Ten years of marriage cannot go by without learning a thing or two. I will be the first to admit that marriage is not always easy. It is tough living with someone else day in and day out, but it is also a blessing. Our marriage relationship is supposed to mirror Christ's relationship with the church. Those are some big shoes to fill.
I am far from being an expert and I am still learning every day as well as making mistakes each day, but here are ten of the most important things I have learned in the last ten years:
1. Forgive - We don't deserve it, but God forgives our sins, so should we forgive our spouse when they have wronged us. It doesn't do anyone any good to carry anger and frustration. Forgiveness is as much a gift for yourself as it is for your spouse. We should allow Gods love to overflow from us and onto our spouse.
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" Colossians 3:13
2. Settle disagreements quickly - I think it is perfectly fine to take a little time to regroup and cool off if you are really upset but allowing something to fester within your relationship only gives Satan a foot in the door. We are never promised a tomorrow so try not go to bed angry...it might be the last night you get.
"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, " Ephesians 4:26
3. Let go of unrealistic expectations - this one is HUGE for me. We are inundated by romance and perfect relationships on TV, in books and all around. Nothing will kill any relationship faster than unrealistic expectations. I have found myself longing for Howard to show his love for me by setting up surprise dates, gifts and romantic gestures and sometimes I lose sight of the fact that he DOES show his love for me each day by caring for our family the way he does. I cannot tell you (and I hate to admit) how many times I have gotten upset with Howard for not reading my mind. I know what I want and yet I don't communicate that to him because I want him to just know. It isn't fair to him and it only sets him up for failure. I can try all my life to change my husband OR I can let go of my unrealistic expectations and love him for who he is and who God is making him.
4. Focus on the positive - you will see what you look for. If you are looking for shortcomings you will find plenty, but if you look for the blessings the Lord has given you in your spouse you will find them everywhere. We all have shortcomings and we all feel better when others notice our strengths so when you see a gift. Thank your spouse for it. Cheer them on and let them know you appreciate them. When you remove the plank from your own eye first you are able to see others a lot more clearly and hearts are changed. God has given us a gift in our spouse. We must commit to receiving that gift and unpacking it daily.
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5
5. Pick your battles - some things just don't matter. You like crunchy peanut butter and your spouse likes creamy...just buy both. Howard and I used to bicker about such things until we learned that sometimes both parties can be right. It isn't worth it. You can be right or you can be in a relationship. You can't always be both. Sometimes it is just better to seal those lips! (I struggle with this a lot!)
“Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind? Job 6:24-26
6. Submit - I think often times we remember the part in the Bible where it says "wives submit to your husband" and think we have to be a doormat. This is not what God is saying. we are to be submissive and allow our husbands to rule the roost. The husband should be the leader of the home. This is how God designed it, but that in no way means that a woman's role isn't vital or that she should be disrespected. In a relationship it is important to submit to EACH OTHER. We are called to put the other person's needs above our own.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1Peter 3:7
7. Have sex and enjoy it - this is uncomfortable for me to even say as I sometimes tend to be a bit of a prude, but God designed the marriage relationship to include sex. Sex is a vital part in a marriage. I have been surprised at how much closer it really brings two people when a part of a marriage. I think as wives we are supposed to be sexually available and sometimes that is hard especially when raising young kids, but it is important. It is something I struggle with but am learning that God really does want us to enjoy this intimacy with our partner regularly. We need to see it as the gift it is though and NOT a duty. That said it MUST be done within the marriage relationship. When sex is used prior to marriage, or outside of marriage it WILL reek havoc on that relationship. (I have a whole post on my experience with this...but that is for another day.)
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-3
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5:18-19
8. Put your marriage before kids - GASP! I know, did I just say that? I did. I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our selves, our spouses and our children is to put the marriage before the kids. Kids thrive in homes where there is a great marriage relationship. Anymore it seems that kids don't have many opportunities to witness a good marriage model. That is not to say that anyone has the perfect marriage but it is good for kids to see that you make it a priority. I think that IN putting your marriage first, your kids will feel loved and secure and that is of the utmost importance. Again, this is a struggle as our kids are needy and precious gifts to be cared for, but so is our marriage.
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33
9. Pray together- This is huge. This is something we seem to do well for seasons and then fall out of. I am not just talking about praying at dinner, I am talking about praying for God's direction, for your children and just all things in general. Prayer helps to strengthen the relationship between a couple AND God and when God is the head, the marriage will survive anything, if both partners are seeking His will together. It doesn't give Satan even a chance. And Satan is on the prowl, trying to destroy marriage and take our eyes off of God.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
10. Build each other up - We need to be encouragers for one another. We need to cheer each other on and help our spouses be who God intended. Take time to listen to one another...REALLY listen lift each other up and remember our tongue is a powerful tool. Compliments and genuine praise go a long way. Selfishness has no place in a marriage. We should always seek to build our spouse up. This also means that when we gather with other women we must be careful not to tear our husbands down to others either. This is sometimes tough, but it is essential in building a trusting and caring relationship.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:10
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Like I said, our marriage is far from perfect and we are still working on all of these things, but I feel like we are headed in the same direction and I am excited to see where the Lord takes us! What have you learned about marriage in your relationship?