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In this fresh, insightful marriage book, Dr. Kim talks directly to couples, showing you that marriage isn’t just meant to make you happy but to make you holy. Over the years, through his ministry, he’s conducted countless couples surveys. He knows what you struggle with and what areas of marriage scare you. He knows what you want and what you don’t want. By looking at 14 major areas of marriage, Dr. Kim shows couples how to stay on the right track. Through chapters on empathy, personal health, conflict behavior, talking, intimacy, sex, and more, you’ll learn how to have the happy, connected marriage you’ve dreamed of.
This book will change your marriage, and it will most certainly change you. If you want to know God and love more deeply in this life, 14 Keys to LAsting Love will show you how to do that.
There are a lot of awesome markers in a wedding ceremony: the groom seeing his bride in her dress for the very first time when she glides down the aisle; the pastor pronouncing them "husband and wife"; the couple, all smiles, walking down the aisle hand in hand to begin their life together. As the couple slips into their "Just Married" car while being showered with rice, all their hopes and dreams lay bright before them. It's a great occasion. It's a time to celebrate. It's the precursor to "happy ever after."
Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord" (NIV). What a great promise! Yet one of the really tough things for me as a marriage counselor is looking at that couple and knowing statistically that they have a fifty-fifty chance of making it. That can feel gut-wrenching.
But as a marriage counselor, I also know that every couple can make it. Not just by surviving their marriage but by building a marriage that thrives. Every couple can have the marriage God designed specifically for them. What does it take? Time, effort, and commitment. And most important? Putting God in their individual lives and at the center of their marriage, where He has to be. And putting their spouse where God wants them to be. The time and effort and commitment are more than worth it.
We will look at 14 essential keys to help you have the marriage you always wanted. This is not a checklist. It is an opportunity to look deep into your marriage and together with your spouse build something step-by-step that you both will cherish. Depending on your life experiences and where you are in your marriage, some of the keys will present more challenges than others. But when you put them all together, you will have created a template of lasting love for you and your spouse.
As we journey through this book, my prayer for you is that you will be encouraged and have hope in what God will do in your marriage. You will meet a number of couples and hear their stories. Some will encourage you, and you will learn from their experiences. Others will sadden you as you see them heading for disaster. But this I know: your marriage will be better and you will be more in sync with God than you ever thought possible. It's time to begin. Let's get going!
Staying on Track:
Commonality and More
Nancy and I were a pretty typical couple when we were dating. We believed we were alike. We were aware that we had some differences, but they seemed insignificant. We were the perfect couple who had it all figured out. Our wedding was just the first step to our "happily ever after." The bubble didn't burst suddenly after the honeymoon. It was more like we let the air out a little at a time. I think we both realized as we began our second year of marriage that we had done a lot to appease each other while we dated and through our engagement. If I wanted to do something, Nancy was on board, and vice versa. We did have a lot of common interests, but we didn't have the same passion for all of them. For instance, I loved ice hockey and Nancy would willingly go to games with me. She even learned the rules and who the players were and took an interest in our local team. We shared a common interest, but this is where the difference came in: I wanted season tickets so we could go to every game. She thought that was a bad idea because there was no way we would go to every single game. Instead of agreeing with my idea that we go to all thirty-six home games, she thought eight or nine a season was a better fit for us. Common interest? Yes. Same game plan for pursuing it? No.
Matt and Christine
Matt and Christine had been married for five years and were searching for a certified marriage counselor when they made an appointment with me. They fell in love in college and continued to date as they both completed graduate school. The week after they walked the stage to accept their graduate diplomas, they walked the aisle in their church to become husband and wife. They took an abbreviated honeymoon because they were both starting new jobs. The plan was to take their extended honeymoon a year later at vacation time. That never happened.
Matt and Christine really cared for each other, and neither was trying to get out of the marriage. They just had very little connection, if any. From the day they met, their relationship was always second to school in the early years and to their careers in the later years. As we talked, they realized their common interest in college and grad school was studying and being at the top of the class. Not a bad thing, but they didn't take time to develop other interests together.
As they opened up to me, they remembered talking together in the first days of their marriage about things couples do together, things they hoped they could learn to enjoy together. Yet, as they got into their new jobs, they both worked more hours than they'd expected, and when they did have free time, it was easier to lounge around their apartment. That list of things they hoped to do was long gone and forgotten until we talked about it that first day in counseling.
