What makes a marriage last, grow, and filled with love?
My first response would be a mutual commitment to God and one another, and yet sadly statistics would not back that statement up. Recent surveys show that divorce is just as high in the church as outside the church. And I know plenty of Christian marriages that are not filled with a growing, deeper love for one another.
So what IS the difference?
Keith and I have talked quite a bit about this because we have often been asked how we have maintained such a good, solid marriage. What have we done to grow deeper in love? What have we learned or done along the way that has helped us, not only stay together, but grow together? As we've pondered those questions I believe God has give us insight to share.
First of all it IS all about having a commitment to God and one another! Unfortunately today many do not understand commitment or keeping a promise. So even to use those words sometimes it loses the depth of the meaning. I personally like to use the word covenant. We are in a marriage covenant with one another and God. A covenant that says I will stay beside you, love you, and encourage you no matter what life may bring. It says we are one and nothing but death can separate us. Keith and I decided very early in our marriage that the word divorce or separation would never be an option, we would always work through our differences.
A covenant marriage is about serving your mate, being Christ to them. Putting their needs above your own. It's about praying for one another and with each other. Learning to laugh together. For more on Covenant Marriage click here.
Communication is huge. Learning to talk heart to heart openly and without fear is so important. We talk and talk and talk through those things that we are struggling with. We share our hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures and sin with one another. My husband is not always good at this, and doesn’t really like to talk on about emotions. He often likes to keep things inside, which is total opposite of me who will often just spill it all out. So I patiently taught him how important it was. (OK! OK! sometimes I wasn't so patient) but the point being that we can teach one another what is needed. I was able to, over time, teach my husband it was okay to talk about emotions. And he has taught me that sometimes we need to just let each other process our thoughts and feelings before spilling out all our emotional stuff!
Be content with your role in the marriage. I, as a wife, have learned to be joyful and content in my role as his help meet. Yes it was a long process to get here, and yes, there are days I struggle. But quite honestly the days I fail, the days I try to "rule the roost" I have gone to God and my husband to ask for forgiveness. But I have learned that while I can have a voice, I can have an opinion and I can make decisions God has placed the husband with greater accountability for our marriage and I need to respect that.
Keith has learned to love, cherish and lead our family. But please hear me on this, our husbands will only lead when we let them. I hear so many women complain that their husbands don't lead. My question is always, "Are you letting them?" Ladies we need to be obedient to God and allow our husbands to lead, even if that means letting him fail. God will deal with his heart. God will mold him into the man He desires. I can not be the Holy Spirit in my husbands life. I can not change him, only God can. And like wise Keith has learned that only God can change me. So we have given each other room to make mistakes, to fail and allow God to do a work in us and through us.
Be best friends. I know that seems so elementary, and easy. But we must realize it doesn’t just happen. We have to spend time together, quality time. We have always made family time and couple time a priority. Many couples do well with family time to only fail at setting time aside for themselves. Couples need to continue “dating” throughout their married life. Often those who do not put time into their marriage find that when the kids are grown and gone there are two strangers living in the same house.
Recognize that marriage is HARD work. A good marriage doesn't just happen, you have to work at it. It has to be important enough to you that you are willing to sacrifice daily for the continued health of it. You can't let your children, your parents, or your girlfriends come before your husband. After God he is your first priority. God gave me to my husband to be his help meet and that means to come along side him and help him.
Realize there is no thing as a perfect marriage or perfect husband/wife. We realize that neither of us are perfect, so how could we have a perfect marriage.But we have made our relationship to one another a priority over every other relationship. We have worked hard at it, and not given up. We have stood in the mud together (and most likely threw mud at each other) but then we both help with the clean up.
My husband and I both are committed to our Lord and I know that your circumstance could be different making it more difficult. But as a Christian wife we are still called into obedience to God regardless of whether or not our husbands are Christians. You can read more about this here or here.
Of course there is so much more I could share practically on how we can do these things, but it would be a whole book!
You might also enjoy the story of how we met here.