Sometime last year, the Lord stirred me about the institution of marriage. Since Harold and I just celebrated our 47th year of marriage … I thought this might be a good time to share.
Now understand this, I’m not sharing because I think we have a perfect marriage because there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.
As a matter of fact, Harold and I have often been asked to write a book on marriage. But, the longer I live the less I think that I know on the subject.
What works for one couple may not work for another.
That doesn’t mean there are not obvious foundational aspects that all marriages need like love and respect. But those are obvious.
However, there are probably just as many myths about marriage as there are foundations … so I decided to address some of those instead.
Myth 1 You will just naturally get along if you are meant to be together
Even if you know God put you together with your spouse…marriage is and always will be an ongoing effort.
Saying all that … there are certain things that can help a marriage last.
One is our Christian walk.
Our Christian walk should be something we are passionate about because it affects everything we are and everything we do.
Proverbs 4:23 in the New International Version says:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
The New Living Bible translation is even clearer:
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
If you hold something sacred … life is easier if your spouse does too.
And then there is God’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14 which says:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?”
Marriage is hard enough … why complicate it?
However, agreeing on the basics includes such things as not marrying someone who says they want no children and you want a house full.
That is a decision you want to agree on before you walk down the aisle.
Or joining the right wing to the left wing political spectrum does not mean the wings will make the most harmonious flight pattern.
Amos 3:3 says: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
My mother offered me this advice before I got married and it has served me well.
If you can’t change something about him before you get married; don’t expect to change it after you’re married.
Myth 2 One-Size-Fits-All Marriage Counseling
There are lots of great marriage books and marriage counselors in this world but there is one singularly difficult problem. No two marriages are alike.
The best a good counselor can do aside from the basic foundational truths is to help a couple come into agreement on issues they are having.
Salvation is simple … marriage …not so much.
Two people learning to live together in harmony is like losing weight after you’ve already gained 350 pounds. It’s just not going to be an overnight success. And it’s going to take some work!
First you are taking two individual personalities that the Word of God says become one flesh in marriage. In Eph. 5 Paul adds that this is a great mystery.
In Mark 10:8 NKJV says:
“and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
That’s generally where it all starts too … the minute the flesh gets in the way.
Just as it takes time to learn to grow up in Christ when you become a Christian, it will take time to become a couple who learns how to get along with one another … and that only means most of the time.
Ephesians 5 and I Peter 3 both use an analogy of a husband being to his wife as Christ is to the church.
It is really a whole teaching I can’t get into right now … but I want to quote Ephesians 5:29 and 33because it gives some biblical clarity on the approach to a marriage covenant:
“After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—
“…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Let me quickly add: you chose to marry this person… how smart were you?
The rule of thumb for not needing so much help in marriage is to go to God immediately and let the Holy Spirit lead. The closer you both get to the Lord, the more successfully you will be with each other.
Galatians 5:16 NKJV says:
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Myth 3 Marriage is 50-50
That is one of the biggest myths of all. Marriage is definitely not 50-50 … it isn’t normally 100-100 … it’s more like 1000% … on both sides.
Giving is big in the kingdom of God and so is it in a marriage.
I can hear someone say right now saying what they think of “give and take”…
“Yay, I do a whole lot of giving and then I have to take a whole lot of mess.”
Proverbs 17:9 says:
“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
There’s really no one closer to you in life than your marriage partner.
Proverbs 17:19 says:
“He who loves a quarrel loves sin. He who builds a high gate invites destruction.”
Do you know why a high gate invites destruction? It’s because if you get angry enough to start shutting your spouse out … that stronghold will be used to divide and conquer your marriage.
Proverbs 20:3 says:
“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
Keep in mind, Proverbs 17:3 says:
“If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house.”
Sweeping things under the rug will not solve problems. If you have a legitimate concern, it should be discussed.
You might even have a time picked out when you do something together … either read the Bible or have a short devotion. A time that nurtures your growth together in the Lord.
He is the greatest focal point you have. That way if something needs to be discussed … you can speak the truth in love. Just be careful to choose your battles wisely.