Matt and Christine had a void in their marriage. They had no common interests. Their life consisted of work and church for an hour on Sunday (and they both worked from home on the weekends). That was about it for waking hours. This marriage was probably not headed for disaster. Rather it was two people existing side by side with no way of connecting. If nothing changed, they were going to spend a lifetime separately together.
In a situation like Matt and Christine's, there are some major decisions that need to be made if things are going to change. Many couples verbally express a desire for things to be different, but when it comes down to making changes, the consequences of change are more than they want to bear. Matt loved his job. He made really good money. He also worked a lot of hours each week. The same was true for Christine. As we talked, they could see that they had to initiate any changes. Nothing was going to change on its own. They batted around some ideas. They could both work fewer hours and keep their jobs, but they would make less money and probably miss out on the bonuses they had gotten used to. The truth was that if just one of them scaled back, it would not bring the change they needed.
What would you do in their situation? Plan A called for both to scale back work. That meant a monetary life change and maybe even downsizing to a smaller home. Yet it would free up time for them to pursue their marriage. Plan B was to stay status quo. Keep up the work pace. Make more money. Build a bigger house. Accept the fact that their marriage was about as good as it would get. Would you choose Plan A or Plan B?
Janis and David had been married nine years. As they shared their story, they both used the same phrase when talking about each other: "You used to be such a good husband" and "You used to be such a good wife." It struck me: "used to be good." What happened? I looked at David and asked, "What was different for you when you were such a good husband?" He stared at me blankly as he gave my question some thought. His answer spoke volumes: "I used to ask myself almost every day, 'How can I be a better husband to Janis?' I guess I haven't asked myself that question in a very long time."
There was a time in their marriage when being a good husband and being a good wife were priorities. Janis answered my "what happened?" question almost the same way David did. I don't think David and Janis are in this boat alone. If most of us were honest with ourselves, I think we would say something similar.
How many couples hit the ground running trying to do everything they can to be the best husband and the best wife possible? I think most couples could say they start off this way. Then it seems most of us run into a wall. Some hit the wall pretty soon after marriage, while for others the hit comes down the line. Most of us will at one time or another during our marriage. The real problem is not with hitting the wall. It's what we will do afterward. David and Janis never got back on track. They quit asking the question. Their marriage, which started out so well, drifted into a so-so relationship. They never actually fought, but there was a big void that wasn't filled.
Asking yourself every day how you can be a better spouse is a terrific place to start. Asking yourself that question daily and also asking God to help you be a better spouse takes it to a whole new level. It will change your marriage. So you know what drives me crazy both in myself and in others? We find something that works and really makes a difference, and then we quit doing it!
When David and Janis quit asking themselves the question, it wasn't because they had a crisis in their marriage. Instead it was this: One day David didn't ask himself the question. That day the marriage was still good. Then the next day he forgot to ask, and slowly the days began to add up, day after day without asking "the question." This is what usually happens when we get into this pattern. We are not aware of the change in our marriage. We slip apart ever so slowly. We tell ourselves that we have it figured out, our marriage has arrived, and we can slow down. So over a period of time we end up just like David and Janis or Kim and Nancy or thousands of other couples. We start out with great intentions of doing the "right things" and asking the "right question." But we stop when things are good because we think we can coast the rest of our marriage. You know what Nancy and I learned? We cannot coast! Coasting and marriage do not go together. The time we need for working out what it is to be a good husband or a good wife can get filled quickly with something else, and that something else is usually not something bad. It becomes bad when it takes priority over our spouse.
My life and my marriage are better when I ask myself how I can be a good husband and then ask God for His help. God answers that prayer. I get to watch Him show me how much He cares about me and our marriage. There are days when I pray that prayer in the morning and then instead of being purposeful about following through with it, I let life get in the way. But you know what God does? He remembers for me. Sometime in the day I'll get a prompt that I know without a doubt is Him giving me a "good husband" idea. It may be to send a Bitmoji text to Nancy because she loves to get them. It may be doing the dishes after dinner to give Nancy a break. Since Nancy's love language is quality time, it may be setting aside extra time to be with her. God is always faithful to answer that prayer. Doesn't it make sense? He wants you to have an awesome marriage. He wants to answer your prayers that are for your good. Of course He is going to show up.
When was the last time you asked yourself how you could be a better spouse? Whether it was yesterday or so long ago that you cannot remember, why not make it a routine today? While you are at it, why not ask for God's help? Give our amazing God a chance today to shower you with His incredible love!
How Can I Support You?
