It’s one thing to interconnect your and your spouse’s lives , it’s another to cultivate a life together. Both are important, this post is about the latter: how to cultivate a life together.
1. Have shared values and goals
It’s hard to cultivate a life together if you are heading in different directions and in different ways. Why are you married? What do you want your future to like? What values and principles guide you on your way? These things should be known, agreed upon, celebrated, and protected. Re: core values, Donald Miller via Ken Blanchard says you should have three.
2. Create rituals
Another way to cultivate a life together is through rituals. By ritual, I mean a kind of repeatable, predictable series of actions that strengthen the relationship. You may connect these to time, as with birthday parties or watering the plants together on Wednesdays. Or you may connect them to events, as with celebration dinners after work promotions or the sharing of presents after coming home from trips. Some rituals will be common within your culture and others will be particular to your marriage.
Dr. John Gottman suggests some key rituals that can make a big difference in a marriage: partings, reunions, goodnight kiss, weekly date, state of the union. Click the clink and learn about these with your spouse. Decide which of them, or others, you’d like to incorporate into your married life.
3. Nurture romance
Romance is also important for cultivating a life together. By this I mean you should cultivate feelings of love, desire, joy, hope and longing for each other. Of course, some of the chemistry that happens between two people is automatic and mysterious, but it can also be learned, fostered, matured.
Leaning into romance and learning how to romance is an important for building connection. It demonstrates love and blesses our partner. If you struggle with this, it may help to learn what attracts and what inhibits attraction. Learn also to respect and enjoy masculinity and femininity. The Man’s Guide to Women by husband and wife teams, Gottman and Abrams, can help. You can be sure that it starts with admiration and affection. There are lots of good ways to do this, an admiration journal is one good idea.
4. Have sex
Sex is both ritual and romance. It’s not the only tool in the toolbox for building connection with each other, but it’s an important one. Married people should have sex and should make it about more than private parts: the best sex is an intercourse (communion, exchange) of the mind and body and heart.
Couples should have sex frequently, neither demanding nor withholding from one another. See 1 Corinthians 7v1-5. Research suggests 1-2x per week might be a healthy, average baseline for most people.
Learn how to talk about sex with each other. Find out what preferences or concerns each has regarding initiating sex, frequency, satisfaction, etc. Gaining knowledge of each other’s bodies and souls, working through problems together, and finding solutions to those problems will increase your intimacy.
5. Resolve conflict
You can expect conflict to be a part of your life together. If you are afraid of it and don’t handle it well, conflict will drive you a part. This means that you must learn how to face conflict and work through it in a way that honors God. As you do that, you will discover how God uses resolving conflict to draw you closer together. Not only in the resolution, but in the process too.
6. Have fun and make memories
Because life is hard, it’s easy to make your marriage only about slogging through problems. But life is also beautiful and fun. Enjoy it and each other along the way. CelebratE the ordinary and the extraordinary. Look for opportunities to make memories, tell inside jokes, play games, laugh.
7. Do things together
It’s okay and necessary to have different interests, responsibilities, and hobbies. You can support your spouse in these without taking them as your own in the same way. But it’s also important to have things you do together. It’s impossible to cultivate a life together if you’re actually never together. So while it may be more efficient to take two cars and split the errands, don’t always choose efficiency first. Some of life—a lot of life—needs to be about connection and relationships first.
8. Worship together
Worship, like sex, has the potential to reveal and affect the deepest parts of yourself. If you’re not sure about this, read the Psalms. Of course, as with sex, in worship you can just go through the motions, or you can choose to make worship, and the broader church family life, a meaningful and enriching part of your life together. Communion with each other in the presence of God is a great blessing.
I realize that for various reasons not all couples can worship together. The same is also true for the other categories listed above. And if you find things here that are impossible for you, remember that that’s okay. It’s not your job to control your spouse or do things that only God can do. Discontent and contempt are surefire ways ways to do the opposite of cultivating a life together. So don’t go down that road.
Most of these ideas are activities you and your spouse can do to cultivate a life together, but none of them will make a difference if your heart’s not in it. So start there. Pray for help, warm your heart toward your spouse, and take one courageous step towards deeper connection today.