Fifteen years ago this week I sat in a hunting camp after a long day of quail hunting talking with good friends. Our red solo cups were filled with ice and bourbon and our ears were filled with Willie Nelson and good conversation. In a few days I would be on a plane to Colorado to get married. And as we sat around the South Texas camp fire that evening I was busy asking questions about marriage and they were busy giving me advice.
Every single one of them was divorced. Once the jokes settled and the conversation turned serious a consistent theme emerged. “One day you wake up next to this person and you realize that not only are you not in love with each other anymore, but that you don’t even know one another.” I remember those words these many years later, and the lessons I learned from that discussion endures.
After being married for fifteen years my wife and I are at the stage of life where some of our friends are separating or divorcing. In talking with these friends and listening to their justification I can’t help but wish they had been with me at the hunting lease so many years ago.
On the event of my wedding anniversary I want to take some time to remind myself and impress upon us all that it is never too late to invest in your marriage. You may have heard that said so many times that the deep meaning of it no longer registers. What does it mean to “invest” in your marriage?
Let me share what it means to me at this time. It means that marriage is hard work, and I need to treat my marriage like it is the biggest project of my time on this earth because it may very well be. In my professional life I have no problem finding the motivation to work hard on a given project. Sometimes it is a supervisor or other leader with needs and a deadline. The economic consequences to that hard work are available and predictable. The amount of work is quantifiable and the outcome can be measured. Success or failure can be registered and the feedback is immediate. Finding the motivations to perform well at work is simply a matter of showing up and paying attention because the motivations are all around you.
Marriage doesn’t work that way. You can work hard and receive nothing in return. The feedback may be nonexistent. In fact the work required doesn’t even present itself very neatly, does it? “Here you go husband, I need you to review and implement this I.M.C.S. (Improved Marriage Communication Strategy) by next Friday, OK? And I won’t tell you how you’ve done until you’re 68.”
There is certainly a lot of work that I need to do on my marriage, but I can do all of that and do it well and it won’t address the issues that were raised around that South Texas campfire. The biggest effort I need to make is making sure that I know who my wife is — that I value her as a person.
Have you ever met anyone famous? Did you get their autograph? Afterwards did you feel like you knew that person? “Hey Gavin, what was Nolan Ryan like?” “I’m not sure. He’s tall I guess.” Sometimes I wonder if I know my wife any better than that. “She’s blonde. She was a cheerleader in High School. And…uh…I gotta go.” I’m afraid that one day in a conversation someone may ask my difficult questions about my wife and expose me as a fraud of a husband.
So let’s go back: it’s never too late to invest in your marriage. Do all of the necessary work, and work your butt off. But most importantly get to know your wife. Let her know that you care about not only what she does but why she does it and most importantly who she is.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph 5:25
How hard are you working on your marriage? How well do you know your wife? Studies show us that Christian marriages typically fare no better than non-Christian marriages, with similar rates of divorce and infidelity. It’s no wonder that our culture is looking for alternatives to traditional marriage – Christians have not upheld the sacrament with the reverence it deserves.
For the sake of your wife and to show thanks to God who gave us the gift or marriage, show some appreciation to your wife this week. Let her know how much she means to you by taking some time to get to know her.