I've listened to Andy Stanley's podcasts for a number of years, often early in the morning while I work out. I like his style, and he challenges me. I don't always like the challenges though! On this particular Monday morning, I was having a great workout. My run went well and I was pushing through the weights. It was an amazing start to a new day. Then Andy said this: "Ask your spouse how you can help them today." At first I thought, That's a good idea. I know a couple I am counseling who could use that idea. It could really help their marriage. It was about this time I realized that he was not talking to them. Andy was talking to me. So I thought, That is a pretty good idea I can try sometime but not today. I am really busy. Yes, I will be at home working today, but I have writing to do, podcasts to record, and a lot of other things on my Monday to-do list.
A couple of hours later that same morning, I was sitting at my desk in my study, listening to music with my earbuds in and writing. I was in my own world and totally enjoying it. For Nancy, Monday is wash day. She walked through my office from our bedroom with a full laundry basket. For some reason I looked up, saw her, and thought, Andy did not mean for me to ask her that today. A couple of minutes later, she walked back through, and I thought, Yes, he did. So I looked up from my laptop and said, "How can I help you today?" I must not have said that in a long time, if ever, because I got a blank stare back. A long blank stare that silently said, Are you okay? Finally, Nancy said, "I can't think of anything, but thanks for asking." I let out a quiet sigh of relief and thought, That's great. I just made points by not doing anything. That Stanley guy is a genius!
I wanted that to be one of those checklist things. You know: I did it and now I can check it off and not worry about doing it again. That's what I wanted, but that's not what God wanted. I felt a nudge telling me that this was a good idea and I needed to embrace it. As I thought back to Andy's podcast, I remembered what he really said: "Every day ask your spouse how you can help them." Every day!
So now that's what I try to do. You know what? It has made a difference in our marriage, and I don't get the blank stare anymore. Some days I get, "It would be great if you would…" and other days, "No, but I really appreciate you asking." You know what else? I like the difference it has made in me.
What about you? How about asking your spouse today? Sure, it may be awkward the first time. She or he may think you have completely lost it, but you will love the difference it makes in your marriage. Honestly, you really have nothing to lose, and I promise you, there is a lot to gain.
Nancy and I could fill a notebook with the list of things we have done wrong in our marriage over the years. Fortunately, we have done some things right too. One thing we feel has made a difference is the time each day that we set aside to check in with each other. There were years when it was harder to find that time, but almost without exception we found it. Some days it was five minutes, other days thirty minutes or more. Those "thirty minutes or more" days have always been my favorites.
Getting couples to set aside time each day to connect is usually a process. It's not that they say they don't want to or that they have something better to do. Usually the tough part is carving out time and holding it sacred when schedules scream for their focus to be elsewhere. Todd and Jessica had three kids, who were spaced the "perfect" two and a half years apart. Their oldest was ten, then seven plus, and five. My guess is that you can relate in one way or another to their lives. Jessica homeschooled the two youngest, and the oldest was in public school. Todd had a really good job that usually let him be home by five on weekdays and very seldom required him to work weekends. They had recently purchased a new home on a cul-de-sac. There were seventeen kids on their street, and most of them loved to hang out at Todd and Jessica's home. On top of all of those things, each of their children was involved in two outside activities, which usually meant two practices, one game, and one day for a music lesson—times three!
The first time I saw them in my office, I thought, This couple looks really tired. As we talked, I found out I was right. They told me they were tired and that they sometimes felt like strangers, which scared them. Todd said, "It doesn't seem that long ago that we were so connected; and then we had kids." I get that. Kids are one of the greatest blessings that God gives us in our marriages but they are also one of the greatest distractions from our marriages. Todd and Jessica did what almost every couple does as they enter the "raising children" stage of life: they forgot to prioritize their marriage. Connecting before kids had been easy, but now it seemed impossible. Welcome to life in the twenty-first century.
I asked them what they had recently tried. Todd said, "I try to ask her how her day went, but I know she thinks it is because I am supposed to, and usually she is right. I just want to check it off my list, and I almost never hear her response." Jessica said, "When we were close, I felt like I was completely involved in every part of Todd's life. When things went well for him at work, I knew and we celebrated every victory no matter how big or small. Now, since his office moved a year ago, I'm not sure I could find my way there."
As much as you may identify with Todd and Jessica, you may identify with this too: life was not always this way for them. I cannot tell you the number of couples for whom the words "we used to be so connected" are part of their first counseling visit. That's the bad news. The good news is that they know what to do. You know what to do. Connection is not an abstract idea. You used to connect, and many of you did it well. It just got squeezed out with the demands and busyness of life. That needs to stop. Look at it this way: Your marriage is the most important relationship you will have in this life next to your relationship with Jesus.
