He pulled me into the closet and closed the door. I could hear kids calling. We ignored them.
He whispered, "I miss Hawaii. I miss you."
We promised each other last summer, loving and living a carefree togetherness we hardly recognized, that we wouldn't slip back into the hurried routine and forget each other. My husband won a free trip with his job and this break in paradise was one of the first times in our nearly 19-year-old marriage that we had taken a trip without our kids.
But it's easy to make promises when this is your view:
And it's easy to forget them when this is your view:
Promises are much harder to keep in the making-breakfast-doing-laundry-paying bills-and-work-filled days. I believe it's called monotony. And it can kill your marriage.
Nearly two decades later, we are still each other's favorite person. Most days. We miss one another when we're apart and can't get enough when we're together. Usually. But we also let a messy house, a cold dinner, a parenting dispute, that unexpected bill -- you know, life -- come between us.
And our whispered white sand promises are lost in the busy monotony of our lives.
Yet we still vie for a hot marriage. I actually think about it. I see him through the kitchen window mowing the lawn, shirt off, hot and sticky, flecks of mud and grass stuck to his chest. And I think "hmmm...." He walks in from a long day of work, tie loose at his throat, and sits with our little girl and reads with her. It's just plain sexy.
But then dinner boils over and milk is spilled at the table, I scrub pots and pans, mop up messes, call out Science lab terms to my 6th grader, turn over a load of laundry and remind someone to feed the dog again. I walk outside to dump half-empty water bottles into my pots of wilted flowers and I'm greeted with the foul odor of the septic system. My husband heads out to Home Depot for chemicals because some things that stink just can't wait. I'm left to do baths and devotions and by the time he returns, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Tomorrow is filled with much of the same, a lesson here, a church group there... life has a way of going from Monday to Thursday in a snap and I can hardly remember that hot guy mowing the lawn.
I can confirm the temperature because I have known the extremes: a cold marriage, filled with contempt and misery. A lukewarm marriage, perhaps the worst, filled with idle days, stagnant affection and distant intimacy.
We have lived every season -- from unemployment to sickness to grief to sheer joy. Our favorite by far: White hot. It's also the most difficult to maintain.
Marriage is hard, hard, hard work. We never arrive and kick up our feet and ride the waves of hot monogamy. It takes faithful, committed, selfless habit-forming work in the middle of a boring routine. They say it takes 21 days or more to create a habit. I dare you to try the following six habits for the next month and see what happens:
Habits we try to repeat daily:
- Touch everyday: Make a conscious effort to grab his hand, run your hands through her hair, kiss for a couple of seconds. Set a goal to physically touch his arm when you're talking, tackle him in a hug in your closet, pat her butt on the way out the door.
- Be good forgivers: Perhaps the most crucial key is forgiveness. Listen, marriage is the union of two people prone to mistakes and sin. You can't control your spouse, but you can forgive. Refuse to pick them apart, turn molehills into mountains and wave the banner of unforgiveness.
- Make the little things big: The other day, my husband gave me a card and a new wallet, just because. It was a small thing, but it made a big impression. I knew he was thinking about me when we were apart. Connecting with your spouse in small ways that makes them feel loved is a big deal.
- Fill our minds with thoughts of each other. Let's be honest, we live in a world where it's easy to fill up our tank with outside influences. From the pretty girl in the office or in the magazine to the romantic, handsome guy in the novel we're reading or movie we're watching, there are many ways to get satisfaction outside of our spouse. Lust is ignited with a second look. But when we only let our mate fill up our tank, we are on the path to a marriage that is not only white hot, but holy.
- Go to bed at the same time: While this might not be possible every night, this habit is important because it is a quiet time to connect. Texting and chatting on the phone are a good substitute if you have to be a part. Nearly missing each other constantly brings a chaos to your home that isn't healthy for your marriage or family.
- Compliment each other. This might sound like a no-brainer, but 500 people can like my new hair cut and none of the compliments mean as much as his. Seeing him look at me -- really look and watch attraction ignite in his eyes is amazing. We were shopping the other day and I casually pointed out the green t-shirt on sale and said, "That would look good on you." My daughter tried to convince him to get the red one and I overheard him tell her, "No, mom likes the green." Your influence over your spouse is powerful, use it to bless them.
We get it right some days and miss the mark other days. But we never give up.