3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

You are here because you want to save your marriage? Good for you! We are proud that you are not giving up so easily as many others do. The divorce rate is steadily increasing to 60% in many parts of the U.S. and sadly those are the ones that are being reported.

For example, my wife’s parents want a divorce, but they can’t afford it, so they have just agreed to separate. Their hearts, though, are divorced. There are many couples like that and despite the sad reality, we offer you a fresh way to look at your marriage in hopes to help you retake back that amazing relationship that God destined you to have!

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

There are three C’s that we will be covering today: Compatibility, Compromising, and the most powerful one, Complimentary. These three stages of relationship maturity can help put some perspective to see where you are at in your marriage to see what is next for us to move on.

Sometimes having perspective can guide you in a gentle practical way that disarms both partners instead of having to make one of you the villain and the other the hero. My perspective has always been not to make one person the terrible monster but to understand the other person’s upbringing and what has transpired throughout the relationship that has aided both partners to be who they are today.

If there has been infidelity or betrayal, we don’t excuse that behavior by looking away. We confront it and deal with it so that there can be a resolution between both spouses, where appropriate. The 3 C’s are designed to help the partners in a relationship start a dialogue that will show them how they can move together to the next step.

Compatibility

Compatibility is a nice start to any relationship because it’s about sharing common interests. I’m sure both you and your partner were mutually attracted to each other. You both shared great moments that bonded you together.

Many couples love hiking, dancing, watching movies together, traveling, working on projects, they love pets, they have strong academic values, they want kids, they don’t want kids, etc. They have a common sharing that defines who they are that joins them together.

The riff between compatible people is when the sharing runs out. One spouse may like sports and that spouse may choose to watch ESPN instead of going on a date with their partner. That can cause tensions that turn into arguments. That same couple will then argue because the same spouse who loves watching sports may now want sexual intimacy but the spouse who was neglected will feel distant and say that they are tired.

By now I’m sure you see that these issues can slowly begin to turn a marriage into a rusty and withered relationship. How can compatibility save your marriage? This can save your marriage because you can talk to your spouse about how both of you had a great start but how you need to move forward. The start needs to be celebrated. Reflect on the enjoyable times you had together which will help you both to bond again.

It’s hard to stay angry when both of you reminisce about awesome times that both of you had. This can disarm the angriest of spouses and turn their cynicism to hope. Compatibility is not the complete answer, however, because no couple on this planet relies only on compatibility.

There will always need to be a sacrifice made to support the other spouse. Unfortunately, many couples end their relationship right at this step and don’t move beyond because the differences separate them to the point of no return. The good news is that it doesn’t have to end here and that it can mature and move on.

Compromising

We need to humble ourselves sometimes with big decisions so that as a couple we can mutually benefit. This is a noble perspective and helpful for compatible couples to understand. My wife and I use to argue about our dates which ended up ruining some of our Saturday nights. We made a pact to alternate our dates by giving each other two dates per month for us to coordinate.

When it was my turn, I would love to go to an open mall, eat some spicy food and then go see an action movie. Not the most romantic I know. When it was my wife’s turn, we would go to the beach and then eat dinner at sunset which was definitely romantic. We were able to learn about each other and appreciate how the other loved to have fun.

We learned to compromise which helped us to grow in our relationship before it got stale. Maybe your relationship is stale at this point, and it needs some saving. Most couples may be at this stage, which is a great step to be on, however, sometimes there are betrayals and hurts during this stage and we must compromise to make the marriage work. Many couples are in this stage because they have been dating and been married for years.

If you have suffered pain because of your spouse or both of you are in deep stuff my heart goes out to you. I want you to feel validated and supported by this article which may spark a talk between you and your partner to talk about this stage. You can talk about how you have compromised in certain areas in your relationship which can then uplift the marriage in its strengths.

A positive tone will help a lot with communication because it can win someone over. The main issue with the stage of compromise is that it can take you far but not all the way. It’s great to compromise however, one spouse may get burned out if they don’t have the constant refreshment.

Hebrews 3:12-13 says that our hearts need daily encouragement to remain soft. If we aren’t open and don’t encourage one another then it will take only a day to harden our hearts. Compromising also begs the spouse who is constantly sacrificing to request love in return. I sure feel that way when I sacrifice for my wife. If I help her with the home or take care of the car, I can expect favors in return.

However, she may not be so ready to return that love the way that I expect. I confess that it hurts, and I feel resentment in my heart, so I become quiet and resistant. It happens the other way around too. My wife may help me out with m projects or take care of responsibilities in the home and then she can expect me to be grateful for her efforts. Sometimes I don’t notice which hurts her and I let her down. Compromising is a great stage to be in, but it won’t be the stage to save your marriage.

Complimentary

I don’t mean complimentary as in saying compliments to your spouse. All though I highly recommend that you verbally compliment your partner to lift them up. I can testify that verbally complimenting my wife has helped our marriage so much. My wife feels acknowledged and honored in our home. You can never go wrong with that.

