Like you need one more thing on your to-do list.
I know, I know.
But listen, this is important.
For a lot of us, it comes pretty naturally, the urge to nurture. To soothe a fussy baby, to place the cool wash cloth on a feverish toddler head, to pat, to nuzzle, to giggle with, to occasionally spoil. All those small nuances of nurturing, the little actions that speak love and comfort and home to our kids.
But there’s another being in your house that needs nurturing. And depending on the timetable of your life, it might not be much older than your kids. If you’ve got a new infant, this other being might not be much past the toddler stage, still slightly shocked and reeling that you’ve added this new person to the mix, displacing and rearranging all the priorities. If you’ve got a few young school age kids, this other being might be entering some anxious, cranky teen years, searching for identity and feeling the angst of changing hormones.
This other being. What is it, you ask.
It’s a living, breathing, evolving, growing entity.
And just as your kids need attention, nutrition, actions of affection, and affirming words, so too does that marriage.
But here’s the thing about a marriage; it’s not often good at speaking up for what it needs. Now don’t get me wrong. There may be a partner in the marriage who is very, very good at speaking up for what they individually need. One of the players may offer a detailed and long soundtrack of their individual perspective on the relationship, the way they perceive it as working or not working, thriving or shrinking, happy or flat.
But it seems to me a marriage has its own voice. Which it may or may not often use.
So, aside from your own internal dialog, how do you know if your marriage is in need of nurturing? Let’s take a look at three signs.
1. Simply Put
Your marriage needs nurturing. My marriage needs nurturing. Marriages need nurturing. The end.
Marriages require proper feeding. They require training. They require continuing education. They require affection. And whether you’ve been hitched a couple of years or three decades, there is always something new to be learned, a fresh nuance to be perceived, a mystery to uncover. Marriage is not a static arrival, it’s an ongoing expedition, with curves in the road and unexpected terrain to traverse. There must be stops along the way to refresh supplies, to attend to blisters from temper flares, to hydrate parched hearts.
No matter your season, no matter how smooth or pocked the road, nurturing your marriage is critical. Not an accessory. Not a luxury. A necessity.
2. Silence, Seething or Resigned
Perhaps you have some people in your life like I do who seem to be extremely easy going. They’re generally in a congenial mood, never taking much of the spotlight, seemingly happy go lucky.
And then comes a day.
When the mask falls.
And you discover that there is a heart that has been bleeding, quietly, silently, a hemorrhage of hurt that might not find resolve in triage.
A marriage can be like that. Smooth waters on the surface, turbulence and rip tides beneath.
It’s going to take some active probing to know the real state of the marriage.
Michael and I have had seasons, I’ve counseled many a couple in this kind of season, where the marriage was seemingly fine. Not on fire, not doused. Just…there. But not too far beneath existed a lava flow, and with just one more missed date, one more callous remark, one more thoughtless word spoken, the crust of the surface would puncture and the poison of that silence would spew.
Nurture by probing. By asking. And then by listening. Tap into the watercourse by which your marriage flows. Nurture your marriage by noticing, not assuming.
3. Hot, Hot, Hot
A third signal flare for a needing-nurturing marriage is a marriage in constant conflictive conversation. Peace is a distant concept. Cooperation fell off the trailer a while back. Encounters most frequently end in angered attitude, an emotional dance of push and push back, taking partners ever closer to the edge.
The nurturing recipe for this situation is affection.
Your marriage still needs you to hug. To cuddle. To pat and kiss and to hold hands.
Yes, even when you’re mad.
Your marriage needs you to laugh. To be silly. To play.
Quit taking all that temper so seriously.
If you find a two-year-old throwing a tantrum somewhat hilarious, don’t miss the comedy of two adults fighting over buying a new couch.
Same as same, really.
Your marriage needs you to stay in school.
Keep reading about relationships.
Get with a mentor or counselor to continue your training.
And then apply it.
Don’t just let it sit on the shelf.
Read to your marriage. Talk to it. Give it vision for what it can be.
Your marriage will go from an infancy that seems to capture all your delight and attention to a toddlerhood that boasts some independence to a childhood in which it practices greater skill and daring to a teenagehood that bristles with changes, physical and emotional. From early stages to seasoned best practices, it’s all in the nurturing. Noticed or neglected. Active or static. Thriving or dying. Joyous or jealous.
It’s a thing. This other being in the home called marriage.
And it needs…us. All in.