Whether you want to improve a difficult marriage or celebrate a great one, I’ve seen in all the research — especially for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages — that one of the best possible things you can do is to ask yourself: How did I meet my spouse and fall in love to begin with?
You may think that sounds a bit nuts: how could that make a difference? It turns out, that one little action is powerful in two big ways.
First, when you think back to how you met your spouse, and all the things you fell in love with early on, it acts like a time machine. You are taking yourself back to those days before kids and jobs and finances and life got in the way and looking at the two of you anew. You are reminding yourself of all those things you appreciated back then. Maybe you loved how silly he was. Maybe you adored her sense of adventure.
Today, years later, you may be irritated by how those very same things play out. For example, you may prefer seriousness and stability when you have a mortgage to pay or meetings to be on time to. But as you go back in your time machine, you remember how you loved those traits then. Maybe you even realize: silliness and spontaneity can still be good things! As you look back you’ll find that much of what you fell in love with can and should be celebrated today. As you look back, you’ll relive the good memories and realize it is worth fighting to keep them. As you look back, you’ll remember the days of camaraderie and hope and get a fresh determination to regain it – even if many years have passed and you are very different people today who have to relearn each other and fall in love all over again.
The other reason why the “How did I meet my spouse?” question is powerful, is that suddenly your eyes are opened to a much bigger, eternal perspective: you suddenly see all the ways God had to work for you to meet your spouse and be ready for a relationship. I loved this article by my friend Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family about his own unexpected path to marriage and how he sees all the things God had to arrange things for him to ever meet his wife Jean.
It got me thinking about all the many, many things God had to arrange for me to meet Jeff. And, really, what God had to arrange for any spouse to meet his or her mate!
As you recognize that God’s hand is and was clearly evident in connecting you with your spouse, you are reminded there must be something bigger about your marriage: your loving Father brought the two of you together, so He has a lifelong plan and a purpose! One that is for your good and for His purposes in the world. The Creator of the universe looked down through history and connected the two of you. Really take that in, and you’ll get the sense of awe and gratitude that all of us should have anyway, but which is all too easy to lose.
Want a great marriage? Get out your memory time machine, go back, and watch God at work. Then bring that sense of awe, gratitude, love and appreciation, back to the present day.
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.