If your marriage fails, look at the fallout. It will be devastating to you, your spouse, your kids, and on and on. If, on the other hand, you say no to some activities for yourself, your spouse, and your kids, the fallout will probably be zero! When your kids roll into adulthood, what do you want them to remember? A terrible divorce, or parents who made their marriage a priority and thus provided a loving, secure home for them?
The next steps are yours.
- First, find an hour to spend alone together when you will not be interrupted. This is not a "date night" but a "work night," which will lead to more date nights!
- Second, commit to a daily time together. If you can't find more, start with five minutes. The big idea here is to commit.
- Third, brainstorm all the things you did through your dating years, engagement period, and the before-kids time of your marriage that connected you when you were together. Write them down. What will fit into your daily time together? What would be great for future date nights? If physical touch is not on your list, add it. It can be sexual, nonsexual, or preferably both.
- Fourth, don't let anything get in the way. Make these new marriage-long habits.
For Nancy and me, connection time each day is a highlight. It was, and is, something we both look forward to. Our pattern before kids was to spend that time right after I got home from work. Someone told me a long time ago that the way a couple spends the first ten minutes in the evening together determines how the evening goes. I took that to heart. Did that mean that we never had arguments later in the evenings? Not necessarily, but I think there were fewer and they were less intense because of the way we spent our first ten minutes.
When our kids were little, it took more effort and often a little sacrifice. I made it a priority to find Nancy as soon as I got home. Sometimes I was walking with a kid on each leg or one in my arms and the other hanging on. I navigated around toys, dogs, etc., but I found her, kissed her, and asked how her day was. Our connection time during those years came after the kids were asleep. Someone wanted to know if we were tired during those years. The answer is yes, but we realized how important connection was for us. We looked at it this way: we could be rested and disconnected, or tired and connected. We chose tired, and looking back, that was a good choice.
Keys to Commonality
When our marriages get off track and stay there for a length of time, we get in trouble. Getting back on track and staying on track is never easy, but the end result is worth it.
As we complete this chapter, here are some things I want you to think about:
- Do you have common interests with your spouse? If yes, do you enjoy them together? If no, will you commit to working on developing these together over the next month?
- What needs to change in your lives to make room for more "common interest" time together?
- Have you started asking your spouse daily, "How can I help you?" If not, what is holding you back?
- Are the two of you committed to a daily connection time together? Have you started it yet? If not, how about starting today?
Expand your daily time together to include a time for prayer. Don't let this be difficult. Start simple. Decide on one thing you both want to pray for God to do in your marriage. Then pray and ask Him to do that. You can pray silently or out loud. You can both pray or one of you can pray. The really cool part is that you will see God show up. He wants to. When you go daily to Him in prayer together, watch out. Amazing things are going to happen, and you have taken a big step in avoiding a train-wreck marriage.
Wearing Their Shoes:
Even after counseling couples for thirty-plus years, I would never say that I can totally and completely understand how someone else is feeling. As a counselor, I listen well to people, accept where they are, and then help them toward healing. That works well for me at our counseling center. I don't have to put myself in their shoes to be a good counselor.
It's different for me at home. There are times when it is really beneficial to try to put myself in Nancy's place and imagine as best I can how she's feeling. Husbands and wives are different in so many ways. We have different perspectives. Our feelings and emotions and how we respond to the daily pressures of life may also differ. That's the way God wired us. We are different by design. The problems come when we begin to judge each other's differences. We may see the way we feel and respond to situations as the "right" way and see our spouse's way as wrong. That alone will usually cause conflict. There have been times in our marriage when I wished that God had made Nancy to feel and respond like I do. Just another good reason why I would make a terrible god. If we were the same, we would not experience the growth in marriage that these differences give us. I know that over the years of our marriage when we truly embrace our differences, we understand each other better, we grow individually, and our marriage grows.
It seems that most women are more relational than their husband. Some wives are a lot more relational! One of the areas of life where Nancy and I are different is in relationships. I do value my relationships with my friends, and most have been really good over the years. I have some lifelong friends I cherish. The same is true of Nancy and her friends. But we differ in how we handle conflict in those relationships.
