Tom and Judi Furio had been married 7 years when the stresses of family life began to take their toll. They would walk through the house speaking to their 2-year-old, but not to each other.
"Like 2 roommates who shared a son," described Tom. "We discussed things, but not on a deeper level."
Divorce was never an option, but they had slowly drifted apart from each other.
Like many married couples today, the Furios lost the spark, and didn't know how to regain it.
Divorce is epidemic in our society, and happy marriages are rare.
So how do couples keep from drifting apart?
When Cru founders Bill and Vonette Bright were celebrating their 50th anniversary, someone asked Bill, now deceased, for marital advice.
"Love Christ with all [your] heart, soul and mind," Bill said. "It's important to know you're going to live biblically. Then it's 'till death do us part.' You can decide to have a happy marriage or a miserable marriage.
You can get upset when things go wrong or you can give thanks in all things. And you work at it. I am determined to make Vonette the happiest woman in the world."
A few years before Bill's death, he and Vonette were scheduled to speak to a group of students. Vonette's prior appointment ran late, so Bill addressed them alone. He recounted about when they started Cru almost half a century earlier.
Then he stopped mid-sentence and stared at the auditorium entrance, like an adolescent spotting his crush. He stuttered briefly, then apologized and said, "A beautiful woman just walked through the door. This is my beloved Vonette."
She beamed as she joined him at the platform.
In his anniversary advice, Bill cautioned, "It's not just a matter of what I can do to please Vonette -- which is a great desire of my heart -- but what can I do to please our Lord?"
The Brights got on their knees together every day and prayed. That's unusual, because only 4 percent of Christian couples actually pray together regularly, according to the book, When Couples Pray Together, by Dave and Jan Stoop.
The Brights said that praying together brought unity and intimacy to their marriage.
Ways to Keep the Marriage Bond
Some people feel disconnected from their spouses and need ideas of how to bond again.
Below are a few ways to keep a marriage from drifting or to renew the love affair of one that has.
Remember the old times. Read old journals or love notes and reminisce about the days of your courtship -- what drew you to your spouse.
Call to mind the romantic dinners, laughter, inside jokes -- all the things that caused you to fall in love.
Write a list of all the qualities you appreciate about your spouse. It's easy to spot what bothers us; focus on the positive instead.
Maybe play for your spouse one of the songs you used to listen to as a couple, and read the list of what you admire about him or her.
Communicate effectively. The book Preparing for Marriage offers questions and anecdotes, advice and wisdom.
Though geared for dating and engaged couples to understand the ingredients for a healthy, happy marriage, it also can sharpen current marriages.
Since conflict inevitably arises in any healthy relationship, good listening and speaking skills are essential for fighting fairly.
Dennis Rainey, director of FamilyLife, a subsidiary of Cru, who edited the book, suggests that couples focus on:
"What is being said rather than how you feel about what is said.
"The way it is being said: tone of voice, poise, posture, etc. rather than the words only.
"Clarifying valid points rather than defending incorrect accusations.
A helpful clarifying question for the listener could be:
"What did you mean when you said ______?"
And summary questions might include:
"Of all that you just said, what do you most want me to understand?"
"What do you need from me most right now?"
These help resolve conflict quickly, or even keep it from happening. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us not to let the sun go down on our anger. Otherwise bitterness can set in.
Once an issue has been worked through and you have reached a peaceful resolution, don't bring it up again -- verbally or in thoughts. "Love keeps no record of wrongs" (I Corinthians 13:5b, New American Standard Bible).
Date your spouse. Dating couples often write love notes, surprise each other, buy flowers and go to parks, plays and dinners.
Just because you've decided to live with this person for the rest of your life, it shouldn't cause you to stop or slow down.
My mentor in college and her husband set aside a date night every week together. They guarded that evening carefully, and made no other commitments. Then they would take turns planning creative activities like picnics, games and scavenger hunts.
The Furios, who felt like roommates living under the same roof, heard on the radio about a FamilyLife marriage conference called "A Weekend to Remember." They signed up.
It, along with resources they bought there, like the HomeBuilders Couples Series®, small-group Bible studies for couples, helped transform their marriage.
"The most powerful lesson I learned was that my spouse was God's gift to me," explained Tom.
"I thought, 'OK, so if she is God's gift to me, she must have more value than I have been giving her.' How could I reject God's gift?"
Now they talk to each other. They're more than just 2 people who share a house and child. They share a deep, connected love.
God's plan is for marriages to work, because they mirror our relationship with Him -- deep, unified and real.
When we live God's way by making Him first in our lives, we better appreciate the gift He gave us.
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