My car only ran out of gas once. I was in college and working two jobs, and saw stopping to refill my tank as a huge inconvenience. Hence, it’s no surprise that one day my little Toyota Corolla ran out of juice. The gas light had blared warnings for days and I hoped to make a pitstop at home before filling up. A few blocks from my house, the car sputtered and I coasted to the side of the road. Thankfully, I didn’t have pressing plans and was in a safe spot, otherwise it could have been a real ordeal.
As I’ve matured, I’ve managed to avoid repeating this calamity—even beating the warning light to the gas station on occasion. But it’s much easier to find myself low on fuel in other areas of my life, especially when it comes to my marriage.
Like anyone whose been on this glorious journey of matrimony, we have our ups and downs. Some scenery is bright and cheerful while other locals we hope to pass quickly. In His clever, poignant, and often humorous way, God uses this visual of fueling a vehicle to point out potholes and dangerous pitstops in my marriage.
Readjust Your Expectations
Think back to when you got your first car. Mine was a $900 tic-tac-box—aptly named for it’s red interior and outdated features—and I loved it. This vehicle represented freedom, independence, and the life I always wanted. But when the newness wore off, it was just a car.
Married life is wonderful. But for all it’s perks and charms, and the wonders of your most intimate human relationship, it’s still just a marriage. I’ve learned how easy it is to place inappropriate expectations on my husband. Seeking for his affection and approval to validate me, and his demeanor to set my mood. Not only that, but I expect him to do crazy impossible things—like wanting my $900 car to one day turn into an airplane. As great as he is, my husband can’t read my mind, interpret my every mood, or control the circumstances in my world. To expect such things leaves me with a never-ending void.
We must not rely on our spousal relationships to fulfill us. My husband may bring rays of sunshine into my day, but he can never be my sunshine. Our identities remain firmly planted in Christ. Through God alone do we find our purpose, our sustenance, and our deliverance.
How are you measuring your journey?
Once upon a time, I attributed the success of a drive by how many tasks I accomplished along the way. I ate ninety-percent of my meals behind the wheel, returned voicemail messages, memorized scripture, and even changed clothes while traveling from one event to the next. Disclaimer: these are not recommendations. If it seems like your marriage is running on empty, consider what you’re using to measure your journey.
- Is your satisfaction based on a comparison to others’ relationships?
- Do you appreciate shared experiences, or are you more focused on a running checklist in pursuit of your next destination?
Marriage may be a challenge, but it isn’t a race. Instead, measure the growth of your marriage by how far you’ve come. By the memories you share, the hurdles you’ve overcome, and the maturation of your intimacy.
What kind of fuel are you using?
Have you ever put diesel in your gas-powered vehicle by mistake? Thankfully, I’ve never made this catastrophic blunder, but I have tried to use hand-wash only dish soap in the dishwasher—a story for another time. I’ve noticed the difference though in the occasional high-octane fuel as opposed to regular grade. Here’s the main distinction based on my limited understanding; premium grade fuel is less likely to self-ignite and burns more evenly under harsh conditions, offering better acceleration and a higher power output.
What kind of fuel are you investing in your marriage tank? Are you putting in things incompatible with God’s design for marriage—such as envy, selfishness, or strife? Or is it acceptable fuel, just at a lower quality than you give to other areas? When I find myself prone to self-ignition in my thoughts, words, and actions towards my spouse, it’s likely I’ve been investing less than premium grade effort in building our connection. The harsh conditions of life are when we need the best stuff. That’s not the time to struggle along near empty hoping our relationship somehow refuels and improves on it’s own.
So what is premium fuel to your marriage? Here are just a few suggestions:
- Catering your actions to speak your spouse’s love language.
- Training your thoughts towards your spouse with Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
- Prepare your heart and mind for time together. Don’t just fall into it at the end of the day with no energy, be intentional about investing in your connection.
- Talk about your cares and concerns, and make time to commend the positive attributes in your spouse as well.
- Make time for fun. Sure, talk about the kid’s soccer games or your work schedule. But also allow time to enjoy life, even if it’s for a quick walk or quiet cup of coffee before the crazy of the day begins.
Do you wait until the relationship is running on empty before remembering to refuel? I’ve been guilty of this more times than I like to admit. Life’s busyness keeps me distracted and before I know it, I’m feeling the pains and sputters of relational disconnected. A quick fuel check reveals an unfortunate missed-turn on one of the detours I mentioned earlier. Avoid these nasty roadblocks by refueling often. Give your marriage the good stuff, not the leftovers or barely enough juice to make it to the next pitstop. God didn’t design our marriages to run on fumes.
I encourage you, if you find your marital relationship running on empty, make a pitstop. Readjust your gauges and recalculate the route if needed. Let’s get your tank back up to full and flourishing!