Several years ago, my wife and I made a commitment that we would never settle for a mediocre marriage.  We had both watched too many marriages that slid into mediocrity and eventually spiraled into divorce.  For us, life is too short to allow our most important human relationship be anything less than stellar.

We also believe that one of the most important gifts we can give our children (second only to faith in Jesus Christ) is a healthy, vibrant example of marriage.  The Bible teaches that our marriage is an example of how Jesus loves His church.  We want to be the best living illustration imaginable.

Now, before I continue . . . marriage has not been easy for Julie and me.  We both have very strong personalities, opinions, aspirations and ideas.  For us, Gary Thomas’s question:  “What if marriage is more about making you holy than it is about making you happy?” has certainly been true.  BUT, along, the way, in the midst of the holiness, it has also made us happy.

So, here are some of the things that we do to keep our relationship above the level of mediocrity.

*We pray for one another.  Often.  Each morning we review our upcoming day and as we move through the day we pray for what the other is involved in.  Frequently when I walk out the door of our home Julie’s last words to me are “I’ll be praying for you.”

*We walk at least once a week together.  Most weeks it’s more often.  Walking two or three miles together gives us an opportunity for uninterrupted conversation.  It also helps us stay in shape.  Julie’s body matters to me and my body matters to her.

*We speak positively about one another.  It drives us crazy when we hear a spouse ridiculing their partner on a regular basis.  Words wound or words heal.  In this world, we need all the healing we can get!  I especially make a point of speaking highly about Julie if I mention her in our weekend teachings at RiverTree.  I want everyone listening to know that I am in love with my wife and she is in love with me.

*We place our marriage relationship above our relationship with our children.  This one sounds selfish but in reality it is one of the most selfless things we can do.  If a child grows up in a stable, secure environment where he never has to worry about his parent’s marriage it changes the course of his life.  Conversely, if a child goes to bed every night worrying that her parents might split, it dramatically adversely affects every area of her life.  Not to say that there aren’t occasions when the needs of our kids come first, but we make it a priority to make our marriage first priority.

*We have coffee together at least once a week.  Sometimes this is at home, sometimes at the local Starbucks.  The point is that spending time together makes a difference.

*We go away overnight together once a month.  For us, with two children at home, our monthly getaways have been a marriage saver.  Sometimes we drive 2 hours to a cabin by a river.  Other times we drive an hour to Cleveland and use reward points to spend the night at a Marriott hotel.  It’s not so much a matter of where; it’s a matter of getting away.  AND, I take full responsibility for our getaways.  I get them on the calendar.  I schedule where we’re going, staying, dinners, etc.  But on the flip side, Julie takes care of all of the home arrangements—who’s going to watch the kids, the dog, etc.

*We live an authentic life with our friends.  We have friends in our life who really know us—the good, the bad and the downright ugly.  We’ve walked through enough life over the years that they have earned our trust and an invitation to speak truth into our lives.

*We seek counsel when necessary.  In 19 years of marriage, Julie and I have been to professional marriage counseling on three separate occasions.  Not because we were in a crisis but because we wanted to avoid one.

*We have a common Kingdom vision.  In other words, we’re better serving God together than we are apart.  This has led us to become foster parents, adopt, take our family on missions trips, invest generously in Kingdom initiatives and many, many more exciting adventures.  We regularly talk about God’s plan for our life together.

*We continue to work on it.  Drift happens!  One day it seems as though everything is great and the next I’m wondering how that argument just took place?  It’s a journey, not a destination.  And what a wondrous trip it is!