Cruise control is a great invention. Think about all the advantages: you don’t have to worry about slowing down when you spot a cop shooting radar, you save money on gas by increasing fuel efficiency, and—with your foot hovering over the brake as you drive—you are more prepared to react to a changing situation on the highway. Yes, cruise control is a great idea for a car, but not for a marriage.
After you’ve been married for a while there is a tendency to put the relationship on “cruise control.” We think, “Now that I‘m married, I can focus on other parts of my life.” This may take the form of job immersion and advancement, making sure the bills are paid, or all the stuff that the kids are involved in. Like driving in cruise control, it is critical that we still pay attention to the road ahead of us, and not be distracted by the sights and sounds of life around us.
If you have been in cruise control for a while in your marriage, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to get back on track. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Pray Together Every Day. One of best ways not to cruise through your marriage is to pray together—even if just for a few minutes—every day. Prayer is both the gift of grace and a response that takes effort on our part. Jesus promises us, “All that you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and it shall be yours” (John 14:13). God knows what we need in our married lives as husbands and wives, and He grants those prayers that will help unite our wills to His. Persistence in prayer is critical because we don’t serve a “fast food” God. God the Father answers our prayers in His time and the timing of God is always perfect. Persistence in prayer—in seeking and knocking at the door of His divine providence—is necessary if God is to truly be the heart and soul of married life.
2. Utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our faith as married couples should encourage us to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness: to come before Him and say, like King David, “My offenses, truly I know them. My sin is always before me, against you, you alone have I sinned. What is evil in your sight, I have done.” Armed with the weapons of prayer and fasting we rend our hearts, turning back to our gracious and merciful God who restores us to life.
God’s love is so immense, His power so limitless, and His embrace so tender and intimate that Love Himself brings forth life. God has created us as husbands and wives in His image and likeness, and He has written His law of love and life into our very being. God invites us through His only Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to draw deeply from the wellspring of salvation. He calls us to works of mercy to show that we love Him as much as He loves us. Seeking forgiveness from God is the gateway to seeking forgiveness from your spouse.
3. Talk Openly About Money & Finances. I’ll be honest: when my wife and I discuss financial issues, I will often say, “Since I’m paying for this, this and this, I should make the decisions.” Quite frankly, I am guilty of not always taking into account the many sacrifices my wife has made over the years in our marriage and recognizing her equal contribution in the decision-making process.
Turn off the cruise control by talking about your finances regularly and openly: how you both view money and how it should be spent. Most importantly, listen to your spouse! Don’t get into bad habits: make some money ground rules that determine spending limits. Establish a realistic budget and stick to it. Be disciplined and learn to live within your means. You need to work together and remember that you are a team when dealing with finances, and that compromise is sometimes necessary.
4. Go on a Date Night At Least Once a Month. It is so important to find quality time just for the two of you. I know couples that have been married for over thirty years and are now divorced because the cruise control was on for way too long. It is essential that you and your spouse spend time talking about the ebb and flow of your relationship as it moves through time; how the two of you are growing and changing over the course of your marriage. It will be difficult not to talk about the kids, so do that first and spend the rest of the time talking about your marriage. Dinner and a movie once a month is a small investment that will pay big dividends down the road!
On the highway of life, marriage is much more like a winding road consisting of many twists and turns than a straightaway. On life’s road, cruise control simply won’t work. Instead, spouses must navigate together and develop a spirituality within their marriage that attests to the truth that God is love, and that He calls all husbands and wives to live in personal, loving communion with Him. This will not always be easy. It will take work! Married couples should take solace, however, in the fact that they have God’s grace (much better than cruise control!) to help them through the most difficult times and the toughest challenges. With the Divine GPS in control of our married lives we will never lose our way, for union with God forever in heaven is our ultimate destination and goal.