Marriage is Work!
“And they lived happily ever after!”
Well, not exactly.
Somewhere between “lived” and “happily” a lot of work transpired. The bride and groom didn’t just ride off into the sunset living a life of smiles and dreams come true. Matter of fact, in my own marriage we hadn’t ridden five miles into the sunset before one of us was cranky and complaining that the sun was too hot.
Whenever you’re attempting to merge two identities into one unified team, it takes a lot of giving and dying to self from both parties to get to that “happily” part. But it can be done.
I’ve been married, mostly happily, for twenty-three years and I’d like to share a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned along the way that may help other couples find lasting joy in their marriages.
Image courtesy of wifebot on flickr
Happiness in marriage begins long before you stand at the altar exchanging vows.
It starts with choosing the right person.
Don’t settle. Don’t compromise. Don’t yoke yourself with anyone who isn’t loving, kind, caring, and full of integrity.
Take time to get to know the person well. Get to know his or her family and friends. Watch how he or she handles crises, disappointments, the unexpected. See if you share common values and a similar way of looking at life. Watch how he or she treats you and others.
Make sure you’re marrying your best friend.
Image courtesy of mags20_eb on flickr
When we got married, we made sure that one word was in our invitation and used throughout the ceremony. That word was covenant.
We understood that we weren’t entering a contract or an arrangement; we were entering the covenant of holy matrimony, an institution ordained by God, not by a government.
From day one, God has been the center of our marriage and family. We not only invited Him to our wedding, but we’ve communed with Him every day since we said, “I do.”
I honestly don’t know how any marriage makes it long term without God as the central focus.
I know people say that marriage is a 50/50 relationship. That’s not true. A happy marriage requires a 100% commitment from both parties.
You have to enter marriage knowing that you need to give 100% toward the union whether the other person does or not. It’s not a give and take. It’s give and give and give some more.
Marriage is a sacrifice, a dying to self. It’s no longer “me,” it’s “us.”
Don’t allow thoughts or talk of divorce to enter the relationship. Commit to one another for a lifetime and learn to work out differences instead of running from them.
Image courtesy of Elle F Designs on flickr
When you get married you commit yourself to one other person and everybody else is secondary. Don’t let people ruin your relationship.
Leave and cleave. That’s what the Bible instructs in Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (NIV)
When you get married you leave the family of your youth and create a new family unit. You can still have close relationships with your parents and family members, but they cannot be a part of your marriage.
One of the best things that my husband and I did when we got married was to live far from our parents. We couldn’t run home when the going got tough. We didn’t phone our families every time we were upset. We had to learn to work through things together.
But parents aren’t the only people who might try to butt into your relationship. Friends can do the same. My advice: Ditch any friend who cuts down your mate or doesn’t encourage you in your marriage relationship. You only need people in your life who are going to encourage you to go the distance with your spouse.
Finally, don’t let outsiders into the marriage. Past relationships are just that—in the past. You don’t have any business courting old flames in person or online. Avoid flirts, don’t be swayed by flattery, and run from anyone who toys with your emotions.
Image courtesy of Kate Raynes-Goldie on flickr
When I first got this book I assumed I knew what it would say. I was so wrong! Stormie Omartian shares candidly about the difficulties in her own marriage and how she learned to pray for her husband. It turned out to be a real eye-opener for me as to how I should and should not be praying for my own husband.
Talk about things. Make big decisions together. Clear the air when needed rather than pretending like nothing is wrong or sweeping issues under the rug. Learn to respectfully disagree and let the other person have an opinion.
Practice James 1:19-20 (NIV): “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."
Don’t fight over money. Stay out of debt. Decide together how much to save and spend or which one of you will handle finances.
Learn to forgive and forget. I look at it this way: Wake up every day and offer your spouse a clean slate. You may have thoughts or memories of ways you were wronged the day before, but when the new day starts take an eraser to your mind and wipe the slate clean. Let your mate have a fresh start with you each and every day.
Image courtesy of creative commons on flickr
Relationships die for lack of nurturing. Regularly fertilize your relationship with quality time.
Even when life is busy and you have kids to tend to, make time for dates.
Find activities that you enjoy doing together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. My husband and I really enjoy traveling and hiking together. We also like to work out at the gym and watch movies together on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
Build relationships with other couples too.
Get involved in worthy causes together. We’ve always been a part of a church family where we’ve served together in numerous capacities, everything from greeting newcomers to taking care of babies in the nursery.
Have fun! Life doesn’t have to be so serious. Learn to play together.
My husband and I read Bob Yandian's One Flesh fairly early in our marriage and we were both amazed at the unique insights he offers concerning marriage. Pastor Yandian presents the biblical plan for love and intimacy in marriage in a way that is transparent and refreshing. My favorite part of the book is when he shares about Bathsheba and the verses in Proverbs 31 that talk about a godly wife. I won't tell you what he said, but you'll never look at Bathsheba or those scriptures the same again after you read it.
My husband learned early in our marriage that I’m a much better wife, mother, and person if I regularly spend time having fun with my girlfriends. From day one, he’s encouraged me to get together with my friends and has taken care of the children so I could do so.
On the flip side, I have no problem with him going out with the guys to attend sporting events or do other manly things.
We both need other relationships beyond just the marriage.
It’s okay if your spouse doesn’t do everything with you or wants to have healthy relationships with friends. It’s okay if you don’t spend every waking moment together. Allowing one another to have freedom can actually make the marriage relationship even stronger and more appealing. But nobody wants to live in a jail so don’t make your husband or wife feel like a prisoner of your love.
Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland on flickr
Marriage is a good thing, a God thing. It’s not meant to be a ball and chain, but a source of strength and joy. By showing a little respect and kindness to one another and sticking it out through everything that comes your way, you will discover that the “happily” ever after part can be achieved.
If you would like to learn more about love and marriage, visit my Pinterest board called "Love."
This leaf was written to help couples who desire to strengthen their marriage. If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek help and put the safety of you and your family first.