However, the real meaning of being a complimentary couple is being a couple who helps elevate each other. This perspective and lifestyle will save your marriage. It takes both of you, no matter the past or present, to get this right on point. One spouse trying this out may not get it done but it’s a start.

After a few weeks if you don’t see a change in your spouse please reach out for help. Therapy, couples’ groups, church retreats, classes, training, support groups, group dates, being ministered by a shepherding couple in your church, all these things can help support you and your spouse.

Before I get derailed, let’s go back to what a complimentary couple looks like. That couple is first willing to help and initiate help. This is a stark contrast to Compromising (the second of the 3 C’s), because with Compromising you must sacrifice. Most times, when we sacrifice, we aren’t willing. We sacrifice out of nobility or necessity. We may be talked into it or discipled into it. It’s not from our willing hearts.

Most of us sacrifice begrudgingly and hope for the best. With this last C, the Compromising couple serves and helps each other so that the couple is elevated. They are thinking “How can I help my spouse so both of us succeed?” This is an amazing perspective because both partners will feel inspired by the other to the point where both are going to try to outgive themselves in a healthy way.

Think about that vision for a moment. Both spouses work together to help elevate each other. What kind of marriage do you think they’ll have? It won’t be just a surviving marriage; it will be a thriving marriage! This is the secret to saving your marriage. Both of you must sit down, most likely with another couple, and process this vision to help both learn to inspire each other. This cannot be done alone. Both partners must work together so both of you can prosper.

Remember that none of these stages are bad. They are all good. The point of this article is to prepare you to have a fruitful discussion with your spouse about where both of you are. You may be tempted to think that both of you are in different stages. Please remember that it’s both of you together. So, both of you would be in the same stage.

Maybe one of you is ready to move on, but I strongly encourage that spouse to slow down and wait for the other spouse to catch up before moving on. This way doing the stages together will help the other spouse feel loved by you and ready to move forward. Once you identify which stage you are in then you will be ready to discuss how to take the appropriate steps for the next one.

The process of the 3 C’s will help disarm both of you and help ensure that you are taking the same steps onward as a couple. Have another couple walk with you in this way so that you have accountability and support if there are any riffs between you. My deepest conviction is that if you give the 3 C’s a try, it can show you where you are and help you see where you want to go. And that’s to be the best marriage you can be!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.Ephesians 5:21-33

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for additional support, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my pleasure to meet with you to help you not only save your marriage, but to strengthen it beyond what you’ve experienced before.

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8 Important Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions

As you approach engagement or if you are newly engaged, it is important to the start of a thriving and successful marriage to take time to learn more about your significant other. This often means having difficult conversations, talking about the future, and digging deeper into your past to discover how it made you into who you are today and where you hope to go.

It is better to have important and life-shaping conversations before you vow to spend your lives together. These conversations can help you discover any red flags or draw you closer to one another as you prepare to spend your lives together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Having important conversations before you wed can help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers.

Greg Smalley said, “Make it your goal to create a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth.” The goal of marriage is not to appear perfect all the time, the goal is to create a safe place for pure authenticity between two people.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

Here are a few questions to delve into with your significant other as you prepare to say “I do”:

1. What does a marriage commitment mean to you?

It is important to talk through commitment and what it means to each of you. Once you walk down the aisle and vow to spend your lives together, does that mean through thick and thin? Does that mean you vow to keep working even when you feel disconnected and distant from one another? What does that mean when one of you gets a job offer in a different place? Take time to talk through marriage commitment and why you were drawn to your significant other.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every successful marriage is the result of two people working diligently and skillfully to cultivate their love.” Spoiler alert: marriages face difficult seasons, therefore having these conversations and vowing to put the work into your marriage will help it grow and thrive on a beautiful level.

2. What are your life goals?

You must talk through your life goals, not only so your spouse can support you, but so that you can support them. Ask one another about your personal goals, career goals, and spiritual goals. What dreams do you have for your marriage? Do you hope to retire to the Arizona desert and start a nonprofit one day? Dreaming big together can draw you closer and help you support one another now and in the future.

3. What is your financial plan?

The battle with finances and how to handle finances is one of the major causes of fighting and disagreements in marriage. Engaged and married couples must continue to have financial conversations and plan together. Sit down and create a financial plan. Put your expenses on paper. See if you need to cut any expenses so you are not living hand-to-mouth.

Take time to talk through the plan for handling money:

  • Will you have separate bank accounts, joint checking accounts, or both?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • How will you handle disagreements about how money should be spent?
  • Do you plan and agree to have full financial disclosure with your spouse?
  • What kind of debt are you going into marriage with?
  • Do you have or plan to have credit cards?
  • What is your credit score goal and how can you work together to get there?
  • Will you have an emergency savings fund?
  • Do you plan to start saving for a home or another major first purchase together?
  • Do you plan to start savings accounts for your children?

