As I stood facing my husband-to-be at the altar on a sweltering hot day in February, our Pastor began to quote a familiar scripture. It was one that would become an anthem in our marriage.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres. Love never fails.
If I’m honest, that scripture had very little impact on me in the early years of our marriage. I would flippantly listen to that verse with half an ear many times at weddings over the years without thinking much of it. However as my own marriage progressed, the words became more and more relevant to me. It became clear that this was an illustration of what true love is. In those few words of scripture, I found a picture of not only Christ’s love for me, but the type of love that I should have for my husband, and that he should have for me.
- Love is a choice
Nobody gets married because they want to live in a metaphorical battlefield. Although there are amazing times, sometimes your marriage can feel just like a warzone with both of you on opposite sides.
You drive me crazy!
You’re never there when I need your help!
I’m not feeling loved!
Scripture: Ephesians 5:33
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Whilst scripture encourages us to love our marriage partner, sometimes your partner does not seem to encourage that emotion from you. Marriage can be challenging, and our feelings can be impacted by our partner’s actions and reactions to stress, exhaustion, impatience and a multitude of other issues, making things worse.
All those blissful feelings that you experienced in the dating years of your marriage can suddenly come to an abrupt halt. As time goes on, love becomes work. Marriage becomes a job, or worse—a fight.
Feelings are an essential part of life, and certainly, this is true for your marriage, but feelings often don’t make the best drivers for our souls. It can be very easy to buy into today’s culture that tells us “If it feels good, do it”. So often in a marriage, we have had to choose to love each other when it doesn’t ‘feel good to do so.
Feelings change. When we understand the promise of scripture we are able to lean on His spirit and experience strength, wisdom and peace in difficult times. When we have that in our marriage, we can overcome anything.
Love is an action word!
If you are a parent, have a job, or even a gym membership, then you know what I mean. I don’t ‘feel’ like going to work some days or ‘feel’ like being the most patient partner. And the thought of getting up at 5.30 am to get to the gym feels so wrong!
But what I choose to do will make all the difference. Actions speak louder than words, and love is the loudest action of them all. Often, I don’t have the privilege of allowing my feelings to be the boss!
It’s the same in a marriage as it is in life. It’s your choices that will determine whether your relationship grows or becomes stagnant.
Marriages aren’t perfect because people aren’t perfect and we have to remember, some days you will feel like you’re living on a battlefield. We can’t win a war by ourselves. That’s why we need to pray and stand on the truth of scripture!
- Prayer is your weapon
In the early stages of our marriage, my husband and I began to create a habit of prayer. Late at night we would join hands and stammer and stutter through our prayers. It felt like an awkward ritual at the start, yet over time those moments with God in prayer as a couple became an anchor for our marriage. It kept us humble and helped us find common ground. Whatever mountain we faced or valley we travelled through, it was our prayers that helped us stand together in faith and hope as we believed for a good outcome.
Prayer is your protection.
Imagine if you had a way to divorce-proof your marriage. I’m sure you would take the option. In a poll conducted by The National Association of Marriage Enhancement, the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. That’s less than 1%.
Yes, prayer is powerful. If you want to divorce-proof your marriage by 99%, pray together.Coming to God for wisdom, direction and healing is a beautiful place of faith and joint submission that will change your marriage.
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
- Selfishness is an intimacy killer
- Do you make dinner for your partner when they are tired or do a job for them when they’re too busy?
- Do you create a safe space for your partner to feel listened to?
- Are you prepared to give up what you want to do when your partner is in need?
If there is anything in life that will expose your selfishness, it’s marriage. As two people walk through life side by side there are many opportunities to show love, and just as many opportunities to be selfish!
Your relationship will require sacrifice.
Many of us would like to think of ourselves as givers, but somehow the word sacrifice can send shivers down our spine. In a me-first culture that teaches us to expect much and give little in return. It’s hard not to feel like giving of yourself turns you into a doormat.
But scripture tells us differently.
Scripture: Phillipians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Marriage is not 50-50, divorce is. Marriage is 100-100. A relationship that is based on sacrifice will face every challenge and season of the marriage together, creating a loving and safe environment for each one to flourish.
A relationship built on sacrifice is full of patience, kindness and a desire to serve each other. When a relationship is built on selfishness that marriage will be full of expectations and conflict.
- Communication is your superpower
Although marriage is not always a guarantee of daily happiness, it should be a place of love and growth that is evolving. As two people are given the freedom to grow and flourish in their individuality and as a couple, your marriage will grow deeper through the years.
Throughout the different seasons of married life, your ability to communicate with each other will be your greatest asset. We often don’t step into a marriage already being a good communicator; those skills are learnt over years and the scripture gives some great advice.
Scripture: James 1:19
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…
Every marriage experiences conflict throughout their relationship. We all have it, and we will continue to have it. The very things that you admired about each other in your early years can now become frustration.
My partner is different to me!
He’s so intense.
She’s so unorganized.
He’s always wanting to go out on the weekend, I want to stay home.
He wants sex all the time.
She’s happy to have it only at the weekend.
Most couples will have conflict about the same thing over and over again. Researcher Dr John Gottman states that 2/3’s of the arguments that we have are unsolvable. However when we strive to understand our partner’s perspective on an issue, we can manage through those challenges better, and just work on the 1/3 of solvable problems that are left with a healthy dose of communication and compromise.
It takes good listening skills, empathy, and healthy communication to not only work through our disagreements but to communicate our thoughts and feelings around the everyday issues of married life. A version of love—the real one—doesn’t selly, what are we
- Forgiveness is a gift
Have you ever felt so angry with your partner that you couldn’t sleep, with the narrative of your latest argument keeping you up all night?
Marriage will get you there at times; it’s impossible to not feel hurt when you love deeply. Many couples would rather ignore the issue and suppress it, rather than work through the issue together. They spend most of their marriage with unresolved conflict, suffering years of hurtful feelings with no acknowledgement or apologies insight. Sometimes there is so much resentment it can be hard to know where to start.
In an ideal world, every conflict would have a positive outcome, and every offence would invite an apology, but that doesn’t always happen. The truth of scripture invites us to take our offence to God and find the freedom to love anyway, for the good of ourselves, and for the good of our marriage.
The word of scripture is like oxygen to your marriage, breathing hope and freedom into your relationship.
Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:32:
Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Your partner will not always meet all your needs, but God will. Your expectations will not always be met, but God will get you through. Conflict will come, disappointment and hurtful experiences will make you want to pull back in your marriage or settle for ‘good enough.
I think that’s what makes us normal! Amongst all of that, scripture invites us to forgive, walk-in peace and allow Him to make things right.
Love chooses to do what is right, not what is easy. It perseveres through difficult times and forgives often.
Rick & Fiona Leeworthy are passionate about helping couples reignite the passion that they once had in their relationship. Visit http://www.spark-app.organd join our private Facebook group to build the relationship that you dream of.