2021 is on our doorstep. Slam the door on 2020! Most of us say “good riddance” and are eager to slam the door on 2020. I would dare say that almost all of us are looking forward to the new year. 2020 has not been an easy year for Doug and me. We have dealt with isolation from our family and friends, fear of the unknown, and irrational thoughts like never having toilet paper again. We determined what things we believed weren’t true and developed new strengths because of the challenges we faced. But we, too, are eager to move into 2021 with a renewed vision and a more vital determination. God has strengthened our marriage in more ways than one in 2020.
God intends for your marriage to thrive too. Here are three tips for a better new year.
One way to a better new year and you’ve probably heard it a million times is pray together. Nothing promotes spiritual intimacy more than praying together. That’s why it is one of the most challenging disciplines to master, but it is the most rewarding for your marriage. Doug and I have recently started praying together every night before bed. I feel loved when he leads in prayer.
God’s promises about prayer are clear and powerful. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus declares that He is in the midst of two or more who gather in His name. In Matthew 18:19, He encourages us by saying if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. What a glorious promise. Side note: Many things hinder prayers. Prayer hindrances are a study for another time, but I don’t want to mislead you to think that you can/should pray for anything on a whim. Seek His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), and follow Jesus’ example by asking for the Father’s will to be done.
Katie M. Reid, Author of Made Like Martha, puts it this way “Praying together can help bring you closer together. It’s hard to stay mad at your spouse when you start praying for them or when you pray together. Prayer can be a gateway to intimacy with one another, as your guards come down and your hearts soften. I highly recommend you give it a try. Even if your spouse does not initiate prayer or does not want to pray with you, you can still pray for them—what a gift it is! ~Katie M Reid, Made Like Martha
Create or revise your vision for your marriage
Many of us go through life with no vision, as if on auto-pilot. C’est la vie—whatever happens, happens. But, I know that this only leads to mediocrity. The adage holds: If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit nothing. Casting a vision for your marriage establishes unity and direction in your relationship. Creating a vision statement together can be as simple as writing a few sentences of direction that, when the time comes for deciding on which way to go, gives you a guide stone. One business leader describes a vision statement as a crystal-clear picture of the future that guides actions.
Here is an example of a vision statement based on the premise of a couple being one in the eyes of God (Gen 2, Matthew 19:5-6). The success statement of a couple who wanted to honor God’s vision in their marriage is written as “We, as husband and wife, will be one with each other.” The details of the vision statement are “As husband and wife, we will enter into every decision concerning our (fill in your life domain), based on these guidelines: 1, we will discuss it at length-hearing and understanding each other and treating each other with love and respect, 2, we will sleep on our discussion unless it is an emergency. 3, We will not move ahead unless we agree.
Have fun together
Recently (because we were quarantined), Doug and I discovered how to cater to a common interest even though we couldn’t go anywhere. When we travel, we like to find the local, unique places to eat—the hidden gems of local cuisine that offer fairs you can’t find at the chain restaurants. But since we have spent most of December at home, we discovered that we like to watch the Food Network together and have several favorite shows that have either added to our travel list or challenged our culinary skills. We found ourselves critiquing the chefs and the judges in several of the competition shows and laughing together after comparing our skills to those of the master chefs. We also found ourselves dreaming about traveling to far off places and enjoying the food and atmosphere of places that we saw on other shows.
This creates a shared experience with similar emotions. The more you have shared experiences with similar sentiments, the more connected you feel to your spouse. Doug, in his premarital counseling, teaches young couples to be intentional in creating shared experiences. And this has manifested in our marriage to some great experience.
Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute says this about shared experiences, “Couples that engage in rituals of connection further bond with each other by holding the same thoughts and feelings around shared aspects of their life together. The more shared meaning you find on purpose, the deeper and richer your relationship will be.”
So, have fun together. Pray together, take control, and do 2021 intentionally.