4. What is your plan for living arrangements?

If you both have your own place right now, what is your plan once you are married? Where do you hope to live once you begin having children? Talking through your plans can help alleviate stress and begin your journey in the best way possible. Establishing healthy communication is one of the best things you can do for your marriage relationship.

5. What are your desires for growing your family?

Some couples wait until years into their marriage to talk about their hopes and dreams for a family. To avoid miscommunication in the future, it is helpful to just talk through what you pray for someday. Do you hope to have children? Are you wanting a big family or a small family?

Have you had an abortion in the past that you have not discussed with your significant other? Do you hope to raise your child in church? What are your hopes and dreams for your family? Do you hope mom stays home with the children or do you hope to continue working?

How did your childhood impact your hopes and dreams of having a family? If you were raised in an abusive home and previously felt reluctant to tell your significant other, now is the time. If there were parts of your childhood and upbringing that made you into the person you are today and hope the same for your family, share those memories and dreams.

6. What are your mutual expectations?

Talking through various parts of your life and relationship can help avoid major disagreements and fallout in the future. Just talking through mutual expectations for your marriage can help cut those disagreements and frustrations in half. It is crucial to know that couples will have disagreements. Marriage is a game of working together to find common ground.

  • Will you spend holidays rotating between both sides of your family?
  • How will you support one another through chaotic work seasons?
  • What are your hopes for physical intimacy?
  • Do you hope to attend church together?
  • What kind of relationship do you hope your children have with your parents?
  • How will you continue dating one another?
  • Do you hope to continue date night once a week?
  • Do you agree on time with friends – separately and together?

“Behind every great relationship are difficult and uncomfortable conversations we rarely get to see. Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps. They require people to move through their fears and insecurities and do the hard work to move wounds into healing.” – Vienna Pharaon

7. How will you resolve conflicts?

Having a plan for resolving conflict is one that every relationship can benefit from. If you are having a conversation that continues to escalate, how can you manage it before it spins out of control? Can you ask each other for a timeout to calm down and take a deep breath? Are you willing to get creative with your critical thinking skills?

8. What does your spiritual life mean to you and for your marriage?

I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9

To marry someone of like faith is the beginning of a beautiful and one-of-a-kind love story. Marriage, God’s way, is a marriage of forgiveness, grace, compassion, and unique and selfless love. As you begin to embark on your journey together, take time to set goals, pray for your significant other, pray as a couple, and let your faith live larger and louder than your fear.

It is important to realize before you say “I do” that marriage is a journey, not a destination. You will face difficulties. You will have disagreements. You will make up and work through disagreements. You will have seasons of disconnect. You will have seasons of beautiful and one-of-a-kind connection. Marriage is a beautiful ride and one that is worth the difficult conversations.

Christian Premarital Counseling

As you prepare for marriage, consider pre-marriage counseling to help work through these topics and to help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers. You can invest in the future of your marriage by attending pre-marital counseling with a counselor who wants to see your relationship soar.

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How to Fix a Broken Relationship

One of the hardest parts about relationships is when they break down. Whether it’s a platonic friendship, or between siblings, parents and their children, neighbors, or between spouses, the heartache that flows from a relationship breakdown is unique among the many hardships we face in life. Human beings are social creatures, it’s part of our make-up as beings made in the image of a relational God.

We delight to connect with others, to know and be known and loved by others. In our relationships, we make ourselves vulnerable, build networks of mutual dependence and build parts of our lives based on those relationships.

The sad thing is that the breakdown of relationships is nothing new, and it’s a reality we will continue to face in our lives. Relationships break down for a variety of reasons, and some of those are things we can control and address, while other things need the balm of time and a refreshed perspective from the other person.

What can you do to fix a broken relationship?

What’s going on?

In some cases, when a relationship breaks down, we know precisely what happened. We may have had the power to prevent or slow down the breakdown, or we may have been completely powerless to stop it. In other situations, you may be at a loss as to what happened.

When that happens, it’s important to take the time and effort to figure out what happened. It may require some conversations with the person with whom you were in the relationship if they are willing to engage with you, but it may also require some introspection.

Whether you do this by journaling or talking with a trusted friend to process what happened, or you spend time with a therapist to do that, understanding what happened matters. If the relationship broke down because in your anger you said or did things you shouldn’t have, you need to address that otherwise it can prevent you from restoring your relationship and can affect other relationships as well.

Part of trying to address a broken relationship is to understand why it broke down in the first place and to do the challenging work that may be needed to change. It may be that in trying to understand what happened, you may uncover a misunderstanding and that gets things back on track.

Sometimes we misspeak, or people mishear us and our intentions, and that can be the cause of the broken relationship. But it’s also possible that the breakdown in the relationship is mostly or entirely our fault and knowing that can empower you by clarifying what needs to happen next.

Apologizing

Sometimes relationships break down because of things we’ve said or done. When we are the cause of pain to someone else, we must apologize, particularly if it was uncalled for. A good friend sometimes causes pain to their companion, but it is well-intentioned.

As the Proverb says, “Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” (Proverbs 27:6). Not all truths are pleasant to hear, and we may lose friends because of truth-telling.

It’s important to say here that while the truth may sting and at times people who are unwilling to hear the truth would prefer to cut off those truth-tellers rather than face their issues, one must always be mindful of how the truth is told, and whether it’s our place to do so. Earlier we spoke about doing important soul work to figure out what may have happened to break the relationship. Even if you may have been right in saying what you did, that work is still necessary.

It may be that even if what you said was true, and even if the other person reacted out of anger and fear, you may still need to apologize because of how you said it. You may have overstepped a boundary if you and the person weren’t that close or didn’t have the kind of relationship with room for that.

In other words, it can get complicated, but being willing to examine ourselves and apologize may be a necessary precursor to reestablishing the relationship. This doesn’t mean backtracking and dismissing what was said but acknowledging the pain that may have been caused or boundaries traversed.

In a situation where what you said or did was wrong and hurtful, apologizing is an effective way to get the relationship back on track. The apology must be unambiguous, accepting responsibility for what you did without making excuses or justifying yourself, and stating clearly what you will do differently in the future.

Compromising

In addition to apologizing, it may be that the way to fix a broken relationship is to compromise with the other person. Each of us has our own ideas about how things should be, and that can cause friction in a relationship. Neighbors may have vastly different definitions of what constitutes “noise.”

While one thinks playing drums at 5 am is acceptable and drums are great, their neighbor may strongly disagree. Things can escalate, leading to the breakdown of a relationship.

One way to fix a relationship that’s gone down this way is to compromise. Perhaps you can play your drums later in the day when your neighbor is out, or you can arrange a pair of noise-canceling headphones for your neighbor, or you can play your drums somewhere else altogether.

Each of you, by yielding a little ground, might be able to find a way around the impasse. Acknowledging that each of you has legitimate needs, and then going on to find a way to co-exist, can go a long way toward fixing the relationship.

In each situation, you must be clear in your own mind what things you are and are not willing to compromise on and continue to exercise some empathy. Even for the things on which you’re unwilling to compromise, being empathetic may help you hold the line in a way that doesn’t alienate others.

Putting in the work of rebuilding

When a relationship is broken, both parties may agree that things went wrong, and that the situation needs to be resolved. When things go awry in a relationship, the sense of trust and vulnerability may be broken, and you become a bit more wary of one another. A relationship, even one that the people in it are willing to work at, doesn’t just snap back to what it was before the issue arose.

Working through the fresh questions that arise when things go wrong, doing the work of reconfiguring or reimagining your relationship anew, etc. all take time and effort to put into place. If trust was broken, it takes time to restore. A relationship can be what it once was, or even stronger than before, but it takes putting in the demanding work of rebuilding and listening to one another to get there.

Grieving what was

With God, nothing is irreparably broken. Even the dead things can be brought back to life, and that gives us hope that even broken friendships or marriages can be restored. However, it takes two to do the necessary work to restore a relationship, and you can’t compel someone to work on the relationship if they don’t want to.

In other cases, you may both agree to work on your relationship, but that doesn’t guarantee you will restore things. The relationship may never be what it was, but at least you’ve addressed the issues that broke the relationship and emerged on the other side of it.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Sometimes, the relationship doesn’t get restored at all as you’d hoped. In any of these situations, it’s appropriate to grieve what was. A broken relationship is a loss that we experience, and it’s important to process that loss. It’s not unheard of for a broken relationship to affect other relationships down the line.

Get the help that you need to process the loss of relationships, particularly the ones that matter most to you. Getting counseling and speaking to a trained specialist may be just the thing you need to deal with a broken relationship, and to gain tools to fix and strengthen your relationships.

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Married Life: The Mystery, the Magic, and the Mundane

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord,” says Proverbs 18:22. Married life is a joy and a blessing. Sharing that most intimate of human relationships is indeed finding what is good and receiving favor from the Lord. As humans, we are wired to relate to others, including in the context of a marriage.

When God created us, we were fashioned in God’s image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God, who is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is deeply and inextricably relational.

As creatures made in God’s image, we reflect that in our nature. No wonder we gravitate toward relationships with other people, and we continue to desire relationships such as marriage.

If the story ended where we left off, there wouldn’t be a need to go on any further. The reality is that people don’t get married in the context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now more complicated than that. Ever after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.

Adam went from calling Eve, his beloved (“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” – Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command (“The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it” – Genesis 3:12).

Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame onto the other, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding from one another and God. Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Something entered our lives and has complicated this beautiful relationship given to us by God.

Even though people get married in the shadow and wake of Genesis 3, the opening verse quoted from Proverbs still holds true. Finding a marriage partner is finding a good thing.

Reflecting on marriage while writing to the Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul recalls what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds them that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh. But then he drops the bombshell that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his people. This is a “profound mystery”, he writes (Ephesians 5:32).

As such, marriage is this weird mix of the magical, the mysterious and the mundane. The ups and downs of life touch married people in the same way as anyone else under the sun. Issues of loneliness, anger, fear, discontent, and anxiety beset the married in common with everyone else.

While being “magical” in the sense of being enjoyable, there is nothing magical about being married in the sense that it doesn’t insulate you from real life. While being special and a source of great joy, marriage, and married life is not a fairytale. Sometimes, especially for those with an idealized picture of marriage, this may come as a disappointment.

What is married life like?

It is good

As we pointed out above, marriage is still a good gift from God, even amid hearts and a world gone wrong. It is a blessings having someone to share life with, to pick their brain before making a decision, to be deeply intimate with them (emotionally and physically), a partner with whom to laugh and meet the challenges that come to us all – sickness, the loss of loved ones, losing a job, moving house and so much more.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Presumably, the point also applies when a couple lives together – they sharpen one another by giving each other wisdom and guidance to live life well.

Ecclesiastes also makes this observation about human life: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). The next verse then goes on to say, “Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” (Eccl. 4:11).

This was written before the advent of the electric blanket, but the point is well-taken. Having someone to share life and a bed with is pleasant. Many married couples can attest to the joy of having someone to pre-warm the bed and snuggle up to, and how the input of their partner has helped them to make a better life and business decisions.

It can be mundane

As author Mike Mason put it in his book The Mystery of Marriage, while marriage is a brilliant gift, a miracle even, it is also “full of awkwardness and indelicacy, as unromantic at times as a sinkful of dirty dishes”. Laundry and dirty dishes aren’t a myth for married folk, but an everyday reality.

The trash needs taking out; groceries need to be bought and put away; lawns need mowing, snow-laden driveways need shoveling; and if kids are part of the picture, snotty noses and dirty diapers are par for the course.

All of this can be very unromantic, but there is a beauty in the mundane that can still be celebrated. It is in these small, everyday moments when we can serve the other person, and see some of their best qualities emerging.

Forgiveness is required

Being close to someone else means that they get to see you as you are, the beautiful and the ugly. They are exposed to not only your frailties and inconsistencies but also your humor, generosity of spirit and much more. The weaknesses will often have to be forgiven.

The kindness and consideration that married couples show one another is a lifeline and the lifeblood of a good marriage. Without it, the constant drip-drip-drip of irritations with one another will build up until it’s unbearable. “Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

A Christian marriage, that is, a marriage in which both parties know and serve the Lord, is one in which grace flows from one partner to the other and vice versa, and in which there is an open-eyed understanding that there are two sinners in the relationship. No one person is to blame for the issues in the relationship, and both parties must learn to walk in humility with each other.

Growing together as a married couple

One thing is sure when it comes to life – people don’t stay the same. Yes, there is a sense in which people remain who they are through the years. However, we go through different phases in life, and we experience things that can change our opinion on matters.

The birth of children can change our priorities; the loss of a job can drastically change how you perceive yourself; meeting new people or reading new books can shift our views on politics or other areas of life. In all this, rather than growing apart, a couple can share in one another’s journey so they grow together.

The importance of date night, among other things, is to continue sharing life together and stay on the same page. Life can get hectic, sometimes to the point that a couple becomes like ships in the night – mere roommates and not life partners. Date night helps a couple to touch base regularly.

Ask one another questions about your interests,  what’s occupying your headspace; what your dreams, hopes, fears and so on are. In this way, you know what your partner is dealing with, and how best to be supporting them in this season.

Contrary to popular culture (especially idealized portraits of relationships in movies and songs), a good marriage takes work. We know that we are living in the post-Genesis 3 situation, and so this doesn’t come as a surprise to us.

Christian couples counseling

Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship constructively. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes. Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue on the path toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider couples counseling with your spouse.

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“In Love”, Courtesy of Hian Oliveira, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Andrew Welch, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Watch”, Courtesy of James Hose Jr., Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Relationship Advice for Men: How to Nurture Your Marriage and Avoid Adultery

Marriage is a gift given to us by God. As James says in his letter, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Like all gifts, it is meant to be enjoyed, but unfortunately, it can also be taken for granted and not appreciated for its worth.

Marriage is the joining of two people into one flesh. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This union is something that Paul called a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

The sad reality is that there is such a thing as adultery, which ruptures relationships and causes pain for everyone involved, and it’s the one thing that’s an exception to the prohibition on getting divorced (Matthew 5:32).

Adultery violates the exclusivity of the marriage relationship and breaks the covenant between the two spouses and God. There is a variety of superficial reasons for marital unfaithfulness, including dissatisfaction, a lack of sex, or coldness, to name a few, and both men and women can commit adultery against their partners. How then can men, for their part, nurture their marriages and shore them up against adultery?

Relationship Advice for Men

Love and enjoy your wife

Throughout the Bible, many passages speak to husbands, telling them to love their wives. The most well-known of these is in Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…” (Ephesians 5:25, 33).

If the husband and his wife are now “one flesh,” as we pointed out earlier, it makes sense then, that for the man to love his wife is to love someone who has become part of himself. The letter to the Colossians says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19).

