Every three months, I replace my tube of mascara. It’s what the “experts” recommend, but even if that was not set as the recommended lifespan for the mascara, I would know the time had come. An evening rolls around when I cannot wait to remove my eye makeup. Almost inevitably, that evening falls right around the three month replacement point. My eyes automatically give me the signal that a change needs to be made.
Our marriages offer the same signals, some warning signs and some positive signals.
We are probably more familiar with the warning signs. Many pages have been written, talks have been given, and hours of counseling have been devoted to the red flags that arise when we are choosing actions that can lead to tension, distance, or even infidelity. But, there are lesser signals as well. Little things that alert us to ways we can daily act to avoid issues, meet needs, or find precious moments in our marriages. I could make a list of those signals, just as the books and lectures make lists of the marital warning signs.
If I made a list, though, it would be for my marriage. For my situation.
Each couple and family has their own rhythm and flow. We have things that work for us that will not work for you, and vice versa, so my list might not help you notice your signals. What I will do instead is share a few thoughts that might help you notice both the positive signals and the warning signs.
Probably the best thing you can do as a couple is come together on a regular basis, probably as often as once a week. I’ve shared before why my husband and I have date night every week, but this is actually something different. This coming together is more to take a few minutes and make sure you are on the same page. Take a look at the planner. Walk through the calendar. Just chat for a moment about expectations and desires for the coming week.
Not only does this exercise ensure that you are on the same page schedule-wise, it also lets you know what’s on your spouse’s mind this week. You will see where his priorities lay and what’s on his mind. By paying attention to those little details, you can then notice warning signs of stress, signals for finding those sweet memorable moments, and ways you can encourage and strengthen him in the coming week.
Share Prayer Requests
It’s amazing how praying for one another brings little signals to light. It might even help you both see something you would not have otherwise noticed. It is one thing to pray for our spouses on our own, knowing the ways we need to hold them up before the Lord without even asking. But by asking them how we can pray, we get even more insight into what is on their hearts and minds – and discover little ways we can encourage and strengthen them through the week.
How many times do you say something in passing that you don’t want to make a big deal about, but you still wish someone would just notice? Now, turn that around. How many times does your spouse say things like that? Sometimes, the signals can be picked up simply by listening. Truly listening.
Is your spouse especially clingy this week? Or, perhaps a little more energetic than usual? Maybe there’s a restlessness in the air, or possibly the clutter of life has just gotten to be too much. We often notice attitude shifts and think something is wrong. Believe it or not, more often these shifts simply mean that there is a special need that day. An opening to provide a little more attention. Give extra snuggles. Make space in your schedule. Put a little bit of energy into making one area of the house look special. Make a surprise dessert or plan an out-of-the-ordinary dinner. Don’t always assume an attitude shift means there is a problem. Instead, consider it to be a signal – then choose how to determine what is being signaled.
Signals are precious components of marriage and family. May you notice beautiful signals as you go through your life this week!