Here are two ways this helps:
- If you are used to a time to talk and get before the Lord, you are already in the mindset of bringing issues before the Lord.
That keeps you from saying the deadly words: We need to talk. That is almost a guarantee to raise the walls or head for the hills.
- Don’t make that time just before bed unless you really don’t want to sleep that night.
Okay… enough of that.
One marriage axiom you used to hear and maybe still do and that is opposites attract! And yes, God was in that … not the devil.
It may surprise you … but this is for your benefit.
You do want to have things in common.
But usually one of you does one thing well while the other person does something else well…and it all gets done in the end.
It can also mean you balance each other out.
If you’re blessed, one is pretty good with money and the other one is not. Think of the train wreck when neither spouse is good at handling money.
Usually one person is good at making the other person do something they don’t want to even though they know they should.
As long as both of you are not having an off day…you both win.
[[for instance/ visiting sick relatives---or making memories in the snow]]]
Serious issues need to be addressed and not ignored but the point is to fight fair.
Sometimes a compromise can be reached if one of you feels more strongly about one issue and your spouse on another. Maybe you can make a tradeoff.
Neither of you will be right on every issue which is a sore spot to the one who isn’t on any particular issue.
James 1:19 in the New International Bible offers excellent advice:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I’d recommend if you practice this with anyone…you owe it to your spouse.
Myth 4 Love is the same thing as commitment
If you expect to wake up every morning madly in love, you can forget about getting married. Marriage requires and is … so much more.
Proverb 20:6 says:
“Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?”
Faithfulness, trust, commitment are words that just begin to scratch the surface in describing marriage.
I heard once that you can’t even begin to know your spouse until you are married at least 10 years. That is fairly accurate assessment in my book.
After ten years you’ve learned a few things about the guy or gal you married. But, just as importantly, you’ve learned a whole lot more about yourself which is really the key to any successful relationship.
You can love ice cream. You can love flowers. You can love your car.
But there is a difference in loving your spouse.
One flesh does not consist of two halves. It is when each person has a whole lifethat they commit to each other.
An example: When your wife or husband does something really stupid and you’re willing to stand up for them or even make an excuse for them … you can say you really love your spouse.
Marriage begins when you look beyond their fault and want to meet their need. That is true love.
People ask… how do I know if it’s true love? Is it because you just love being with them? I’d say it’s more when you don’t like being without them.
Commitment is tackling a problem and solving it together no matter whose fault it is.
It’s when they are lost … and you want to be their found. And when you’re lost … and they want to be your found.
Commitment is loving another like God loves us in I John 4:19 in the Contemporary English Version
“We love because God loved us first.”
When someone loves you in spite of yourself… that’s a commitment of love.
Myth 5 “If he/she would just change” things would be better
I could literally preach a whole sermon on this one subject.
This is probably the first and foremost perpetrated myth of all time.
It is a rabbit trail that leads no nowhere.
It is a dead end and a black whole all wrapped up into one.
First, we live in an imperfect world. Not only is nobody perfect but nobody will ever be perfect. Perfection is not attainable …instead we can only strive for excellence.
We aim for the moon so we can at least land somewhere among the stars.
Yes, we can make somebody do what we want … but we cannot change them.
Either they must change themselves or God can change them … no one else can. Proverbs 17:14 says:
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam. So drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Women or men have been searching for the perfect mate since Adam and Eve.
They lived in a perfect environment and look what happened to them.
A woman once told our Pastor son that she was looking for her Ken. So he said to her, “I guess you’re working at being a Barbie then.” That stopped her in her tracks.
Everyone wants what they want in someone else…but they’re not usually looking at what they might have to do to attract such a guy or gal.
Therein lays the problem.
In addition, we need to grasp the realization that men look at things differently than women.
The devil loves this but God uses every lesson for our good, I promise. Of course, we are not fond of the lesson because that means ‘we’ have to change first and we are certain it’s not our fault … it’s that ‘husband’ or that ‘wife’ that I have.
