I will admit to feeling totally out of my league in addressing this subject. There are so many people out there who are called and anointed to minister on the subject of marriage. Besides, if I said everything that could be said about marriage, this would become a marriage blog -- it would be all I would have time to talk about. I am just going to hit a few high points, and give you some sources that will do a far better job with this subject than I could.
In listening, watching and counseling with couples over the years, it seems that most marital issues fall into 3 main categories: Money, Family, & Sex. You may be thinking, "No way. It can't be that simple!" And then you might start listing some issues: My in-laws keep butting in and trying to tell me how to raise our child. (Family) ; My husband is addicted to pornography. (Sex) ; My spouse won't listen to me/ stays at work all the time/ hangs with the guys. (Family -- it's a little more obscure, but the spouse in this situation is not stepping up to his/her responsibilities regarding the family) ; My spouse thinks tithing is not for today, but I believe in tithing. (Money) ; My spouse is too hard/ too soft with the kids. (Family) ; My wife runs up the credit card with stuff we don't need, stuffs them in the back of the closet and lies about it. (Money & family). The list goes on and on. If you focus your attention on learning what the Bible says about those 3 areas, you will be way ahead of the game.
While you are looking up scriptures on Money, Family and Sex, here are
5 Things to Strengthen Your Marriage
1. First and foremost, keep your relationship with the Lord strong. He will help you overcome any situation you may face. Following His Word will help you keep your flesh under and respond in a loving way that can actually diffuse conflict. If both you and your spouse are growing in the Lord, you will find that you are growing toward each other. Picture a triangle.
You are on one bottom corner. Your spouse is on the other bottom corner. The Lord is at the high point. As you grow toward Him, you will move up the sides of the triangle. As you do, you will automatically grow closer to each other.
**What if your spouse isn't interested in the things of God? Well, it is going to be more difficult. The burden of walking in the light of the Word will fall to you, but the Bible teaches us that by our example, we can win our spouses. Stay sweet and gentle. Live in a quiet and Godly manner. Whatever you do, DO NOT NAG or preach at your spouse. They are very unlikely to be able to receive it from you. You will inevitably drive them further away from the things of God. Instead, go to your private prayer place and pray the Word over them, but say very little to them about it. Let the Lord deal with them the way He sees fit, and leave it in His hands. Fellowship with them over any common ground you may have and above all, LOVE them. Treat them as you would treat Jesus if He were in your home.
2. Treat your Spouse like company. You know how you behave when company is coming over, right? There is a mad scramble to get the house ready for them and to prepare good food for them. You get out of your bathrobe or sweat pants and put on clothes you look nice in. You even make sure your hair is combed, your nails are clean, and your armpits don't stink. And once they arrive, you go out to greet them. You don't burp at the table or chew with your mouth open, you don't call them names or ridicule them, but treat them kindly. You don't ignore them or turn up the volume on the TV when they speak to you. You actually carry on a real conversation with them. You work to try to make them feel comfortable and at home.
Imagine with me for a moment what your home would be like if you treated your spouse (and your kids!) with the same forethought and respect you show to company? Do you think it would make a difference in the atmosphere of your home? Do you think your spouse might want to spend more quality time with you if you were busy building them up when they were with you?
This one thing alone would revolutionize most marriages and most families -- just learning to treat each other like company. Instead, a vast majority of spouses quickly begin to take each other for granted. (Parents also take their kids for granted, and then wonder why their teen doesn't want to talk to them... Just saying...) Spouses stop doing the things they did for each other when they were dating. They begin to speak derogatorily to each other. They don't bother to greet each other when they come home. Instead of focusing on the needs of their spouse (like they would focus on the needs of their visitors), they begin to focus on their own needs -- He doesn't do XYZ for me... She doesn't treat me with respect... He doesn't treat me with love... Etc.. When you were dating, you very likely spent a lot of time thinking of things to do for your honey. You spent extra time making sure you looked and smelled good. You said nice things to each other. Where did that go? What is stopping you from doing it now? Don't let a silly little thing like personal pride keep you from having a good marriage.
3. If you want intimacy and romance, Clean Up. You wouldn't think this would need to be said, but if you want intimacy and/or romance, you should take a shower. Seriously.
Guys, no matter what she says, no woman really wants to smell you after a brisk game of basketball. And she will be a little (lot) grossed out by the food in your teeth and the dirt under your nails. And that t-shirt that doesn't quite cover your couch-potato belly? It's gotta go. At least it does if you want her to respond to your advances. I know you're home and you want to be comfortable, but nobody should get that comfortable.
Girls, as cute as you may think your sweatpants and bunny slippers are, it's probably not doing it for him. Especially with that slimy green facial mask and those rollers in your hair. If you want him to get romantic with you and not just jump straight to the punch line, you need to look the part. I'm not saying you need to look like a Hollywood movie star -- I'm just saying you should do what you can with what you have to work with. Some things are not meant to be shared. Green facial masks are one of them. Do that stuff when he's not looking -- give him the illusion that those things just take care of themselves. Keep at least a little mystery. And all those immodest clothes that no discreet woman should wear -- that's what he should be seeing instead of the green mask and bunny slippers. Just make sure he's the only one seeing it. (And all the husbands said, "Amen!")
