Every once in a while even the best of marriages runs into trouble and needs help. More often than not, even Christian marriages have serious problems at times. So, if you are a Christian and you are in a marriage that is under-going a great challenge right now, I have some hard-earned advice for you that may be of help. Even if you are currently in a good marriage, some of these words may be helpful for you also. This is going to be directed primarily at a husband’s perspective since I know that best.
- Remember that your relationship with your wife is supposed to be the second most important relationship of your entire life, second only to your relationship with God, and the most important of all of your earthly relationships. Treat it with that kind of practical priority. A good marriage can be an incredible blessing and an unhealthy marriage can be very discouraging. Fight for your marriage; it’s definitely worth it.
- Make the healing of your marriage a serious priority in your life. This means set aside time, money, and effort specifically for this task and don’t let anything short of a true emergency distract from this. God can give you a healed or renewed marriage if you make it a high priority and approach dealing with it in a Christ-like way.
- Maintain your own spiritual health during this time. You cannot give what you do not have. When you are in a healthy relationship with the Lord…praying, studying His word, and being in fellowship regularly; when you know and see clearly the incredible love that God has for you, it will help you to love your spouse even when things are hard.
- You should be getting the deepest needs of your life satisfied through your personal relationship with God; not from your spouse, who is only human, limited and imperfect. God never meant to have anyone else fill that special part of your life except Himself. Don’t idolize your spouse or have unrealistic expectations about them because in their sinful, fallen humanity, they will always fail what is supposed to be God’s role in your life. When you are getting those most vital needs fulfilled from the Lord then you can best love your spouse from a position of strength and spiritual healthiness.
- Ephesians 5:22-33 is God’s strongest and clearest instructions on how marriage is supposed to be; especially for the very important information that husbands are supposed to love their wives like Christ does the church: unconditionally, self-sacrificially, and generously. Study that passage as deeply as you can and work to make it a reality in your life. It will revolutionize how you approach your marriage.
- Make spending time together as a couple on a regular basis a priority. I strongly recommend weekly “date nights” where you get out of the house, enjoy some good food, conversation and a positive event together, doing something fun like miniature golf, going to the ballet, or whatever is some activity that you both would enjoy (or maybe something that your wife would enjoy that you normally wouldn’t; but you would do it out of love for her). The point of this time is create a positive environment to foster honest communication and emotional intimacy so I do not recommend going to something passive like viewing a movie unless you first go out and eat dinner together. There are plenty of sources on the internet for great date night ideas. There’s even a date night service where they mail you a boxed date night monthly at unboxlove.com.
- Work on developing your friendship. Though it is not often mentioned in marriage books that I’ve seen, I believe that it is one of the core elements in a good marriage. Your spouse should be your best friend. Approach your relationship as you would any friendship that you want to grow.
- God uses the circumstances of our lives, when we turn to Him in them, to shape our character to become more like Christ’s; so we should expect that there will be times in our marriages that will be hard and that God has allowed for so that we will become more like Jesus through them. When it is hardest to love our wives but we do it anyway, then we most strongly reflect the heart of Christ and honor God and in a wonderful and special kind of way, we can see and experience for ourselves how Christ is loving us, even with all of our imperfections and faults, at that very moment.
- One of the biblical roles of the husband in the marriage is as the protector. Sometimes that means protecting your wife from yourself; that is, the worst part of yourself…the sinful, fallen part of your nature which likes to express itself in destructive ways when you are tired, stressed, or angry. Having self-control and discretion to not allow your guard to be down at those times so that you don’t say or do something that will hurt your wife, and being quick to apologize when you do, is very helpful.
- Pursue a joint relationship with God. This is one of the best ways to develop intimacy and closeness in your marriage. Pray together and read scripture or at least a devotional daily together. There are many devotional books out there, even specifically for married couples. It’s a little old-fashioned but my wife and I were regularly encouraged by Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” and there are modern language versions of it too. Remember that a Christian marriage is made up of three people: you, your wife, and God.
- Get good advice or help for your marriage. Read good books on marriage and/or relationship help. You might ask your married friends for any book titles that were helpful to them. Before I buy (or borrow from the public library) any book on marriage, I always try to read the table of contents to make sure that it addresses what will be most helpful. There are also great resources online from long-established ministries like Focus on the Family and Family Life Today (focusonthefamily.com/marriage and familylifetoday.com).
- Work on developing emotional intimacy. This has to do with honesty and openness, letting your wife see the real you in a transparent and vulnerable kind of way, which is often hard for men to do. Two books that helped me in my marriage in this area are “the Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.
- Go to a Marriage conference or retreat. These are usually great opportunities to get a refresher on the biblical foundations of marriage and to receive advice and encouragement on how to have a healthy marriage. Family Life Today offers “A Weekend to Remember” and Focus on the Family has the “National Institute of Marriage” which has conferences and even two marriage retreat centers where you can get specialized help for your marriage.
- Be around other couples who are good examples of healthy marriages. If you are in a small group Bible study where you, as a couple, are making friends with and establishing good relationships with other couples, this can be a positive contributor to your own relationship. I Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” I believe that the opposite is also true: good company can improve your character.
- Get prayer support for your situation. Individually or as a couple, share your challenge with your pastor or some trusted Christian friends and family so that they can hold you up in prayer. Remember to pray daily for your spouse and her challenges also.
- Go to a Christian marriage counselor for help, guidance and encouragement. Don’t let your pride or bad attitude get in the way of God’s helping you. Scripture says that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and whether it is through books, friends, or professionals, it is true. There is no shame in getting professional assistance occasionally for the most important relationship of your earthly life.
- I have found, over twenty-nine years of marriage, that the elements of a healthy marriage relationship are good communication, honesty, patience, kindness, being quick to forgive and slow to anger, having a shared life purpose, placing the needs of the other person above your own, and loving self-sacrificially, unconditionally, and generously.
God will honor and bless your efforts to heal and renew your marriage. I know that this is true because He has done it in my own marriage, which has had some very great challenges. Our marriages are supposed to model Jesus Christ’s relationship with the Church to the world so they are considered very important to the Lord and are thus a priority to Him. God specializes in doing the impossible so no marriage is beyond His miraculous redeeming power.
Remember Romans 15:13—May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.