We are well into this season of Lent, remembering the love of God that was poured out through Jesus with his death and celebrating his resurrection. Through that, we truly learn how to love like Jesus — selfless and with humility.
Although the “season” of Lent is broadly considered just that — a brief time set aside for holy reverence and reflection — it should yield positive, long-term results. In fact, Fr. Mike Schmitz just put out this great video: “Lent is a Process—Not an Event.”
As many of us are avoiding carnal indulgences, allowing us to focus on improving our spirituality in a deeply profound way, additionally I encourage you and your beloved to focus on enriching your marriage for Lent.
Loving Your Spouse Through the Lens of Jesus
Being a son or a daughter of God means so much more than wearing our faith on our sleeve as some sort of badge of honor. Our faith empowers us to live more like Jesus, and this becomes more evident in every area of our lives — especially marriage.
How did Jesus live his life? Through humility and with a servant’s heart.
That is how we lead — loving our spouse through humility and with a servant’s heart. Marriage is referred to as a “mystery” in Ephesians, and also gives us a glimpse into what that means. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (5:31)
Marriage is the complete giving of one’s self to another and becoming one flesh.
To put this into simple terms, before marriage, I was Gordon and my wife was Regina. Over a decade ago, we became “the marriage of Gordon and Regina.” We are individual human beings, but unified as one, under the bond of our marriage.
But developing our marriage did not stop the second we said, “I do.” We weren’t magically made perfect as a married couple that day. We quickly learned that continued effort and hard, but rewarding work was to begin right away — if we truly believed in our vows for each other… and we certainly did.
So how do we work on this, practically speaking?
Dropping Negative Tendencies and Strengthening Positive Temperaments
Spoiler alert: this won’t be easy. But as I mentioned before, working hard on improving your marriage is so rewarding.
We all approach life and its nuances in different ways. How we interact with each other and the react to things that directly or indirectly affect us is what makes up our temperaments. In very simple terms, we can refer to this our prevailing “mood” or “mood patterns.”
It is vitally important to, at the very least, have a general idea of “what makes us tick.” In my opinion, it is also just as important to develop a deeper understanding of the innermost parts of our being by learning more about our temperaments. In marriage, it becomes even more important to learn about each other’s temperament.
Think about it this way: wondering why there is tension in your marriage when you haven’t learned how to speak your spouse’s language (empowering them within their temperament) is like getting frustrated that your microwave hasn’t filed your taxes. All of us have a unique set of wires that make up who we are, and if we use the wrong tools on each other, we lose our functionality. We end up destroying the beautiful creature that we fell in love with.
So how do we put this into practice within our marriage?
1 . Talk about everything.
And I mean everything.
The good, the bad, the ugly. Even the things we feel might be irrational fears, everything.
Lack of communication is the very withholding of one’s self to the other. When that happens, we lose the very Christlike nature within the foundation of our marriage. We can and should be excited to share everything with each other. Lack of communication leads to so many negative results, the chief among them is the compromising of trust and integrity within your marriage. None of us are mind-readers, so the guessing game cannot be a part of a healthy marriage.
If being an open book with your spouse isn’t your M.O., my friend, you are backpedaling on your vows. Really, at the end of the day, what are you trying to hide? If fear of looking weak in front of your spouse is holding you back from sharing, well then, start there. Tell your spouse that you are afraid to share with them. Have a conversation about it. Open communication will undoubtedly unlock deeper levels of intimacy with your spouse.
Communication is also equal parts talking and listening. We’ll talk more about being a steamroller later on, but make sure that when you communicate or have a conversation, it isn’t a one-sided event. Your spouse needs to be actively listened to just as much as you do — remember that.
Listening to your spouse is also not just a passive stance to take — merely “putting in your time” while your spouse drones on. We all have a desire to be heard, but not many of us develop the desire to hear. We can and should be excited to listen to each other.
Set aside time every single day to have uninterrupted conversation. If you need a milestone to get you started, set aside fifteen minutes every single day of intentional, uninterrupted conversation. Phones on silent, on the chargers in the other room.
2. Learn more about each other.
I always cringe a little when couples indicate that they “know everything about each other.” While this may seem like an excellent goal, I feel like life together as a married couple becomes quite boring if there isn’t anything new and exciting to learn about each other.
When someone passes away, we usually say “rest in peace” — insinuating that the afterlife is the ultimate peace to attain. Ergo, if we achieve this “ultimate peace” of knowing everything about each other, is it safe to say that part of our marriage is kind of… dead?
Setting that aside, I would go further to say that I don’t necessarily believe that husband and wife can ever truly “know everything about each other,” especially just after a few years of marriage. We all change as time goes on, even if they are slight changes. The beauty of marriage is growing in love, together. Going through changes, together. The only danger is not allowing the other person “in” on that growth. Again, see: “Talk about everything.”
In one of our other articles, we wrote about having a jar filled with conversation prompts, and I can’t begin to express enough how powerful that tool can be. Load it with questions like, what was it like for you the first time we met?, what is your ultimate dream for us as a couple?, what is your ultimate dream for yourself as an individual?, what does true happiness look like to you?, how do I make you feel like you are my priority?, what are things that could be better for us?
Get creative and specific for you and your marriage with these questions. This is a beautiful exercise and can yield very profound results — you may be surprised at each other’s answers, and that rules.
3. Do not be a steamroller.
Using your temperament as a weapon of self-indulgence completely invalidates your spouse’s needs, wants, and desires. This can destroy any and all possibility of thriving together as a couple if it is not brought to your attention, or if left unresolved. Did you catch that?
One part is the awareness that steamrolling may be happening, and the other part is to resolve it.
Our temperaments are unique, beautiful and individualistic, but also complimentary as husband and wife. Marriage is a dance. It is all about give and take. If you notice your spouse needs to express their temperament a little more on a given day, it might mean that you yourself need to take a step back and allow for them to feel loved and listened to in a meaningful way.
If you feel like your spouse may be steamrolling a bit, it can be easy to get frustrated. In fact, I’d say that you may be justified in your frustration if you feel like you hardly have a chance to express your temperament, your emotions, your thoughts, so… talk about it! If you haven’t noticed already, the common theme throughout this article is all about communication.
During those times of uninterrupted conversation mentioned above, bring up the fact that you feel a bit steamrolled at times if that is the case. Or, if you are on the other side — doing the steamrolling — if your spouse makes you aware of this, respond with humility and with a soft demeanor. When your spouse is justifiably upset, it isn’t time to double down and make excuses for hurting him/her.
I’ll leave you with three very practical ways to help with enriching your marriage for Lent. Bonus points and ten gold stars if you do all three:
- You may already have a general idea of what your temperament is, but if you would like to go deeper into the inner-workings of who you are, there are plenty of assessments you can take online to find out. This assessment from the study “I Said This, You Heard That” is really well done. This isn’t an official endorsement by any means, but my wife and I took this course with the assessment and it really improved our way of communicating and interacting with each other.
- Regardless of if you take the assessment or not, as I mentioned above, set aside that time every day to have your uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. It’s easy, and we all have time, so don’t make excuses — put it into practice! I believe in you.
- Use the conversation prompts to learn more about each other.
At the very least, the takeaway here is the awareness of how we are built and wired as human beings. Through this knowledge of ourselves, we then continually work toward becoming better versions of ourselves for our spouse.