Presumably, husbands being told to love their wives is something that needed to be said a few times. Loving your spouse means listening to them (really listening), being considerate of their needs, not keeping records of wrong, not being rude or self-seeking, seeking to protect and trust your spouse (1 Corinthians 13).

The Scriptures talk about enjoying one’s spouse. The Book of Proverbs puts it this way – “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 captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19). This short passage talks about rejoicing and being captivated by your wife.

This is something one must actively do. It doesn’t happen accidentally; it is a choice one must make daily. The “lover” in Song of Songs waxes lyrical, celebrating his beloved: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves.

Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead” (Song of Songs 4:1). And he goes on to talk about her teeth, her lips, her temples, her neck, and breasts. This is a man completely intoxicated by and besotted with his beloved. His attention is fixed on her, and no other.

Be wise – don’t look elsewhere

The flip side of this is when a husband’s attention and affections aren’t solely focused on his wife. In our internet age, this is all too common with porn and illicit chat rooms.

The verse we quoted earlier from Proverbs goes on: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers…Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?” (Proverbs 5:15-17, 20).

Another passage warns “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife” (Proverbs 6:27-29). Entering an intimate relationship with someone other than your wife can lead to tremendous pain for everyone involved; as alluring as it may seem, it’s just not worth it.

Infidelity isn’t just about sex, it can be about emotional connection too. Sometimes it may seem like someone at work is a better listener than your spouse, and you unburden your problems to her. That likely is crossing a boundary. It doesn’t have to become sexual before it becomes a problem.

How do you know your relationship with another woman is a problem? When you begin to hang out where you know you shouldn’t or send texts and messages you then proceed to hide from your wife or delete because you know the content is salacious or suggestive, there’s a problem. Deep emotional and physical bonds are meant to be forged with your spouse. Confide in a therapist, your pastor, or a relative, if speaking to your spouse about an issue is difficult.

In the book of wisdom called Proverbs, Wisdom is pictured as a woman who calls out in the street, urging people to heed her voice so they may live rich, full lives. Heed Wisdom’s call, and don’t be fooled – you’ll get burned if you seek emotional or physical succor elsewhere then your spouse.

“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end, she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:3-4). Stolen kisses seem sweet, but there’s a price to pay. The detritus of such liaisons is often broken marriages, and children caught in the mess.

Mind who you hang with

Some friends. Are. The. Worst. They don’t encourage right behavior and instead enable their friend’s worst impulses. “Do not be misled,” Paul tells a young church, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Some friends won’t caution you when you’re going astray, nor will they invest in your marriage by encouraging you to be a better husband.

While such a move will likely be painful, for the sake of your marriage, the influence of such friends, which corrupts good morals, needs to dwindle. Rather, cultivate godly friendships that try to help you flourish in your marriage and other relationships.

The heart of the matter

The “lure” of other women starts in our own hearts and that’s where the issue of dissatisfaction must be addressed. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The hard truth to confront is that temptation is not merely something out there, it’s something in us.

James puts it this way: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).

The hope we have is that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Conclusion

By the grace of God, our mistakes are not etched in stone. Consulting with a Christian marriage counselor can help you open communication with your spouse, set boundaries with others, and nurture your marriage toward health. If you’re looking for additional relationship advice for men, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory.

Photos:
“Fight”, Courtesy of Alex Green, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Piggy Back”, Courtesy of Josh Willink, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Praying”, Courtesy of Paulo Márcio Dos, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Socks”, Courtesy of Rene Asmussen, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Hope for Newlyweds: When the Honeymoon Phase Ends

To be a newlywed is often referred to as “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship. It is often considered to last somewhere between six months and two years. It is a period where it feels like you are living in a romantic movie. It might feel like pure bliss, being head over heels in love, and seeing the other person as a dream too good to be true.

“To fully know and still fully love, is the primary aim of marriage.” Fierce Marriage

The honeymoon period might mean constant togetherness, a high of physical intimacy, and make you wonder if your spouse could ever do wrong in your eyes. There might be a literal hormonal spike as you get married and experience the wedded bliss of waking up to the love of your life, spending every night together, and getting to be with them in the mundane moments.

You realize that your love does not always need the big production that dating involved. However, we cannot always put on our best self. Marriage brings out the raw and exposed parts that we try to hide when dating.

While the honeymoon period is a time where one should genuinely soak in the love and affection of your new spouse and engage in romantic gestures, reality soon sets in:

  • Couples might begin disagreeing over finances.
  • Jobs might become extremely stressful and eat away your free time.
  • You might start thinking about when to start a family and begin to have disagreements over your ideal timings.
  • There might be an overbearing mother-in-law that overwhelms the couple or brings about disagreements.
  • You might be trying to figure out a proper balance for working out, staying late after work to catch up on some projects, spending quality time together, and still trying to invest in the friendships outside of your relationship.

How to Move Forward After the Honeymoon Phase

There are several things to consider as you wonder why the honeymoon phase is ending and how to move forward in your relationship rather than wallow in defeat:

Realize you took an oath to put in the work.

You vowed to love one another through sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. For better and for worse. You vowed to love one another when you wake up with morning breath, when one of you does not replenish the toilet paper in the bathroom, when you disagree over which side of the family you should visit at Christmas, and how to handle the order of priority in your finances. Marriage is working through disagreements, not running at the first sight of them.

“Great marriages don’t happen by luck or by accident. They are the result of a consistent investment of time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, affection, prayer, mutual respect, and a rock-solid commitment between a husband and a wife.” – Dave Willis

I urge you to renew that vow mentally every single day. Vow to be there if your spouse has the flu and is begging for some warm soup. Vow to be there when your spouse feels defeated by a lack of work promotions. Vow to be there when your spouse loses their cool and begs for your forgiveness because their voice escalated, and frustration got the best of their tongue.

Vow to hold hands and wipe away each other’s tears when one or both of you experiences grief and loss.

Love is more than a grand romantic gesture or butterflies soaring in your stomach. It is choosing one another every single day, regardless of where life and circumstances take you.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Be willing to say and talk about the difficult things.

Once the honeymoon period comes to a halt, raw and vulnerable conversations need to be at the forefront of your marriage. To continue thriving in your relationship, you cannot stay dormant. You must keep looking forward, even when you are unsure of what forward looks like.

“Like a soft, deep layer of mulch, transparency in your marriage will keep most weed seeds dormant and unable to sprout.” – Barbara Rainey

Transparency is one of the biggest ways to overcome threats to your marriage.

Start by asking simple questions:

  • What is something I can do to make you feel loved?
  • What is one thing you love about our relationship?
  • What is something we can do better as a couple to continue growing?
  • What is something I do that irritates you?
  • Do you feel like my family is supportive of our marriage/why?
  • Do you feel like we spend quality time together?
  • What is something we can do to improve our communication?

Take captive any negative thoughts about your spouse.

  • “Maybe this isn’t your soul mate.”
  • “Did I marry the right person?”
  • “If they really loved me, they would_______”
  • “Why don’t they ever listen to me?”
  • “If he/she loved me, they would want to hang out with me and not their work friends.”
  • “They do not appreciate me and all of the things I do.”
  • “No one else would put up with this.”

Take those thoughts that creep into your mind captive. Our thinking patterns decide our actions and reactions. Therefore, the things we think about our spouse can tragically affect the way we interact with them and prioritize them. We must fix our minds on Christ and try to focus on the things we love about our spouse rather than nitpick everything we think they should be doing.

“Taking thoughts captive means controlling them instead of letting them control you.” – Priscilla Shirer

Do not let the negativity of the world influence your marriage. If a friend or family member is trying to get you to bash your spouse, it might be time to address those negative patterns. If you are constantly arguing with your spouse in your head or nitpicking at all their quirks, it is time to refocus your thoughts and reevaluate your mindset.

Prioritize your relationship with Christ.

“God’s Word is the perfect guidebook for marriage, and those who live by His Word will reap the blessings that obedience brings.” – Darlene Schacht

If you want your marriage to thrive, the secret ingredient is not how lavish your lifestyle is or whether he brings you fresh flowers every week. Marriage should be centered on a relationship with Christ, focusing on the qualities of Christ.

We need to rid ourselves of the things the world focuses on, like money, physique, and grand gestures. Instead, we must bathe ourselves in grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and remain true to our vows. Marriage is not threatening divorce after one disagreement, it is vowing to put the work in every single day.

Keep finding those flickers of excitement.

The honeymoon phase does not have to be over forever. You can find creative ways to bring those flickers of excitement to your relationship in any phase of marriage. Whether you have been married one year or twenty years, you want to continue igniting that flame, having fun, going on dates, and making intimacy a priority.

  • End every day with “I love you”.
  • Greet your spouse at the door with a hug and kiss.
  • Never go to bed angry.
  • Continue dating one another.
  • Pray together.
  • Save money.
  • Establish healthy habits as a couple and as individuals.
  • Attend church together.
  • Do a Bible study together.
  • Have deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.
  • Dream together.
  • Plan for the future.
  • Attend counseling together as an investment in your marriage now and in the future.

Marriage counseling does not have to be a last resort for your marriage when it is struggling to move forward after the honeymoon phase. Counseling can be an investment at the start of your marriage to establish healthy patterns, learn effective communication patterns, learn more about each other and your love languages, and show your spouse that you are in it for the long run.

Photos:
“Honeymoon Hideaway”, Courtesy of Roberto Nickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Rings”, Courtesy of Marcos Paulo Prado, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bride and Groom in a Canoe”, Courtesy of Drew Dau, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “With All Your Heart”, Courtesy of Brittney Burnett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Unforgiveness and Its Effect on Our Lives

The idea of dishing out our own brand of justice is a tale as old as time, and it finds expression in comic books, movies, books, and in our lives. Some of our favorite pop culture heroes are the vigilantes who serve justice outside the lines of the law.

