Cruising down the road, the highway curled before us like a ribbon into the horizon. Cozy road trips are a staple for my husband and me, and we look forward to the time together. Having been married for 37 years the adventure continues!
We have loved each other through the ups and downs, and we have learned a lot about relationships. We also made a point of carefully watching successful relationships and surrounding ourselves with those whose marriages flourished. Nowadays, we have many young couples ask us what it takes to keep a marriage vibrant.
One of the key ingredients is to be mindful that you haven’t allowed your relationship to drift down the road—in essence, to be put on cruise control.
It is so easy to do, especially when the day-to-day activities of life take over.
Bear in mind, cruise control can be helpful. When you are traveling and in the car for hours at a time, it is useful to have cruise control to mitigate the stress of the road. Likewise, when the stress of life invades—the kids are testing your limits and you have too much to do—cruise control will help you glide through the craziness.
However, cruise control can also be deadly. If you are on the road and a rainstorm hits, it is critical to take control of your car and pay attention. When storms blow through your marriage, having your relationship drift can cause you to skid off the road, and you will both get hurt. When the finances do not stretch far enough or the kids act out, it is very important to take your relationship off cruise control and become intentional in your marriage.
There are several key things to consider in order to be intentional, and having God at the center of your marriage is the primary ingredient. Taking a step back in prayer, seeking community in your church family, and loving one another with God’s love are all ways to keep Him at the center.
From a practical standpoint, there are a few more things to remember.
First, smile and treat each other kindly! We often lash out at those closest to us when we’ve had a frustrating day or things do not go our way. It is easy to do so because we feel safe in our relationships and rationalize that the other person loves us anyway. Such justification is the quickest way to alienate those loved ones.
Secondly, communicate with honor. We have all heard the term “active listening.” Look at each other when you chat and speak back to each other to acknowledge understanding. Wisely choose the times to speak. In other words, it is probably not a good time to enter into a discussion about the trash when your husband is watching his favorite football team.
Also, it is important to support individuality. Understand that you and your husband are both a team and individuals as well. In a vibrant, successful marriage, clicking off cruise control and being intentional means both parties treat each other as individuals and equal partners.
The joy of being intentional in your marriage comes when you are able to turn the cruise control back on to get through a season of life.
From time to time, we all need to rest, and it is fine to do so!
After making difficult decisions, staying up late to spend time alone, communicating to work through change, and listening to each other actively and honorably, my husband and I will find rest through a season on cruise control. We hop in the car for that cozy road trip, cruise down the ribbon of highway before us, and drift just a while. And it is okay.