A beautiful bride walks down the aisle, radiant in beauty and wearing a magnificent white dress. Her family and friends look on in delight and hopeful admiration—this is the day when she will be joined in marriage to the love of her life. The couple stands before the pastor with stars in their eyes and vow exclusive devotion to each other above all others, and commit, “till death do us part.” Fast-forward nine months and we’ll often find an altogether different scene. This same woman shouts at the top of her lungs, “You’re always leaving your stuff all over the house! Do I need to give you a map to the laundry basket?” Her husband, the one who stood at the altar confessing his undying devotion, shouts back as he slams the door in her face, “screw you, I’m going to the bar!” What has happened? Why do couples go from starry-eyed lovers to enemies, and how can we create thriving marriages that last?
The Right Atmosphere
Look around you. Of the ten people you spend the most time around, how many are couples with strong and healthy marriages? We make small choices each day, such as who we spend time around, without realizing how these choices significantly affect our outlook, worldview, and habits. If the people around you typically belittle and mock their spouses, this will begin to seem to you to be normal and acceptable behavior. Over time, speaking negatively about your spouse will start to program your brain to think less of your spouse. Conversely, spend time around couples who speak well of each other, and you’ll start speaking more positive, and begin thinking more highly of your spouse. When you recognize how wonderful your spouse really is, you’ll appreciate what they do more, and you’ll naturally give them more praise and affection.
What we’re really talking about here is creating the right atmosphere. When godly people spend time around each other and living out the Lord’s way day by day, it creates this incredible atmosphere that lifts each and every person. We strengthen and challenge each other to reach greater heights, and we make excellence the norm. It’s a beautiful and constant growth process, and it’s how those wise and loving couples who’ve been married for 50 years became what they are. Brick by brick, step by step, getting around other winners and creating an atmosphere for everyone to build a thriving marriage.
Making the Time
In addition to getting around credible leaders, it’s important that we make time to enjoy our spouse. With work, kids, the house, friends, and getting involved in the community, it’s really easy to let activities and commitments take over your calendar. While these things are all good things, if they cause us to neglect our spouse, we’ve traded the great for the good.
A wise friend taught me the following great habit: once a day, once a week, once a month. Once a day, kiss your spouse. And I don’t mean just a peck—it had better last more than 20 seconds. Once a week, spend time together talking (while looking directly at each other and not doing anything else). And when your done talking do something fun just the two of you. Go for ice cream, play a game, have a cup of coffee and recount fun stories. Once a month do a real, extended date. Dinner and a movie, or take her to a show she’ll like. Or maybe have a picnic at the park. Be creative, be romantic, and make it fun!
The Third Cord
The final piece is by far the most important. Think of your marriage as a rope. You are one piece of string, and your spouse is another piece of string. The point of marriage is that the two become one. But if you have only two cords to twist together, it will unfurl in the tough times. Only when a third cord is in the marriage can the cords be braided and the marriage have the full strength needed to stand firm. That third cord is Jesus, and the main purpose of marriage is to serve and honor Him. A marriage that is entered into for some reason other than Christ is ultimately done for self. If I marry my spouse because I want her to make me happy, I will have a big problem when she ceases to make me happy. If she’s no longer pleasing me and giving me what I want, the marriage has no reason to go on. I’ll simply want to file a divorce and go out and find someone else who will fulfill my needs.
If, on the other hand, I enter into marriage for the purpose of worshiping and honoring Christ, my commitment is not based upon my spouse’s performance. I will love her and remain faithful to her for the sake of Christ. Even when she fails to love and respect me well, I will continue loving and serving her anyway, for this is my charge from my Lord. My life belongs to Jesus and I serve Him because that is my purpose. God, help me to live out this high calling you have given me, each day and every day for You.