If one of my friends says something harsh to me or does not show up when we are meeting for lunch, I am bothered but get over it pretty quickly. I will usually handle the situation by waiting a day or two and then contacting the person to talk things out. There is seldom much emotion on either side, and 90 percent of the time we work things out and are best buds again.
I remember in fifth grade having an argument with one of my really good friends. He wanted to meet after school to fight it out, and I was all in. The school day ended and I waited with some of my other friends on the playground. He never showed. I was elated. A victory by default, and my other friends were there to witness the no-show fight. I got on my bike and, when I was about halfway home, there in the street was my no-show friend with the biggest and strongest guy in our class. The ensuing fight did not go my way because every time I was getting the best of my friend, the big guy stepped in. The fight finally ended with my friend sitting on top of me flanked by the big guy. Now what happened next I think is a great example of male and female differences with relationships. The big guy went home and left us. My friend and I lived close to each other. We began our journey home together. I walked my bike and he walked with me. By the time we reached our streets, we had our arms around each other. We stayed close friends for years.
The first time in our marriage that Nancy was emotional over a relationship with a friend, I handled it like a guy. I said things like, "Get over it," "She's not that good of a friend anyway," and "It's not worth getting upset about." I thought I solved her problem until she said, "You are not listening. I don't want you to figure this out for me. That's not what I need from you."
I give Nancy a lot of credit. She tried to tell me what she was thinking and feeling. I just did not hear her. I was so sure that she was making a big deal out of nothing that I basically ignored her. Honestly, in those early years of marriage, I was a slow learner. It took a long time before the idea came to me that her feelings and emotions and how she viewed situations might actually be valid. I think the difference came when I finally began to listen to her and tried to hear what she was saying.
Today there are still times that I do not get her responses, but I listen better. I consciously try to put myself in her shoes. I ask myself, "What does this situation look like through Nancy's eyes?" and "How is her perspective different from mine?" Those two questions, coupled with taking time to listen and process before I respond, have made a huge difference for us. I can truly empathize with her without judging.
What about you and your spouse? What if you took time to put yourself in their shoes? What if you really listened to them when they were sharing something with you that was important to them? What if you ask yourself how this looks through their eyes? What if you acknowledge that you would handle the situation in a different way but don't judge their way of handling it? It changed so much for me and my marriage. Why not try it?
- "There are few voices I trust as much as Kim Kimberling when it comes to marriage, love, and relationships. For decades he's been teaching us what it means to connect with others, to practice self-giving love in our relationships, and how to do these things through the power of the Holy Spirit. What a gift he's now given us here in his newest book! The wisdom and insight he shares seems to drip off of every page. But these are not just heady, theoretical ideas. These are practical, tangible, do-able things that add value to our lives and the lives of those we love. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough."—Clayton King, teaching pastor at Newspring Church, author of Stronger and Overcome
- "Sometimes the answers you're looking for are far simpler than you think. I love this book because it's so practical, so simple and so deadly accurate. Having been married for over 25 years and in ministry for almost as long, I can see how 14 Keys to Lasting Love can make good marriages better, boring marriages interesting, and even help dead marriages live."—Carey Nieuwhof, Author and Founding Pastor, Connexus Church
- "I felt I was getting the amazing counseling, couching and insight from Dr. Kim Kimberling on every page of 14 Keys to Lasting Love. This book is so very practical and hopeful. Kim is not only a wonderful counselor and leader with Awesome Marriage but has lived out what he writes about with his own marriage and now adult children."—Jim Burns, PhD, President, HomeWord, author of Creating an Intimate Marriage and Doing Life With Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out
- "Dr. Kim Kimberling has written an outstanding book for anyone interested in having a happy, successful marriage. His '14 Essential Keys' are proven fundamental building blocks to a great marriage. Written in a down-to-earth, enjoyable style, the wisdom in this book will truly help you to become a better spouse!"—Rick Johnson, bestselling author of Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half and Romancing Your Better Half
- "Weaving in stories from his counseling practice, Dr. Kimberling provides practical insight for navigating a broad range of issues that impact marriage, including several important ones you've likely not seen covered in a marriage book before! 14 Keys is a great read for any couple, regardless of length of marriage or season, and will serve as a marriage check-up and a conversation starter with your spouse."—J. Parker, Christian intimacy author and speaker
- "As a young bride, I sat on the sofa and cried. My real marriage was not like the movies. We were both Christians and believed God brought us together. I assumed his divine endorsement would make everything easy. But it didn't, and it wasn't. It was hard and
- On Sale
- Jan 8, 2019
- Page Count
- 256 pages