As Adam said long ago in Genesis 3:12:
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Being an effective Christian helps in marriage because it takes the focus off that threesome that causes us our biggest problems: “me, myself and I.”
Let’s face it …growing up is just not that much fun.
I clearly remember being newly married. I had just become a Christian too so I wanted to bless God with who I was as well. My husband had a habit of taking his undershirts off and leaving them inside out.
That meant that every wash day I had to turn them right side out to fold. I could have left them inside out which I suppose would have been one way to solve it but I thought. I know he’ll want to do it for me if I ask him … so I did.
Next washday …every undershirt was still inside out. So I asked him again. He seemed willing but the next wash day … guess what? Every undershirt was inside out.
Somewhere along the line this little voice inside me came to the conclusion… “if he loved me, he wouldn’t turn his undershirts inside out.”
Let me tell you something ladies…just to make a long story short. Turning his undershirts right side out for me…did not compute with my husband’s brain. When he undressed, his mind was on everything BUT undershirts.
You can say it’s the principle of the matter or you can make it the principle of the matter but what is at stake here? An undershirt? Socks on the floor?
Maybe when you drive your car,your mind is just on groceries or the kids or getting to Bible Study… and not on your gas tank.
So you husband asks “Don’t you ever realize you are driving on empty? What are you trying to do run out of gas on the side of the road?” He can’t understand it because it’s the first thing he looks at when he gets in the car. It’s the last thing for us ladies.
Men and women think differently.
Everyone has things that just don’t seem to blip across their particular radar.
An end note because I know someone is wondering out there…Yes, I might find some inside out undershirts but who cares any more, my thinking grew up.
Myth 6 You don’t need to work so hard once you get married
Sometimes when young people and some …not so young people … get caught up about the urgency of getting married…once they find their ‘true love’ they think “now I can relax.”
That is like thinking “now that I’m saved” everything is going to be easy from now on.
Neither could be further from the truth. Once you are married …once you are saved…that is when the work really begins. I say that in the nicest way.
In marriage that is when you begin building a life together. Goals and dreams don’t just happen … they are planned and worked for. Proverbs 24:3-4 says:
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare treasure.”
Myth 7 You will eventually agree on everything
Did I not go over perfection?
A sign of maturity is learning to roll with things. Maturity is also recognizing what is really important and just ignoring the superficial things like how the toothpaste is rolled out.
Affection is better than perfection.
Who in the world has ever agreed on everything except the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
After a while … and sometimes a long while … you learn to accept certain things are not going to change…. Does a successful marriage mean your spouse has to think exactly like you do?
Or can you come to an agreement on the most essential things that mean the most to both of you? Like your children’s well-being?
There are certain things you can compromise on. If you like the beach and he likes the mountains, maybe you take turns choosing a place to vacation. It’s not life and death where you go on vacation.
Speaking of life and death, there’s also Proverbs 18:21:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
We hear the first part quoted a lot …but the last part deals with the consequences of our words. Proverbs 17:27 says:
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”
That is obviously talking about women too.
James Chapter 3 has a lot to say about “the tongue.”
In that chapter it says that if you can control this small but powerful member, you can control the rest of your body.”
So the essence of this chapter is really about self-control.
You know…also known as one of the fruits of the spirit that we are supposed to be applying to our lives as Christians.
Courtesy begins at home. One of the Life-Application Bibles we sell says, “Think of words as gifts that we give to each other.”
You may think you are totally right … I don’t know maybe you are … but let me add in this last Proverb for you to consider.
Proverbs 16:2 in The Living Bible says:
“We can always “prove” that we are right, but is the Lord convinced?”
To end this teaching I put 5 things to think about:
- What you feed lives and what you starve dies. Are you feeding the right thoughts about your spouse?
- If courtesy begins at home. Do you treat your spouse with more courtesy than you would someone you meet on the street? I suggest you start with please and thank you.
- If you feel your marriage is struggling, try taking your hands off so God can put His hands on.
- Learn to laugh together. Laughter does wonders.
- Ask God to show you ways you can strengthen your marriage.
He wants your marriage to work…we have to do the work.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS