I turned 50 this week. The first word that comes to my mind is “old,” and when it doesn’t come to mind, my kids remind me! I didn’t want a number to mess with my head, so I decided to do something about it. I got myself a personal trainer and joined a “real” gym. Although I had been eating relatively well and visiting my old gym on a regular basis, I’d gained a few unwanted pounds and my fitness level had plateaued.
Working with a personal trainer is teaching me a lot about my strength and overall health. He’s been invaluable to set–and reach–new goals. As I take hold of lessons about fitness, I’m realizing I’m learning about other parts of my life as well. I’m thinking differently about business, personal development, and my spiritual life. In particular, I’m taking a fresh view about marriage. Here are a few lessons from personal training that are growing my marriage relationship:
It’s easy to get comfortable.
I thought I was doing well for almost 50 by eating decently and visiting the gym several times per week. But the truth is, I had gotten comfortable. I was working just hard enough to feel good about myself. To take my fitness to the next level, I would have to put in more effort.
I do this in my marriage, too. After 28 years together, it’s easy to convince myself I’m doing well. On really good days I even convince myself I’m doing better than most. In reality, I get comfortable. I quit asking Where can I grow as a husband? In what areas have I stopped pursuing my wife? Can I do more to speak her love language this week? How can I make our marriage better? I settle for “fine” instead of doing all I can to grow closer.
My personal trainer works out muscles I didn’t know I had. It was tough and uncomfortable at first, but now I’m seeing results. In my marriage, I need to take an honest look at our relationship and work the “muscles” I’ve neglected. If I carve out time and energy to take our relationship to the next level, the payoff will be worth it.
I can’t go it alone.
I thought a personal trainer was an expensive, unnecessary, and frivolous venture. Yet it didn’t take long for me to realize it was a wise investment. I’d never have moved forward without help from someone who’s overcome on his own journey toward health and fitness.
You and I can do the same in our marriage relationships. We convince ourselves we don’t really need help. Counseling is too expensive or inconvenient. Confiding in a mentor or godly friend is embarrassing. Asking for prayer or insight feels like a sign of weakness. Yet getting real about your relationship’s struggles is a sign of strength. It says your marriage is worth the investment of attention and care. You’re putting your priorities in the right order, and you’re fighting for your wife’s heart. Welcoming an outside perspective will take you further than you can go alone.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Change takes hard work.
I went into my first training session with blind optimism. Ignorance really is bliss. If my goal was to turn pale and lose my lunch, my first visit was a huge success! Since then, I’ve had days my trainer knew I had lots to give. In other workouts, all I could celebrate was showing up. There are no shortcuts–change only happens through consistent hard work.
In marriage, it takes effort to reach the next level. I have to be humble to own my failures and push through brutally open conversations with my wife. Some days I’m confident to give it my all. In others, the best I can do is show up and try. If we both know we’re sincerely working and trying to grow, we can give each other grace. We celebrate progress instead of perfection. Our commitment to do whatever it takes to move closer together stands, year after year.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Fear is the enemy.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What is holding me back from making changes in my life?” I had a lot of excuses for choosing comfort over change. It was all wrapped up in fear and “what ifs.” What if I look like an idiot? What if I spend time and money for nothing? What if personal training works, but I end up quitting and losing all I worked for? Fear is our greatest barrier to positive change in any part of our life.
My personal trainer challenged me to face my fears and doubts. Today, I’m asking myself a whole new kind of “what if” questions. What if I feel better at 50 than 40? What adventures can I look forward to if I’m healthy and strong? How can I use my energy to serve God and my family? Overcoming fear has been a game-changer in my hopes and goals.
The same is true in my marriage. I have to ask myself what kind of “what ifs” dominate my thinking. Fear of rejection will keep me from pursuing her heart. Fear of conflict will keep me passive instead of dealing with our issues. A fear of intimacy will make me cold, distant, or superficial. Instead, I want to ask, “What if I step up to meet her needs? What if I share what she means to me? What if I lead the way in making our relationship a priority?” Today I’m challenging you and me to go to our wives and ask what fears or negative what-ifs are keeping us from a closer, growing marriage.
There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)
You never arrive.
One morning before meeting with my personal trainer, I texted Joanna that I thought it was time to stop. After all, I’d lost almost 20 pounds. I had several workout plans in my pocket to stay busy for a while. I thought our budget could use a break. Fast-forward a couple of hours, and my trainer said we were going to try something new. What I expected to feel easy or familiar made me feel like I was starting from day one. That workout exposed weak muscles I didn’t know I had. Once more, I was forced out of my comfort to tackle a new challenge.
I struggle with that in our marriage, too. After a relational breakthrough or resolving a tough area of conflict, I’ll think I can go back to life as usual. Yet this important relationship will always require more from us. We’re continually peeling back layers to understand each other more deeply. Old hurts or patterns rise up, demanding we repent, forgive, and make a new way forward. I have to resist the tendency to go passive or lazy instead of putting energy into “us.” While we see growth in one area, we find another needs work and attention. I need to press on for change and growth instead of settling for less.
Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)
Make time to rest.
I used to judge a workout by how hard I pushed myself. My trainer taught me that while I needed to give it my all in the gym, rest was a crucial part of building muscle and burning fat. My body needed time to recover or all my efforts would be wasted.
In marriage, I can become busy working, achieving, and moving all the pieces of our busy life. I can expend so much energy on self-improvement that I forget how important rest is for our relationship. We need to create space to simply enjoy one another and the life we share.
We can fall into treating our marriage like a project instead of two people who love each other. A little fun and romance go a long way to build closeness. Kicking back to relax and unwind eases the stress. Laughing and celebrating life’s milestones lightens the mood and softens our rough edges. Balancing the hard work of learning and growing with rest allows lasting change to happen.
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink
and find satisfaction in their own toil.
This too, I see, is from the hand of God,
for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
Positive change is contagious.
I signed up with my personal trainer because a good friend had already found success at his gym. Once I started, my wife watched me ache and struggle to climb the stairs to the shower after workouts. She wondered why I would do that to myself! Yet in time, she saw great improvement in my weight, energy, and mental clarity. She decided she wanted to join in the crazy with me, and she signed up with my trainer too.
A happy, growing marriage gets attention. The way you love your wife gets noticed. While other relationships are falling apart, the ones who thrive stand out. If you put intentional effort into a loving, lasting marriage, your friends and family will be encouraged by your example. You’ll be able to share what God is doing in your home.
Your marriage can make an impact on the lives you touch around you. God says he “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) If you invite God to help you in the work of transforming your marriage, he’ll use it to build others up.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Success in any part of life is no accident. I wasn’t going to build fitness by sitting on the couch. I won’t grow my marriage by a few flowers on Valentine’s Day and ignoring “us” the rest of the year. I’m grateful God challenged me to step up, kick fear to the curb, and put more energy into my relationship with Joanna. We’re excited to see what he holds in store for us as we grow together.
As you pursue a closer marriage with your wife, we offer a variety of resources to help you grow stronger together: