Marriage is a favorite topic of study for Gregg and me. We have read the books, watched the videos, attended online seminars, listened to sermons, read the Bible, and have garnered a lot of psycho-babble inspiration on what makes a good marriage.
As this is Valentine’s Day, February 14th, and the last day of National Marriage Week, I thought I’d give you our top 5 ways to have a healthy, successful marriage (and these are by no means exclusive) .
1. Keep God number one. My ex-husband is not a Christian, and does not live a Christian life. When I met Gregg, the first time we held hands was to pray over a meal together. I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. We prayed together, attended church together, read Christian books out loud together. I was in heaven on earth. But, even then, God was not number one in our life or our marriage. He shifted positions. Sometimes he was in the top place, and sometimes he fell down into the number two, three, or four position.
When we made the decision to put God first all the time, it is amazing how much closer we got to each other. John Piper likens it to a triangle, with God at the top. The closer you draw to God, the closer you draw to each other. And that journey upward has been an amazing journey.
2. Respect each other. And love each other. That means respect your husband even when you don’t think he’s earned your respect. And that means love your wife even when she doesn’t show you the kind of respect your soul craves. Respect your husband so that you elevate him up as the spiritual head of your family, responsible to God for the decisions he makes for your home. And love your wife enough that you would die for her.
When your love for your wife is strong enough that you would step in between her and death, then it makes the little persnickety things like socks on the floor or beds not made properly seem to be so trivial that they don’t get in the way of your feelings for each other.
3. Spend alone time together. No matter how many children you have, no matter how many responsibilities you have, no matter how demanding your schedule is, work in a regular date night. If you can’t make it once a week, then make it once every two weeks. Go out together, alone. No children. No friends. Sit across the table from each other and talk. Hold hands and walk around the park together and talk. Be intimate. Share your heart, your worries, your desires. Let your husband see inside your soul, and let your wife see your vulnerabilities. Make this time a priority in your marriage.
4. Make your marriage about you two. Marriage is a long time. If we’re lucky, we’re looking at sixty or seventy years together. Your children are with you for a small portion of that time. Don’t make your marriage about your children. Don’t place them in between your relationship with your husband. I see it all the time – suddenly, children are all a couple can talk about, can relate about, seem to care about. The child becomes the most important element in that marriage. And, honestly, they’re not. It should be God, spouse, child — in that order. The more you place God first and your husband second, giving him all of the love and respect that Biblically defines a good marriage, the more you are training your child how to have a good, solid, happy marriage. When the child is first, and placed number one, and placed in between the two parents, then the marriage becomes a shell and starts to collapse when the child reaches adolescence and no longer makes the parents number one in his life.
5. Never speak bad about your spouse to anyone. Ever. It is disrespectful, and when the issue is resolved, then you are left with a friend or family member who now thinks less of your husband. Or who may not know how the resolution came about with your wife. You also put your friend in a position of agreeing or disagreeing with you. When she agrees with you, it starts a seed of discontent in your heart that can be watered by finding people who see the problems you see, and will weaken your marriage to the point of destruction.
Like I said, this list is by no means exclusive. As I was writing it, I was thinking of a hundred different things I could have said. But, in my marriage, these five things are purposeful, and we have been able to see a very good result, a strengthening of what was already a good marriage, things that have caused our love to grow even daily for each other.
Have a wonderful last day of National Marriage Week, and if you are so inclined, enjoy your Valentine on this day.
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