Today, guest blogger (and my dear friend) Natalie Cheek shares her insights into "making love last". We've been friends for a long time...even before any of us were married (Kris and Matt were roommates in college). I can tell you first hand that Kris and Natalie have always been on another level when it comes to relationship management :) I have always admired their ability to keep the flame alive and I asked her to give us a glimpse into the "workings" of their love life. There are so many great tidbits in here...I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Tell about your relationship with Kris.
From the beginning, I learned that life with Kris would be an adventure. God has made him to be a man who pioneers new things. We have started a sports ministry, been youth pastors, and have become church planters. Through all of this, he has never taken the easy way. :)
He is a visionary, dreamer, and a "doer"...and our life is definitely NOT boring! I have come to see that I was made perfectly for Kris because I love change (which happens often in our life!). I am flexible and willing to go wherever God is calling us.
Kris and I are getting ready to head out on a date tonight. He got us a babysitter, made plans for the evening and asked me to be ready at 5:30. He did all of this because over the past 11 years of our marriage, he has discovered that I feel very loved when he makes the plans and I get to be "taken care of". And likewise, I have learned that Kris needs and wants to be respected.
There have been times where this has gotten out of balance. For example, Kris making plans for us where I would have preferred to be consulted or me not taking initiative when he needs help. As we have been intentional in our communication with each other, we really try to "hear" each other and learn the other person's personality, preferences, and needs. I didn't believe it could be true, but I love and feel loved more today than 11 years ago on April 22nd, our wedding day.
I've always admired your commitment to Kris as his help mate and encourager. Has this always come easy for you? What or who has encouraged you in your roles as a wife and mother?
Kris is a very strong leader, as any one of his friends or co workers will tell you :). My father was the same, and I loved and admired that in him. As I prayed for my future husband in college, my top prayer was for a man who would be a leader. Isn't God awesome?!
But, I have also always struggled with rebellion...so sometimes I get very defensive when Kris offers "helpful critcism" or when he asks (aka "tells") me to do something. I am learning that two people can hear the same words very differently. When Kris says, "we need to clean the house" I hear, "you are not doing a good job at taking care of our home". What he really means is, "we need to clean the house". Ha! :)
I am a stay at home mom and homeschooler, but I love to be creative in finding ways to think outside my 'mom' role to be encouraging to Kris as his wife, lover, and friend. However, I have found myself overwhelmed with all that needed to be accomplished in a day, nevermind being sexy for my husband!
One thing I learned from a dear friend was to ask Kris this question:
"What two things would make you happy to come home to at the end of the day?"
For some husbands it would be dinner on the stove, a clean house, clean children, or soft music. It could be anything. For Kris, it was:
- A wife who had spent time with the Lord.
- A wife who had taken time to exercise to stay in shape.
I can do those things!! Kris understands that the house will not always be clean and sometimes I will totally forget about supper, but now I know how to make him feel loved.
This year we have started reading a couples devotional together. We haven't done this since the first year of our marriage! A lot of it feels very elementary, but they are all things that are good to revisit or think about in a different way. We recently read a devotional on affirmation...and it was titled "Never Enough". As we talked about the idea of affirming one another and what made each other feel affirmed, we realized it truly is "never enough". So just when you think you have served, encouraged, loved your spouse to the limit. Do it again!
What do you and Kris do to "keep the flame alive"? Date nights, vacations, etc...
Ooooh, this one is fun! Kris was ultra romantic and creative when we were dating. Moonlit picnics in a gazebo with our own personal waiter, a car full of balloons and love notes written all over, my bathroom cleaned (which my roommate was supposed to have done), and breakfast waiting for (with him already gone). IT WAS GREAT.
Then we got married and had an awesome first year (and I'm not just saying that!) :) As time went on, we kept the flame alive with regular date nights, sweet notes, and many fun activities. But then real life started to crowd in. Kris was working as a youth pastor and we were starting a sports ministry, SportReach, from the ground up. On top of that, I was finishing up my degree.
One lonely evening, I called my mom to whine and wail about how "this life was not what I had signed up for!". I wanted to be the center of his world, but I felt like a bistander. She gave me the best marriage advice I have ever been given. She said,
"Make him supremely happy."
What??!! You must mean for me to tell him to make ME supremely happy, right??!!! Nope. She asked me to take two weeks and try every day to do at least one thing that would make him supremely happy. I made his favorite meal. I bought him a little something when I went shopping. I told him how great he was. I took him on a surprise date. Yes I did.
And as I started taking my eyes off of myself and all my supposed "needs", a crazy thing happend. By the middle of the second week, he was doing the same for me! At the end of two weeks, I just had to tell him about my little experiment.
He told me he knew "something" was up and that it was fantastic! So now, 11 years later we still occasionally ask eachother, "How can I make you supremely happy?" And even hearing the question makes me feel loved all over.
I know you and Kris do counseling for other couples...what do you see as the biggest problem couples are facing today?
By far the biggest issue is selfishness. Just like I talked about, when I got my eyes off my own needs and truly loved him unselfishly, things changed. We have counseled couples rocked by adultery, pre-married couples, and couples just wondering if this is all there is to marriage. And truly, once they get their eyes off of themselves and ask God to give them a new love for their spouse, and start serving them no matter how they feel at the moment...things always change for the better.
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for a happy marriage and happy home?
- Work towards making each other supremely happy! It comes back to ya!
- Make lots of time for each other on a regular basis! We go on a date EVERY week and take turns planning the date. We both like surprises, so almost every date one of us doesn't know what is going to happen. We just tell the other how to dress and when to be ready. It's so fun! We also try to take a getaway three to four times a year. We don't have a huge budget, but it's a big priority for us so we make it work no matter what.
- Find out how to love each other best. If Kris did stuff around the house all the time but never took me out on a date, I would not feel loved. Giving me just one gift makes me feel more loved than him cleaning all the bathrooms!
One of the biggest benefits about all of this is that our children see it. Our kiddos know beyond a shadow of a doubt that mom and dad love each other and love to be with each other...and that is good. They feel really safe knowing that mom and dad are together and working to stay that way forever.
What is YOUR best advice for making love last?
Natalie lives in Longmont, Colorado and blogs at A Joy-Full Life. Get over there and show her some love! :)