While we are on the subject, over-familiarity breeds contempt, they say. I personally believe that if you want to seem sexy to your spouse, they shouldn't have to watch you..um..do your business. Sorry, but there is just no way that's sexy. It's just too much information. Let them reserve the image of those body parts for things that are a little more fun. 'Nuf said.
4. Never say "Never". There are few things that you can say that do more damage than the "never" word and the "always" word. Do you know what I'm talking about? You get frustrated and say, "You never take the trash out." Or, when your spouse shuts down and refuses to talk during an argument, you say, "Errgh!! You always do that!!"
Why are these words so damaging? 2 reasons.
One, saying these words communicates a complete lack of faith in your spouse. You are telling your spouse, "You're behavior in this area totally frustrates me and I don't believe you have what it takes to change it. You will always be this way."
Two, you are prophesying over your spouse's future. You are predicting what you think the outcome will be, and the prognosis isn't good.
Neither of these reasons are fair to your spouse. With those two little words, you drive a wedge between you, because it is hard to emotionally trust someone who has so little faith in you. You tear down your marriage block by block, and you use your own mouth to do it.
Learn to fight fair. Speak your mind, but do it with respect, kindness and faith. If you are getting too frustrated to keep your mouth under control, it is time to step away for a breather. You, your spouse, and your marriage are worth the self-control necessary to fight nicely.
5. Get a reality check on what Real Love is. If you are wishing your spouse would treat you like the latest Hollywood Heart-throb, you are going to be disappointed. First of all, let me remind you, that person you saw in that movie or TV show wasn't real. He/she was portrayed by an ACTOR. They get paid to ACT -- to make you believe they are someone they are not. In real life, they don't behave that way. It isn't real. You cannot look to entertainment to get a model of what real love is. If you do, you are destined to be disappointed.
So what is real love, then? And where do we look to get a model of it? I am so glad you asked.
Real love is not a feeling. A feeling is fleeting. You can feel all kinds of wonderful, lovey things one day. The next day, when you realize you missed a bill, you haven't brushed your teeth yet and the coffee pot quit working, you may not have such great feelings. People "fall-in love" and then "fall-out of love" just as quickly. Then they "fall-in love" again with someone else. If you base your marriage on something as fickle as a feeling, you are going to have trouble. That isn't real love. That is lust.
Real love is a decision. When you said your marriage vows, you said "Till death do us part." There wasn't a clause in there that said, "or until I no longer feel for you what I feel on this day." Real love is a decision. My husband was preaching on Sunday and got off on this. He said, "Lust is the gratification of oneself at the expense of another. Love is the gratification of another at the expense of oneself." In other words, Lust tries to get what it can get; Love tries to give what it can give. So if you are thinking, "Why doesn't he/she do this for me? Can't they see...etc., etc...", you are on the wrong side of this equation. You are seeking to get what you can out of the relationship rather than trying to give to it what you can. That is the way down, my friend.
Where can we find this kind of love in our society? Well, I admit that it is rare. But there is a place we can look that gives us a wonderful picture of what real love looks like. I regularly look here to see how I am doing:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails....
-- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)
The Bible says that God is love -- and this is the kind of love He is. Aren't you glad? Because if He was the Hollywood kind, we'd all be in trouble. And the more we conform to the image of this kind of love, the better our marriages and families will be. This kind of love is patient when your husband forgot your birthday -- again. This kind of love is kind when your wife is PMSing and it's obvious. This kind of love doesn't keep a record of every thoughtless or unkind thing your spouse did so you can bring it up in the next fight. This kind of love doesn't seek it's own justification, needs or even to be understood. It seeks to understand, and to meet the needs of the spouse. This kind of love protects the reputation of it's spouse by covering their faults and not correcting them in public, or telling it's friends about the spouses faults. This kind of love perseveres through the tough times. This kind of love hopes in the spouse, against hope. This kind of love doesn't keep a checklist to make sure the spouse is operating in this kind of love, too. And this kind of love never fails. It never fails to make a difference. It opens hearts that were closed. It strengthens hearts that were already open. It never fails.
There is so much more that could be said about marriage. Like I said in the beginning, if I tried to say it all I would need to make this a marriage blog. There are some wonderful resources out there, though, that are committed to helping you make your marriage the best it can be.
A book I highly recommend is "Marriage on the Rock" by Jimmy Evans. Of all the books I have read on marriage, this one is definite a favorite. He speaks with compassion and understanding to both the husband and the wife. I frequently recommend this book to those seeking to get married and to those who are married.
There are also a lot of good resources on Jimmy Evans' website, Marriage Today.
If you are ready to get the slack jerked out of your chain, go to Faith Life Church and listen to their Marriage Enrichment seminars. Just go to the page and scroll down until you find one. There are several, and they are free. It's a life altering experience.
And of course, there is nothing so good and true as the Bible. Three wonderful passages to start with are 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-9.
May the Lord continue to bless you and your family!
This will conclude our little series on dating & marriage. I hope you have found something helpful in it. I'm thinking about doing a post called, "Help! I married a Minister." What do you think?