Just seven years into our marriage, my wife, Pamela, became desperate to find a way to get my attention. I was heavily involved in my work, which I absolutely loved, and she felt overlooked and unappreciated. To her, our home was simply becoming a hotel that I checked in and out of every day. After getting back late, I gave her only the leftovers of my attention and time.
Pamela imagined we would have so much more time to connect and be close. But for me, getting married was the achievement of a major life goal. (Check and done). I was on to another goal — proving myself on the job.
Pamela ultimately used a letter to get my attention. She knew how much I love to read and write and thought it would be the best way to express her deep frustration. One thing was clear: I was no longer making room for her in my life. When I realized how desperately alone she felt, I had a few big changes to make.
Marriage requires making room for someone else in your life: emotional room, time room, conversation room and more. To say yes to someone in marriage is to say no to some aspects of your schedule, your world and your activities. To add this committed relationship to your life requires letting go of some of your other commitments and giving your spouse priority consideration. Here are a handful of areas in which you can give your spouse room:
Room to breathe
Life can fill a couple's calendar with so many events, responsibilities and expectations that they find themselves longing for some unscheduled time, if but for an hour or two. Sometimes the best thing to do for your spouse is to ask if you can take the kids for a few hours so he or she can have time alone to reflect, refresh and renew.
Room to fail
During one season in my professional life, I felt anything but successful. But what I most remember about those months is that my wife was a faithful friend and lover. When I felt I was failing in other aspects of life, she was intentional about making me feel successful in in our home.
The people we love the most can hurt us — or help us — the most. When we show support during the times that a spouse feels like a failure, we express our commitment and love in a profound way.
Room to grow
The closer you are to someone, the better you're positioned to encourage and affirm him or her. As a spouse you can notice growth, positive changes and skill development in your husband or wife. Look for opportunities to mark those moments with affirming words, such as:
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"You've improved at your tennis game — your serve is amazing!""You're being more patient with our daughter. I know it takes a lot of effort.""It seems like only yesterday you were worried about your new job. You seem so much more confident now."
If you won't mark these moments and say these things, who will?
Room to pray
In the earlier years of our marriage, I really struggled to pray with Pamela. I would choose to have my own prayer time even though Pamela desired times of prayer with me. More recently, however, I have discovered that I was missing a major opportunity to grow in Christ and more in love with my wife.
While we still try to reserve time to pray and read our Bibles individually, such a powerful sense of unity and closeness comes from just a few minutes of prayer together. It is a point of contact in our marriage that changes the tone of the day and of our relationship.
Invite your spouse into your "prayer room" often. You will be glad you did.
Room to share
Relationships that lead to marriage always start with sharing — sharing time, sharing stories, sharing secrets, sharing kisses. If you wonder if you're sharing enough with your spouse, it may help to just ask. Some of the best questions are simple: "Is there anything on your mind you've been wanting to talk about? Anything you've been hoping to share with me?" Here are some other questions to help the conversation:
Do you feel as if you can talk with me about anything? Our finances? Our parenting?Are there things you wish you had room for in our lives that you don't? How can I help make room for those?Have I made reasonable room in my life for your family members, your parents and siblings?What are the things you do that make you feel most alive? Are there any ways I can help you do more of those?Are our prayer times together meaningful and helpful to you?Am I attentive to your needs and desires in our sex life?Have I been considerate and attentive to your spiritual life and growth? Are there ways I could be more helpful or encouraging?Do you feel as if I'm taking time to help you with challenges you face in your life?
Marriage is all about making room — rearranging your world so that the person you're committed to is your priority.
Dr. Robert Crosby is the co-founder of Teaming Life, a training and resource ministry and the co-author of The Will of a Man and The Way of a Woman: Balancing and blending better together.
Marriage can have its twists and turns, but the detours don't have to lead you off course. The 12 essential elements outlined in the Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage are biblically based and chart the course for a romantic adventure that will last a lifetime.