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Marriage Renewal

How to Fall in Love All Over Again...

He slouched down in the office chair, his legs stretched in front of him, his arms folded defiantly, and glowered, "We’ve been to marriage enrichment weekends, we’ve read marriage books and articles, and we’ve been through three different counselors. You’re the last counselor we’re going to see. I just don’t have feelings for her any more, and I want out!"

These words exploded from a man experiencing a long period of hopelessness in his marriage. He was willing to make a desperate grab for some kind of new life, to taste some things he felt were missing. At midlife he had come to the point where he believed it was impossible to change his marriage. His wife, however, hadn’t given up hope.

It doesn’t take both people to begin the marriage renewal process, but it does take one dedicated person--one willing to start, make changes, and pay a price. Marriage restoration is hard work, and you must decide, "Do I really want to do this?"

Marriage renewal may need to take place many times in the life of a marriage--after a fight or disagreement, after an affair or separation, or even after divorce. Following are some steps to take.

When you dated, you gave a lot of attention to each other. It was necessary to get to know each other and to build a history together. You were analyzing whether you could live your whole life with each other. It was very pleasurable to do this, and you were each nourished in the process.


A young married couple can be compared to two leaves caught in a whirlpool. The suction draws them closer together. A midlife couple, on the other hand, are like kids on a playground merry-go-round in danger of being spun off



Anytime you are in a new, appealing relationship, you want to know that person better--how he or she thinks and what his or her goals and values are. You and your mate were drawn together during your courtship, engagement, wedding, honeymoon, setting up housekeeping, and the coming of first child.

After a couple gets established, however, forces begin to draw them away from each other. They are pulled apart by careers, community, and church activities, children’s needs, and hum-drum familiarity with each other. They may begin to think their marriage is boring and they have nothing in common. They also may be oblivious to the normal changes and needs of their mate.

For example, by midlife, men usually are rethinking their career, becoming more feeling oriented, and reconnecting with their kids. Women are often more assertive and more career-and goal-oriented. To assume that your mate is the same person at midlife as when you first married is wrong.

A young married couple can be compared to two leaves caught in a whirlpool. The suction draws them closer together. A midlife couple, on the other hand, are like kids on a playground merry-go-round in danger of being spun off. The outward pull on the midlife marriage makes it necessary for a couple to hang on to each other even more firmly.

Nourish Your Midlife Marriage


Listen for feeling, not just ideas. Listen for meaning between the words. Listen to genuinely understand your mate. Be creative, add spice; it's OK to neck!



Marriage renewal works on two basic concepts mentioned in an old song: "Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative." The positive in your early relationship was the unexpected, the serendipitous nourishment you received from each other. Well, think about doing that again.

A. Be creative, add spice. Plan a trip, eat out in a different restaurant, go to a good drive-in movie. Remember you’re married; it’s OK to neck! Sleep in another part of the house. How about a picnic lunch at the park or the beach or near work? Think of creative ways to add spice to your lives.

B. Break the routine. Do you really need to do all that you’re doing? One husband was seriously struggling at midlife. He wanted to take some weekends away to think, talk, and strengthen their marriage, but his wife said she couldn’t go because she had to teach Sunday School.

  

Your marriage is more important than some
of the duties you’ve become saddled with over the years.


C. Understand each other. Realize that each of you have changing needs. A man may be feeling insecure, wondering what is going to happen to his job. He might be mourning, because he realizes he is never going to achieve what he always dreamed. He may be struggling with a desire to be more intimate, yet not know how to carry that out. He may be reaching out for someone to talk to.

The wife, on the other hand, may be exploring new potentials in her life. She may find her assertiveness growing. She may realize that her mother role is changing, and she may have ambivalent feeling of grieving the loss while enjoying the freedom and the peer relationship with her adult children. She, along with her husband, may also be struggling with aging.

D. Listen to each other. The Bible says it is possible to hear, but not hear. Listen for feeling, not just ideas. Listen for meaning between the words. Listen to genuinely understand your mate.

In our book, Women in Midlife Crisis, we told the story of a couple who got into a fight on the way home from their last child’s wedding. She said, "You’re actually glad they’re all gone. " He said, "Of course. You were a mother first and a wife second. I was at the bottom of your list, right after the dog."

The fighting continued until he said, "I want us to be lovers again, the way we were before the kids came. We’ve got the rest of our lives to live together, alone, and it’s got to get better than it has been--or else."

His threatening words gnawed at her. The next morning after he went to work, she sat down in despair to make herself a cup of instant coffee. When she unscrewed the jar, she found a note inside which said, "Dear Wife, grow old with me. The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.
-Robert Browning and your husband."

After she read the note over and over and drained her well of tears, she reached for the phone to begin her new life. Her husband had been talking all along, but she had not been hearing.

E. Talk to your mate. Do you ever wish your mate really understood how you feel--what you think--what you need? Most mates are not gifted at mind-reading. You need to talk about your ideas and your feelings. As you talk, remember that you’re not trying to win an argument or defeat a foe. The two of you are working together to understand each other and to have a rich and rewarding relationship.

Build a Mutual Relationship



Marriage renewal starts with a deep confidence that God has planned for us to be in right relationships. It continues as each marriage partner works to focus on the other, to creatively nourish the other, and to build mutuality.




A. Each partner values the other as much as himself or herself. Each possesses something the other doesn’t have, and each will be incomplete without the other. Each counts the worth of the other, not his or her faults.

B. Each assists the other’s growth. Who will help our mates grow, if we don’t? Scripture teaches we are to care for other parts of the Body so that each part grows (Romans 12). It’s exciting to contribute to your mate’s growth! Plan ways to do that.

C. Each is willing to carry the other when she or he is weak. Life is filled with good and bad times. Mutuality means a willingness to carry your mate emotionally and spiritually when he or she is down and cannot do it. Next time you may be the one needing to be carried.

D. Each is able to serve and be served. Jesus set the pattern of service to each other in the Upper Room (John 13). Both qualities of serving and being served need to be present in a mutual marriage. We need to serve because we sense the other person’s need. We also need to accept being served without earning that service or paying back. Marriage is a grace relationship. We don’t earn it. We don’t serve and expect a return. We serve as an expression of our care for our mate, and we receive our mate’s service because of his or her care for us.

E. Each is willing to forgive. Because we are human, we fail at times. We should accept that fact, but not look for it in each other. The Bible discusses human failure and God’s love, forgiveness, and restoration. Forgiving my spouse means I relinquish punishment and correction to God. I yield to Him the redirection of my mate’s life. I no longer hold my mate accountable for something that happened in the past. I turn him or her loose from my bondage. Forgiveness allows my mate to straighten out the matter with God and to flower under God’s leadership.

Marriage renewal starts with a deep confidence that God has planned for us to be in right relationships. It continues as each marriage partner works to focus on the other, to creatively nourish the other, and to build mutuality.

The couple mentioned at the beginning of the article decided they wanted to work on their marriage. They recommitted their lives to God. They also practiced some of the simple concepts of marriage renewal. Within a few months their marriage was restructured so that they had fallen in love all over again.

Don’t give up on your marriage! Remember, you’re dealing with a God of hope, of new beginnings. He wants to help you to be able to say, "He reached down from heaven and took me and drew me out of my great trials. He rescued me from deep waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy...I who was helpless in their hands. He led me to a place of safety, for He delights in me" (Psalm 18:16-19).


Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com

  

The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.