by Melisa Gaines
When my oldest two children started kindergarten and second grade, they learned the word “divorce.” I knew they were going to learn words like this, but I was still sad I had to explain the meaning. Like most other families, we have divorced couples in our extended families, but until this point we were able to keep this word out of their vocabularies on purpose.
We wanted them to have a proper, biblical view of marriage as long as possible. We taught them marriage was designed by our Creator, and was meant to be shared between one man and one woman for a lifetime. It represents the relationship between Christ and the church, as the husband is the loving head of his home and the wife respectfully submits to his leadership. The Bible teaches this view, so we teach it to our children (Ephesians 5:22-33).
I’m concerned some couples begin their relationship with unrealistic expectations.
Marriage is not always bliss. You won’t always agree, get along, or feel loved by your spouse. My husband and I have the rare privilege of coming from homes where both sets of our parents have been married more than 35 years. A few years back I noticed from time to time they still argue. At first I was upset, thinking to myself, “Really, after 35 years of marriage we won’t have matured past this petty arguing?” But then I was encouraged by their examples. It taught me that, yes, 35 years in to this marriage thing, we are still going to be sinners. We are being sanctified, but not yet glorified (Romans 8:30). And we keep pressing on.
After almost 12 years of marriage, my relationship with my husband is sweeter than it was in the past. Having to work for something usually makes you appreciate it more. Since my children know about divorce now, sometimes when my husband and I aren’t getting along, one of them asks if we are going to get a divorce. We explain we need to apologize, forgive, and work it out, but we won’t stop loving one another or give up on our marriage. We tell them that one day when they are married they will argue with their spouses also, and they need to reconcile their differences, just like they do now with their siblings.
It’s important for us to prioritize our marriages to guard against divorce, but also for the sake of our children’s emotional stability.
“A healthy husband-wife relationship is essential to the emotional health of children in the home. When there is harmony in the marriage, there is infused stability within the family. A strong marriage provides a haven of security for children as they grow in the nurturing process. Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children. When a child observes the special friendship and emotional togetherness of his parents, he is more secure simply because it isn’t necessary to question the legitimacy of his parent’s commitment to one another.” -Gary Ezzo
Most parents want emotionally stable children, but may be unaware of the damage they are causing by not loving their spouse. I want my children to be sure of the commitment my husband and I have to one another. I want them to see us serving one another, forgiving one another and putting each other’s needs before our own.
Romans 12 tells us, “Let love be genuine. Love one another. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” When we prioritize our marriages it has a positive impact on our whole household.
Here are 16 ways to prioritize your marriage for your family:
- From the beginning, obey the Lord’s command to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14). I’m so thankful that my husband is a Christian and is therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:14). I can’t change my husband’s heart and actions, but God can, and I can pray He will.
- Pray for your spouse. Not just by name, but specific, scriptural prayers just for him. God answers prayers, and it’s amazing how praying for someone softens your heart towards them.
- Serve your spouse. When I got engaged, my grandfather told me the key to a man’s heart is his stomach. This has proved true with my husband. One of my husband’s love languages is feeding him a home-cooked meal (or a pecan pie). What speaks love to your husband? Has he had a long day at work? Give him a shoulder massage. And do those things he may not even notice. Pick up his dirty socks and coffee mugs that he leaves all over the house, just because you love him.
- Live in community with other believers who encourage you in your marriage. So many benefits come from being a part of a local church, and this is one of them. Have other couple friends who are fighting for their marriages as well, and spur one another toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
- Be faithful. Don’t commit adultery with someone physically or in your heart. Stop fantasizing about how your life could be different if you were married to someone else. Set boundaries. Don’t be alone with anyone of the opposite sex. Don’t text, call, email, meet at a restaurant, or ride somewhere with them. Don’t watch shows or movies or listen to music that desensitizes you to the sins of adultery or fornication.
- Keep the marriage bed sacred (Hebrew 13:4). Sleep in the same bed. Have sex with your spouse often (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Everyone lives busy lives, but you have to make time for this. I’m shocked at how many couples do not make sex a vital, healthy part of their relationship. You have a gift that no one else is supposed to give your husband. Work out your issues and make this happen! (Helpful tip: Don’t let children sleep in your bed. It is your sacred space with your husband. They’ll be just fine in their own beds.)
- Go on dates. Have fun together. Make memories. Celebrate special occasions. Tim Keller says, “The mission of Christian marriage is deep character change through deep friendship.”
- Never let divorce be an option. Don’t contemplate it. Don’t talk about it.
- Forgive often. Don’t get bitter. Realize you aren’t perfect either and be gracious.
- Kiss and hug often. Hold hands when you are riding in the car together. Let your children see you showing affection.
- Speak highly of your spouse in public. Honestly, my husband does a way better job at this than I do. Every time he encourages me in public it makes me want to return the kindness. No one wants to hear you complain about your husband, so tell them how great he is (Philippians 2:14). This also helps reaffirm in your own heart why you love him so much. Praise him in front of your children. You want them to think highly of their father, so you have to set the example in this.
- Keep your commitments. A covenant is an agreement, promise, commitment, and guarantee. When you said those vows to each other on your wedding day, you were making a covenant before God, each other, and (hopefully) your church to stick it out. You were vowing to stay committed when things got better and when things got worse; and they will get worse, some times much worse, but you don’t give up. You keep your promise and trust God to keep all of His.
- Show your husband respect. Speak respectfully to him even when you think he doesn’t deserve it. He’s not your child. Don’t boss him around. I naturally did this a lot when we were first married, but my husband would tell me to stop bossing him around and it really made me realize how often I did it! I’m thankful for a husband with a strong personality who wouldn’t let me tell him what to do or how I would like him to do things. Our sin nature wants to rule over them, and their sin nature wants to let us (Genesis 3:16).
- Take care of yourself. Instead of relying solely on your husband to make you happy, do things you enjoy and spend less time in self-pity. Your inner contentment and joyfulness will be appealing to your husband.
- Read your Bible regularly. This may seem obvious, but it is worth the reminder. A consistent Bible reading plan makes you aware of God’s commands and plans for your life. It keeps you focused on what really matters, and gives you a proper perspective on all of life, including your marriage.
- Focus on your purpose. Ultimately, as a Christian couple, we have a mission to accomplish. We are to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). My husband and I are seeking to make disciples of our children and all those God has placed in our spheres of influence. The best use of our time is loving one another and Jesus,making Him known among the nations and in our home.
Recently, my eight year old daughter asked me who my best friend is. I immediately told her it was her father, which made her beam with delight. I meant it. My husband and I began dating when we were 17, which means we have been together almost half of our lives now, and we still like each other (most days). There have been seasons in our relationship when he has not been my favorite person. But what makes Christian marriages different is that we stick it out even when we don’t feel like it.
Christian marriage is about keeping our commitment to Christ and one another and obeying God’s word. If you have been considering divorce I want to remind you that obedience is the path that leads to blessing. Even if your situation seems hopeless, God will bless your efforts to restore your relationship with your spouse. Hopefully something I have shared here will encourage you to love your husband and prioritize your marriage.
We serve a God who has given His life for us. A God who came to serve, who is faithful, forgiving and is gracious. As Christians, we want to show that same grace to others, especially our spouses. It’s how the world will know we belong to Jesus. It’s a picture of the gospel.
Is your marriage showing the world the good news?