10 non-sexual touches a day.
It’s one assignment my husband gives to married couples who are struggling.
10 non-sexual touches a day. For some couples, it’s a steep challenge that takes hard work, like rusted-over gears that haven’t cranked in years. For others, after a few days or a week of practice, it starts an avalanche of touch that leads to healthier affection and connectedness. The old familiar flames start burning.
This one assignment reminds us all: you can fall in love with the same someone all over again.
I think it happens in a hundred little moments throughout the day. Teeny-tiny decisions snowball and, over time, change the way we feel, think, and behave. The 100 little daily choices in marriage are where we decide:
Am I going to LEAN INTO this relationship, or TURN AWAY FROM this relationship?
Today I want to ask you to consider the significance of the little moments. Neither a strong, godly, go-the-distance marriage, nor adultery, happens in an instant. Both are the outplay of hundreds of little, daily choices.
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” (Luke 16:10)
I’m reminded of a story: a group of Christian leaders sat around the table, ready to begin their annual organization meeting, when one of them asked about a prominent man who was missing. Another responded, “What, you don’t know?” Voices gasped and heads hung as he told about the absent man’s sexual sin that had been discovered just a week before. The man’s home life, church, and ministry had been wrecked.
After a few moments of stunned silence, one man softly spoke,
“When he fell, he didn’t fall far.”
What he meant was: no one goes from a full-on pursuit of holiness and Christlikeness into full-on deviant sexual sin. The minister’s final “fall” didn’t go from not-at-all-sinful to full-on adultery. It happened in small increments, and led to the wrecking of his entire life.
Over time, the small steps (whether steps of obedience or sin) lead to big-time results.
It’s true for all of us.
Song of Solomon 2:15 warns about “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Little things get in and mess up what is good. The little choices can destroy your marriage.
Little choices come each day:
- “friend” an old boyfriend on Facebook, or decide to never even click on his profile picture.
- silently walk past your husband in the kitchen, or reach out and touch his hand or lightly scratch his back as you pass
- listen as your child complains about food, or teach them to be respectful because your husband works hard each day to buy that food
- after the kids go to bed, automatically head to the kitchen to do dishes while he relaxes on the couch, or sit down next to him with your hand on his thigh
- reach for a hug from an overly-affectionate man at church, or not
- focus your mind on what he’s not doing in your home/marriage, or focus on what he is doing in your home/marriage
- sit separately on the couch while you watch a show, or move over and snuggle while we veg out
We try to convince ourselves that a little curiosity about an old boyfriend won’t lead anywhere… that physical space between us isn’t so terrible… that a little complaining about the budget won’t wound his heart… that a little ranking of chores above connectedness won’t lead to staleness in the relationship.
But the little things add up.
“Little” arguments, “little” flirtations, “little” moments of self-indulgence– these truly can lead to massive, life-wrecking, church-splitting, marriage-destroying sins.
On the flip side, growth toward a decades-strong marriage is the result of seemingly-small decisions.
- The wife who texts something encouraging to her husband toward the end of his workday sets the stage for a pleasant evening.
- The woman who overlooks a fault and chooses not to gossip about her husband’s weakness to the ladies’ Bible study group is choosing grace and respect over “venting,” and that choice will play out over days and decades as her attitude toward her husband (and other people’s opinions of her husband) grow stronger rather than weaker.
- The wife who notices that her husband needs a refill and snags it while she’s in the kitchen will, over time, reap the benefit of a well-cared-for marriage, and her children see an example of diligence in relational upkeep, and minor ways of caring for one another.
The little things we do matter.
These little things will make a difference for where we are when we reach the final day of our marriage.
4 thoughts on “One Hundred Little Choices in Marriage”
Great article. Wondering if you could tackle one day how to talk to your husband about what’s wrong in the relationship without being cruel, just constructive? I try to be as thoughtful as possible (leaving little notes in his bag, sending letters instead of emails when we’re long-distance, or even packages) but he never acknowledges, answers or reciprocates so these gestures make me so discontented. Should I pursue this or just give up so at least I don’t feel resentful?
Sara, I was just thinking about starting a new monthly mailbag feature, answering questions like this in a scattershot style. I think I’ll add yours to the growing list from this month and include it there. Thanks for your question.
My short answer is: don’t do things that cause you resentment, but do what you can do in kindness, obedience, and faith with a right heart attitude. Don’t do things to get a certain response, but rather, do them because they are the right, loving thing to do. Examine your expectations and your heart as you do them, and do them in faith, not in expectancy.
I decided to come back and reply here:
First, yes, I think you should not do these things (like writing notes/sending packages) that you end up resenting. Given what you have said here, the expectation you have of acknowledgement or reciprocation is setting yourself up for resentment. Most men are never going to be regular letter or note writers. If you can do these things with ZERO expectations of reciprocation, then do them, and be glad to have done them. If not, stop.
Now, as far as talking with your husband there are a few key principles to think about:
WHO- Who is your husband? You know what sorts of things push his buttons. You want to choose your method, time, and approach based on who your husband is. Some husbands wouldn’t mind a serious convo in front of the kids; others would… that sort of thing. Know your husband.
WHAT- Make sure you’ve been sober-minded in your assessment of what’s happening. Avoid extreme comments like “always” and “never.” Don’t just go off of feelings, but be ready to share some examples of what you’re talking about and would like to see change. Be ready to ask questions like, “are there ways I could help you do this better?” “Are there things that I’m doing that make this worse?” If it’s something sensitive (like problems in your intimate life), you need to be very tender and respectful even while bringing concerns. The more sensitive the topic, the better it is to consider, in advance, things like exact wording, ways to soften the sting of it, etc.
WHEN- Do not have a sensitive conversation when hackles are already raised about something else. So, no “well while we’re on the subject…” or, “that reminds me!” 🙂 Nothing like that. Choose a time, if you can, when things are fairly smooth. And consider asking in advance. “Hey, there are some things I’ve been thinking about and want to sit down and talk about with you. Could we do that Thursday after the kids are in bed?”
HOW- Your method is going to depend on your man. I don’t mean that in a manipulative way but in a wise way. Consider how he hears things. Consider how your comments will come across. Consider what things you need to confess and repent of. It shouldn’t be cruel in any way, but it can be direct.
One last thought: Consider your end goal. Where is it you really want to end up? Communicate with that end in mind… not just what you’re disappointed about, or not getting, but “how can we get there, together?”
Use even this time of conflict as a way to build up your “oneness” and seek to grow closer together. Conflict is a time when we can choose to turn away from the relationship or lean INTO the relationship. Take the opportunity and lean in. And, if you want to, come back and let me know how it goes!
Ohhh your timing…. are you spying on my home life? 😉 haha. Good stuff.