A Lesson on Marriage

Today is a special day, my friends.  Kelley Burns, a resident of Columbia, Missouri and mother of four will be guest blogging and she has some incredibly insightful messages about marriage.  Perhaps her wisdom comes from being married for 11 years to the love of her life.  Maybe it stems from her invaluable (and innumerable) contributions as a staff member at the Newman Center on the campus of the University of Missouri.  Or, even more so, it may blossom from her experience as both speaker and promoter of Marriage Encounter Weekend – a two-day retreat designed to give married couples two days to be together (distraction free) to strengthen and nourish their relationship.  Either way, this lady knows marriage.  She knows love.  And she knows how to show how much she loves marriage.

Kelley and Mike Burns

Kelley and Mike Burns

Take it away Kelley…
What have you done for your marriage today?  If you are married, it’s an important question to ask, methinks.  Because it’s often the first thing that gets neglected in all the crazy.  Or it’s the easiest thing to neglect because we’re grown ups and we can take it.  If no one changes the baby’s diaper, there will be a serious situation on hand.  If we don’t go out on a date, the repercussions are less visible, for a time anyway.  But eventually, after enough neglect, the proverbial poop will hit the fan, amiright?!
So, in honor of 11 years of being hitched, I present to you…
1. PRAY–Pray for your spouse.  Pray with your spouse.  Attend church together.  Tell him/or her what you need prayers for and ask how you can pray for them.  Ask for the intercession of the saints.  Every year I forget that we were married on the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne (Mary’s parents) until our anniversary rolls around and then I get excited about how cool that is when I remember.  Surely they will pray for us when we ask!
2. MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER–This might be the only piece of advice that I offer here that you haven’t heard about.  Attending a Marriage Encounter weekend was the single best thing we have done for our marriage to date.  Hands down.  It was such a refreshing experience, and gave us both the time and the tools to really work on and improve our relationship.  Totally worth it.  If you want to know more, please please ask me!  There are ME weekends all over the country (including close to home in Jeff City) and at all different times of year.
3. DATE YOUR SPOUSE–This one is super important to me.  It is also really hard to take the time for that with four children at home.  But we are trying to make it a priority right now, especially in this season of having a baby who basically runs the show around here.  My recent plan is to have one “out of the house” date night per month, and on the other weeks we just date each other at home after the kids are in bed.  Game night, s’mores by the campfire, movie night, etc.
4. GOAL SET AND FUTURE PLANNING–This always feels like a good way to reconnect for us.  Even if it’s over something annoying like the budget.  Planning vacations, debt management, house projects and the like can be fun and not stressful if you take the time to sit down together (when you’re in a good mood) and dream/plan things out.  Also maybe you will find out some things about your spouse that you never knew.  I asked him once if he could go anywhere in the continental U.S. where would he choose?  The beach?  National parks?  New York City?  Nope.  His response: Oklahoma City.  What?!  Weirdo.  I mean, I love him!
5. MAKE FRIENDS WITH OTHER COUPLES WITH THE SAME VALUES ON MARRIAGE–Having married friends is really helpful, especially when you, as couples, are friends. There are a lot of people who bad mouth their spouses or husbands/wives in general.   Attitude is important and the things we say, listen to, and think might help or hurt our marriage more than we realize.  We have recently made some friends (and we have some long-standing friends as well) who really are committed to making their marriages healthy and holy and we value these friendships!

**Disclaimer** Talking through a problem with a friend who can help or listen is not necessarily the same thing as badmouthing.  But the line can get blurry sometimes, so be on your guard.

6. LEARN YOUR SPOUSE’S LOVE LANGUAGE–I would venture a guess that most of you have read or heard of Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages.  But if you haven’t, it’s a good read and can be really eye opening when it comes to the way that you communicate love in your relationship.  It’s also good to revisit when it’s been awhile–just to see if you are really still showing your love in the most effective way.
7. BE GRACE–Word.  This is super hard.  It’s way easier to just be Kelley (who is naturally selfish and unforgiving.)  But offering comfort when I really want to criticize or choosing words and attitudes that build up my husband instead of tearing him down really is the better way.  One of my favorite scriptures is from Romans and says, “Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.”  And I think that really is a good mantra for marriage and family.  Honor each other, even when you don’t feel like it or when you feel like the other person doesn’t deserve it.
8. LEARN OR DO SOMETHING NEW TOGETHER–Learn a new sport or a DIY skill or an instrument or whatever floats your boat (heck, learn how to float a boat!)  That kind of stuff is good for the brain and good for connection between the two of you.
9. ENCOURAGE YOUR SPOUSE TO PRIORITIZE HIM/HERSELF–We all need to take care of ourselves.  It is easy to just neglect yourself because you’re busy or tired or the kids need you or what have you.  We have been pretty good recently about helping each other to have some time to ourselves to do whatever is good for us.  Mike goes to a men’s group that meets in the evening and plays sand volleyball with some folks from work.  And he, in turn, tries to make sure that I get time to work out, and have some girl time with my friends.

10. CHALLENGE YOURSELF–Take an honest look at your part of the relationship and find the struggles.  Figure out where you need to grow and then commit to working on it for a week or a month or Lent or Advent or whenever.  You may surprise yourself.

11. HAVE FUN!  We had a time a few years back when we took a look at our days and realized that we really weren’t having any fun.  We were spending all of our time at work and dealing with a high maintenance baby/toddler and all the joy was gone.  So we made a conscious decision to have more fun.  Take family walks, play games, explore new places.  It made a difference.  Because in the end, I want to grow old with someone whose company I enjoy.  Who I can smile and laugh with all the way to Heaven.

Look at this guy.  How could we NOT have fun?!

Look at this guy. How could we NOT have fun?!

If you liked what you read here, check out more on Kelley’s hilarious blog called Everyone Was Staring.  And if Marriage Encounter strikes your fancy, there may be one coming up in an area near you – click here to check!  If you are in the Jefferson City area, there is an ME weekend coming up on November 1-2.  I know that for a fact, Jack!  You can register or find more information at this site.

See you next week!

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