What if we hadn’t had sex in a couple months?
What if we hadn’t prayed together for a couple years?
What if we hadn’t talked about anything but finances and kids in a decade?
How should you measure a marriage? What’s the proper way to measure how it’s doing?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
Jonathan Larson, “Seasons of Love”
from the Broadway musical Rent.
Prevailing culture is always trying to teach methods for measuring things. We can measure how we’re doing in our jobs with performance reviews and salaries. We can measure how we’re doing in our careers with titles and promotions. We can measure how we’re doing socially with the sizes of our houses, the quality of our cars, and the awesomeness of vacations. And we can measure the performance of our kids, both academically and athletically, with school acceptances and grades and points and wins and losses.
Listen carefully . . . and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world . . . (Mark 4:24 MSG).
With great precision, we can measure just about everything in our lives. And other people, by simply observing us, can measure them too. Now, many of these measures are dubious, obviously. Our culture tries to teach us to measure marriages by measuring the outward beauty of our wives or the outward handsomeness of our husbands. And it tries to teach us to measure things like outward confidence and worldly success. But these measures tell us nothing, nothing actually, about how our marriages are doing . . . really.
So, how should we go about measuring a marriage? As the Holy Entangled, how should we measure how a marriage is doing?
Well, it’s a little complicated . . .
Marriage is, by its nature, somewhat private. How a marriage is doing, how healthy a marriage is on the inside, is, therefore, somewhat hidden. As a result of that, and because of our pride, many of us spend too little focus on hidden things, and too much on external things, on apparent things. We choose to spend too much of our focus on things that others can observe (about us) and which can, therefore, make us feel better about ourselves. We spend too much focus on things like jobs, careers, social standing, and the performance of our children. We do so precisely because we can measure them . . . and because others can measure them too (and think well of us, when the measures are positive).
A marriage can be broken as broken can be—and because we don’t derive much of our self worth from the health of our marriages—and because it’s difficult for others to see into the hidden parts of our marriages—we can continue right on, ignoring what’s broken, resigning themselves to years of disconnection, brokenheartedness, emptiness, and sin. We can continue right on focusing on things more external, more apparent, more able to build our self-worth.
We’d sure never take such a passive approach with our jobs or with our kids. If something was broken—or if something was going wrong with a child—we’d go after it. We’d try to fix it.
How can any of us, as the Holy Entangled, continue on like this? How can any of us not bring an equal amount of intentionality to pursuing the best marriages possible? How can any of us continue to de-prioritize our marriages (the marriages themselves, separate from kids) and put our ‘fix it’ efforts elsewhere?
These are questions we are asking ourselves. And here’s our next question: If we do resolve to choose intentionality, if we do resolve to prioritize our marriages, how do we? What should we do?
Well, first, we need new measures. We need to betray our culture and bend our focus from external things to internal things, hidden things, true things . . . love. We need to begin to measure our marriages based upon things like . . .
. . . how often we notice;
how often we care;
how often we slow;
how often we stop;
how often we pray together;
how often we kiss;
how often we have sex;
how often we laugh;
how often we say something kind;
how often we talk about dreams and fears;
how often we say something encouraging;
how often we support;
how often we challenge;
how often we speak words of identity;
how often we speak truth in love;
how often we forgive (and how quickly);
how often we do something (with our spouses) they love to do;
how often we do (for our spouses) something they hate.
And, as the Holy Entangled, we should push it even further and begin to build calendars or spreadsheets and actually track these kinds of things . . . the same way we track budgets or piano lessons or school calendars. We should go crazy and even try to outdo one another according to these new measures.
Now, this is going to take work, of course. Love is work . . . it isn’t just a feeling. Love doesn’t just happen or not happen. Love is work. It’s a choice. But, when we do things like these . . . when we get intentional about these kinds of things . . . when we follow our King, Jesus Christ, and love our spouses the way he loves us, we do get to experience the great joy that comes from service and sacrifice. When we do things like these, we get to move deeper in love, deeper into meaning, deeper into identity, and deeper into relationship with God.
Even a little intentionality goes a long, long way—so, no excuses.
So, what measures are you willing to use for your marriage? What are you willing to do to increase intentionality in measuring them? We would love to hear directly from each of you.