This was originally published in the "Salt & Light" column of the Intertown Record.
Sometimes the simplest advice really is the best. I personally have heard (and given) all kinds of marriage advice over the years, some of it more helpful than others. I have read dozens of books on the topic, yet I keep coming back to one phrase that has helped me more than probably any other. Before I share it with you as well I will warn you that it may sound rather simplistic, but if you take it to heart you will see the beauty that it contains.
The writer of Proverbs 5:18 lays it out simply - "...rejoice in the wife of your youth." In the original language it is clear that this is an imperative - a command for us to actively and tenaciously seek out delight in our spouse (although originally written to a husband, it works for wives as well!). This is not the waves of feeling that come over us in the honeymoon phase, but rather a decision of the will to seek out and remember the most admirable aspects of our covenant partner at all times, especially when our feelings aren't there yet. This is more than just sticking to a commitment we made in earlier years, it is a fight to keep an impassioned affection by seeking out and choosing to focus on the best of our mate. And those thoughts of delight are the fuel for actual feelings of delight that come along as a bonus.
What happens when we take the passive road and ignore this counsel? The drift of human nature is to forget and to take for granted the good, and to dwell on the negative. As the old saying goes, "the grass is always greener on the other side", so our delight tends to wander to other things and to other people. The killer, of course, is the comparison game - "why can't he/she be more like ___?" That is a sure recipe for discontent that will sap your own joy and will unintentionally sap the joy of your spouse as well. The choice to rejoice will instead strengthen your own satisfaction, and just may awaken the delight of your beloved toward you as well!