Krista is a writer & coach with a wandering mind & restless heart. She is every day falling in love with moments & lines from her favorite books. She loves daydreaming & getting lost in the woods alongside her dog, Hank, & the man who stole her heart. She is full of sass & sarcasm. She shows love by sharing delicious & healthy foods with friends, family & the occasional stranger. You can find her at kristawinbigler.com.
We were halfway up the side of a lush, green mountain on a rare sunny Oregon afternoon, dreaming up our life together. “I think I figured it out”, I told him. “It’s pretty simple, actually. We make our plans and hold them loosely. And at the peak and in the valleys we always remember that we’re on the same team.”
“I’d add one thing” he said. “Always leave room for God to do more than we ever dreamed.” Moments later, hand in hand, we reached the peak and stepped into the sunshine toward the shore of a fresh water lakereflecting the mountains behind it.
Jeff joined me on what I had planned to be a solo trip because when I booked it, I didn’t even know he existed. So the fact that just a few short months later we were standing together, sharing a moment of silent gratitude and prayer, staring out at beauty that surrounded us and looking back at each other with contented admiration is no small miracle.
Building a strong marriage requires a firm foundation. While I don’t know a lot about building things, what I do know is that foundations are pretty simple. Concrete. Lumber. Screws. The foundation of a home isn’t pretty or sexy or extraordinary, but without it, nothing else can exist. Like building a physical foundation, everything I’ve learned up to this point for building a strong marriage is simple, sturdy, and reliable.
1. Make your plans. Hold them loosely. Dreaming of your future together is both fun and vital. This is something most of us did constantly in the beginning, dreaming of things you’d do, places you’d go, the life you’d build. And sometime after the cake was eaten, the honeymoon was over, and the first and second babies were born, those conversations stopped. Life happened. You became too busy/tired/covered in ketchup and breast milk to even think about what’s for dinner, let alone that trip you promised each other you’d take before turning 40. My grandparents swore by spending time together, just the two of them. To make room for talking and dreaming and sharing. In the middle of a busy life, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time, you were young and foolish starry eyed, naive kids with big dreams. Those kids still exist. And they’re worth fighting for.
2.You’re on the same team. On your wedding day, you left single life behind for better or worse. As beautiful as married life is, it’s also easy to look back and long for the simpler days of singleness. Life with another human being, their quirks and smells and moods is hard. And it is perfect for practicing unconditional, submissive, active love. The world we live in makes it easy to keep score, to give or withhold true agape based on our judgment of whether or not our spouse deserves it. He didn’t take the trash out. Do you slam dinner on the table and sit seething in silence? Or do you pour him a glass of wine and tell him how much you appreciate everything he does for you? St. Paul called men and women to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” in Ephesians 5:21. It’s a concept called mutual submission. I put my spouse’s needs before mine, and he puts my needs before his. Not because I like him, not because Jesus told me to, but because I am reminded of the love with which God created my spouse and allowed me to share a life with him. By focusing on my part of the equation and letting my spouse focus on his, I let go of holding him accountable, and instead focus creating an environment where he is eager to not only hold up his end of the deal, but go above and beyond. Imagine a marriage where you’re daily trying to out love each other. Where you’re daily choosing to be on the same team.
3.Keep room for the Holy Spirit. A favorite line of teachers at middle school dances, the truth extends into our marriages. Jeff and I believe that God used every experience of the 26 years leading up to our meeting to prepare us for the life we are creating together. Every relationship, ever choice, every broken heart was a piece of the journey. While I was in college, numbing a broken heart with long island iced teas on sticky frat house floors, Jeff was studying to be a priest. Anyone who had known the two of us separately in those years would have howled if God had told them his plan for us. “Impossible,” they’d say. Yet here we are, years later. And every day we’re reminded that our relationship is evidence of how much God loves the word “impossible.” So we dream our dreams, submit to one another, and stand back in wonder as God works wonders in and through us.
What makes up your foundation and how is it making for an extraordinary marriage?