He stood at my kitchen counter drinking a quick cup of coffee. Our overnight guest casually spoke about the summer plans he was making with his wife. It sounded nice — a few picnics, a couple of quick weekend trips, kids sports events to take in, maybe a holiday that they had talked about for a long time.  Then he paused and asked me, “Do you know where I made the decision to do those things this summer? In Intensive Care a few months ago.” A life threatening illness had brought this fresh perspective.

He went on… “We tend to run a marriage like a business, and it’s not.”
With that he put his coffee cup in the sink and was off.

I realized that I had just heard a profound statement on marriage.

“We tend to run a marriage like a business, and it’s not.”

Had our friend hit the nail on the head in addressing the “business of marriage”?

I pondered the thought all day. I recalled examples I knew of where a marriage had recently melted away. In these young marriages often one partner was completely blindsided by the withdrawal of the other.

The real core of what marriage is about could be missed. The checklist of outward things could be checked off just like a business list and a young couple could believe their “business of marriage” was running just fine.

A nice home in a decent neighborhood.
Good cars to drive.
Enough food in the fridge.
Turkey at thanksgiving and gifts at Christmas.
Kids seem to be doing ok in school.
Manage to keep the kids in sports and get to some of their events.
Able to buy the clothes we generally need and want.
Occasionally go to church on Sunday.
Eat out frequently.

Most everything checked off. Oh sure, they were busy. Who wasn’t these days? And yes, money was tight now and then but they managed. They had their differences of opinions and a few issues but nothing huge. Doesn’t everyone fight now and then? They were keeping the “business of marriage” afloat … or so they thought … until one withdrew … and they began to realize their marriage was in trouble.

“We tend to run a marriage like a business, and it’s not.”  No, it’s not. The report card for a marriage is quite different than that of a business.

The core of marriage is what is happening on the inside of the two individuals. It actually has very little to do with the fine material trappings we work so hard to acquire.

John and I get asked what it is that makes our several decade marriage so solid. We think back over the years and wonder ourselves. We too have traversed the ups and downs of moves, raising three kids, times apart, busy days, running businesses through good and hard times and just the everyday stuff of life.

We know we haven’t always made the wisest decisions. We know God has held us. We also know we have had a deep desire to stay connected.

Staying connected is the most important ingredient in every marriage.

As we think of our marriage we discover there are 5 A’s that we have actively put into our lives. Many times, over the years, we weren’t even aware of it. Not all the A’s were necessarily there at the same time. Yet as we ponder them, and the years gone by, we see that these things were anchors or cornerstones that kept us connected beyond the “business of marriage” and the busyness of life.

Staying connected … to God and to each other.  This is the key.

Perhaps listing our 5 A’s out can help those who come behind us. It’s really a combination of common sense, good manners and an attitude of treasuring each other and our marriage.

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Appreciation: Take time to say “thank you.”
Don’t take for granted the things your partner does in your relationship. Look for them. Express gratitude for them. From putting on a meal, picking up milk, helping the kids with their homework, to going out the door every morning to help provide for the family. Express gratitude.

Affirmation: Point out the good things you see in your partner.
It’s far easier to point out the negative and leave the positive overlooked. Try overlooking the negative and polishing up the positive instead. Look for the qualities you admire and express them. Don’t let compliments become so rare they are uncomfortable. Something as simple as “You’re a good parent” lets your partner know you see the good and you’re choosing to put your focus there. Be aware of where you are choosing to focus and find the good.

Approval:  Let your partner know you have a good opinion of him/her.
Silence and sarcasm can be deadly to a relationship. Does your partner know you have a good opinion of him/her? Is (s)he confident that you speak well of him/her? Does (s)/he know you are committed to him/her alone?

Any silent disapproval will knock the foundation right out of your marriage. Be aware of the subtle disapproval signals you may be giving. Find the things you are proud of in your partner and let them be known to others. It helps safeguard your marriage as well.

Affection: Give lots of non-sexual touching.
Touch is a powerful thing. It can even reduce anxiety and tension. Give physical touch often, outside the bedroom, with no expectations attached to it. Hug in the morning. Kiss good-bye and hello. Take your partner’s hand when you walk somewhere. Put your arm around the other. In moments when you sense tension in your partner and you don’t know what to say, give a hug and express, “I don’t know what to say but I love you.” Touch often. The warmth of this type of touching will also enrich the sexual side of your marriage.

Attention: Make eye contact.
In the busyness of the days do you communicate as you run out the door or call from another room? When you speak to your partner take the time to look into one another’s eyes. Look up from the TV or computer. Notice when your partner looks especially nice. Look at your partner with eyes that see and listen with ears that really hear. It may seem a small thing but it makes a big impact. Make eye contact when you say goodnight. Go to bed at the same time.

You cannot change your partner. You can only change yourself and your behavior. That focus alone will bring great improvement to a marriage. This is the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with. Your marriage can be a haven from the busy demands. It doesn’t need to be a tension-filled, empty place. You can help begin to create change today. By putting the 5 A’s into practice you can make sure your marriage moves toward becoming that ‘safe place’ for each of you to come and be free to be yourselves.

Start now.

Begin today to focus on your own behavior with the 5 As and I guarantee you will change your marriage.

30-day Challenge
If you can share the 5 A’s with your partner and choose together to put them into practice for one month the difference it will make will astound you.  If you can’t share them yet, put them into practice yourself and watch the impact.

Marriage is the highest of all human relationships and our Creator, God, will help you grow yours into the marriage you desire.

God in Heaven, I want my marriage to grow and be better than it is today. Please help me to put these 5 A’s into practice. Please give me the right attitude, give me the patience, and remind me every day to be conscious of these 5 A’s. Thank you for my partner. Please help me to learn how to connect in these 5 A ways this month. Thank you that You care. Amen.

Take the 30-day challenge and let us know what changes you see.

By Gail Rodgers,Used by permission.

Read more from Gail at www.gailrodgers.ca

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