About three years ago I got laid off from a job that I absolutely loved. I could have sat in that chair doing that work for the rest of my life and been very happy.
It hadn’t been easy managing the care of three children while my wife and I bothworked full-time, but I really loved the work. It was completely fulfilling.
But then I got laid off.
The severance package I received included a class on resume writing, job interviews, etc. The resume tips were useful, but the most helpful part of the class was a little flier in our folders that discussed the emotional state of the person who just lost their job.
This little sheet talked about the need to take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually. But it also stressed the importance of taking care of your relationships–like your marriage.
To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about how my marriage would be affected. But this little flier got me thinking, and it began a journey that continues today.
I started making more of an effort to maintain and improve my marriage. I read several extremely helpful books. (See below for a list of those books.) And, most importantly, I prayed – a lot!
A recent New York Times article discusses the stress that long-term unemployment can do to a marriage. Although the article focuses on money-related issues, it has a lot of very helpful suggestions about making your marriage better.
After 16 years of marriage, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier about the state of my marriage.
Here are a few of the things that I tried. I feel they really worked.
Communicate. I made a conscious effort to communicate more often and about more things with my wife. Whether it was where and when I was going somewhere, or what I was thinking about my job search. I just started being more communicative. It wasn’t easy at first, but I think I’m getting used to it.
One book helped a lot in this regard. It’s called The 5 Love Languages. It made a huge impact on the way that I communicated with my wife, because it helped me discover what made her feel loved and how she could best understand what I was saying. You can read the book – or at least take the online quiz to find out the best way to communicate love to your spouse.
Take time off. I made an effort to take time for my marriage and myself, instead of spending every waking moment caring for the kids and looking for work. My wife and I started taking walks at night. This eventually developed into a near weekly “date night” – when we’d get a babysitter and go out, just the two of us.
Pray. I started getting up early (like 4:30am early) to read the Bible and pray. I tried to place God and Christ at the center of my marriage. This made a huge difference in the way that I behaved, which in turn affected the way that I treated my wife. Now when I read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4-6), I ask myself if I am treating my wife according to the guidance in these chapters. When I read St. Paul’s guidance for husbands to “love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), I asked myself if I was properly loving my wife and giving up “myself” for her.
None of these things were easy – or are easy, since I’m still working on them. But they made a positive difference in my marriage and in my own mental health. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been happier!
What things have you prayed or done in your marriage that has improved it? How have you changed your behavior toward your spouse or changed the way you think about your spouse? I’d love to read your comments and suggestions down below.
Other resources to consider
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary D. Chapman
(There’s an editions for kids and a really helpful one for teenagers!)