want to live in an intentional, joyful marriage.

Here are three ways to offer your spouse your bests in the relationship:

1. Speak the language of thankfulness. 
In a healthy marriage, there is a give and take of responsibilities and tasks that has to be accomplished every week just to stay afloat. Bills have to be paid, trash has to be taken out, meals have to be made. When we start expecting those things of one another without being appreciative for the work and energy those things require, we miss an opportunity to cultivate joy.

Thank your spouse for what he does. Does he leave for work every morning? Thank him for being faithful in his job. Does she balance the checkbook and pay the bills? Thank her for her consistency and excellence. Thank him for changing that diaper. Thank her for cooking that meal. Gratitude offers dignity to mundane tasks–and it shows an awareness of how much our spouse does for our life to keep it moving forward.

Gratitude offers dignity to mundane tasks in marriage. Click To Tweet

2. Make time for one another.
When we invest in people, we learn to love them. Our children, our friends, even our colleagues–when we really hear their hearts, we often can’t help but love them, to one degree or another. When we neglect getting meaningful time with our spouse, we can drift apart more easily because we forget about their hearts and dreams and thoughts.

So set up a recurring lunch date, or make the half hour after the kids go down a sacred time for the two of you to talk–really talk. Get a weekend away if you can (yes, even if it takes more time and energy to set it up than you will be gone). Make your relationship a priority with your time–we invest in what we value, and marriage is no different. 

We invest in what we value, and our marriage is no different Click To Tweet

3. Do something unexpectedly kind.
Surprising our spouse with something we know they will love–a meal out, a backrub, a box of cookies–tells them that we care about them, that we think about them, and that what matters to them matters to us.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money–what matters here is thoughtfulness. So what can you do, today, to show kindness to your spouse? Wash the dishes when it’s his turn? Put gas in the car? Bring flowers home? Surprise him with a night out, complete with a sitter and a reservation?

What can you do today to make your marriage better–and stronger? Consider putting one of these ideas into practice today!

Today’s Christian Woman: Best of 2014

As a writer, it is always a joy to have my work published–the fact that anyone else reads the words that I spend my time laboring over is always a gift to me. I just found out that one of the pieces I wrote earlier this year for Today’s Christian Woman (where I am a regular contributor) was named as one of their best articles of 2014. I am so grateful and thankful for this honor!

best of 2014

You can read the Best of 2014 list at Today’s Christian Woman here–and give yourself some reading time; there are beautiful articles in this list!