Practical Ideas for a High Maintenance Marriage

Practical Ideas for a High Maintenance Marriage

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. –Philippians 1:6

Cathy and I have often said publicly that we have a high-maintenance marriage. We have been married for over forty years, and we feel a bit like how Billy Graham described his fifty-four year marriage: “Ruth and I are happily incompatible.” Cathy and I wouldn’t trade our relationship for anything, but it hasn’t always been easy. It’s kind of like what Rocky Balboa said to his wife in the famous movie Rocky: “I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps.”

For twenty-five years we have lived next door to Bill, who has the coolest Corvette Stingray roadster. It is a beautiful car and fun to drive. Okay, he has never actually let me drive it–but I know it would be fun if I did! Bill spends a great deal of time, energy, and money to keep his high-performance machine in good shape. It needs regular oil changes and all the other maintenance cars need to keep it beautiful and in running order. If he ignored that car, it would eventually break down and just quit working.

In differing degrees, marriages are high maintenance with at least a bit of incompatibility mixed in them. But that doesn’t stop the good marriages from being even better, and there is hope for even the most difficult relationships. What does it take to make a high-maintenance marriage successful? One word: intentionality. The best marriages are the ones where both parties are willing to work and be proactive at it on a regular basis.

Regardless of your history, today is the day to choose to make your marriage better. And this is your promise from the Bible: “[God,] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

Here is a list of five things every couple can do to invest in their marriage. None of these are rocket science and they all take work. My experience is that it is definitely worth it.

Talk. Communicate on a deeper level daily, if possible. Take a walk. Sit together on the couch for fifteen minutes after dinner, even if there is chaos all around you. You can’t grow together if you don’t talk.

Show affection. Authorities on the subject tell us that it takes eight to ten meaningful touches a day for a person to thrive. Showering your spouse with affection is one of the best ways to keep the sparks flowing. Women often say that non-sexual affection is even more powerful.

Walk. This may sound corny, but couples who walk together talk together. We find that when we put a leash on the dog and walk around the block, we end up having good conversations.

Express kindness. Random acts of kindness go a long way in a high-maintenance marriage. A nice card or running an errand for your spouse may do more for your relationship than many other things.

Pray. Couples who pray together, stay together. We have said before that without God’s presence in our marriage, we would probably not be married today. The odds would be against us. We like what Paul said: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). That statement goes for marriage as well.

Leo Tolstoy was not necessarily known as a marriage expert, but he was so right when he said, “What counts in making a marriage happy is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with your incompatibility.” Good thoughts, Leo.

• Do you think our marriage is high maintenance, low maintenance, or somewhere in between?
• What is the one thing you think our marriage needs more of?
• Is there something our marriage needs less of?


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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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