The Guy Ritchie-directed movie Snatch, starring Brad Pitt and Jason Statham among others, put an interesting definition of the word “nemesis” in the mouth of one of its foul-mouthed characters, a gangster named Bricktop. Bricktop, in one of his many memorable pieces of dialogue, said something like this: “Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by . . . me.”

When someone wounds or offends us or the people we love, it is natural for us to want to retaliate, to inflict retribution. Sometimes, we feel like fixing things ourselves will be the best and quickest way to see justice done. Bricktop, for his part, thought himself to be a proper agent of righteous retribution, even though under the circumstances he was far from being righteous.

Set that next to the notion of forgiveness, which doesn’t often sit well with us, especially when we’re deep in our feelings about a situation. Forgive that person who just insulted me, my faith, or my people? Forgive that person who just rudely cut me off in traffic and then had the gall to insult me and my driving?

It’s often difficult enough to forgive our loved ones, but to forgive those we would call our enemies? That seems like a bridge too far. In those moments, it seems to make more sense to follow the way of Bricktop than it does to follow the way of Jesus.

What unforgiveness does to us

Every action we undertake has an impact on our lives. On the other side of that is the reality that whatever our hearts are full of will emerge out of our mouths and into our lives, showing us what’s going on inside of us.

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in them, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in them.Matthew 12:34-35

Forgiving people is hard. We are concerned, and rightly so, that they will hurt us again, that forgiving them will seem like condoning their behavior, or that forgiving them will allow them to keep doing what they did. It is understandable that faced with the choice between offering forgiveness and withholding it, we often withhold it and live in a state of unforgiveness.

What, though, is the effect of unforgiveness on our lives?

It creates a barrier between us and God

In our own lives, we make many, many mistakes. We are repeat offenders in God’s books, and we find ourselves often at the throne of grace asking God for forgiveness. In the prayer he taught his followers, Jesus taught them to ask God for forgiveness even as they pray for daily bread (Matthew 6:9-15).

If we know ourselves well and are honest, we should acknowledge that we need forgiveness from God and other people often. God is gracious and freely forgives us, casting our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.

The challenging part for us is that God asks us to extend forgiveness to others in the same way that he forgives us. What we have received, we are to pass on and bless others with.

So, that prayer for forgiveness that Jesus taught his followers goes, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” and he closes off the conversation by saying, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:11-12, 14-15).

When we withhold forgiveness from other people and live in a state of unforgiveness, it brings a challenge to our relationship with God. As one interpretation of these verses puts it, “In prayer, there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part”.

We exist in a complex web of relationships. God cares about what happens between us and our neighbors, and we can’t isolate or insulate our relationship with them from our relationship with God. The new life God gives us enables us to live in harmony with others and empowers us to do the impossible, like forgiving people.

It’s bad for your health

Forgiveness is connected to massive health benefits. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of a heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.”

“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in many changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response.

Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

Living in unforgiveness and holding on to negative feelings about other people is bad for your health.

It robs us of the freedom God intends

One of the gifts that God has given people in Jesus is freedom. That freedom takes shape in different ways, but one of the surprising ways is that we are freed from our old selves, which were prone to feelings such as “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” (Ephesians 4:31). These are part of the old way of life.

That doesn’t mean that no situation will arise where we feel those things. Living out the life of God in us means that we give less and less room to those negative emotions, and learn more and more to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).

Feeling angry toward someone as a result of unforgiveness can be so draining. As we’ve already pointed out, unforgiveness includes a heavy physical burden to carrying those emotions all day. Feeling anger and resentment toward other people also just wears down your soul and robs you of your joy. Have you ever noticed what happens when you’re in a good mood, and a person you have something against walks in the room?

All your energy gets taken away from the happiness you were feeling and is redirected toward avoiding that person’s gaze or just wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. That’s a burden. Rather than carry that, God’s people can be sure that God will take up our cause and do what is right at the right time, so we don’t have to burden ourselves with holding onto our anger and wanting revenge (Romans 12:14-21).

It affects relationships and causes us to miss what God is doing

The story of the lost son in Luke 15 is a remarkable one about people finding a way back from a very dark place. The younger son in the story is wayward, and he squanders the family wealth on alcohol, parties, and fast living. He brings shame to his father and the family. The older son stayed home all the while, faithfully working the fields.

When the younger brother ran out of money and lost his friends, he thought to come home and restore some semblance of a relationship with his father. The wayward younger brother in the story stood for the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus was welcoming and eating with.

The older brother, standing for the religious leaders, angrily stood far off from the wayward brother, and would not extend forgiveness, welcome, or rejoice when the generous father had welcomed the wayward son home.

Was the wayward son wrong in what he had done? Yes, very much so. Is it natural and normal to feel offended, much like the older brother did in these circumstances? Yes. But in that story, Jesus was trying to show that the joy of welcoming back a wayward brother who has repented ought to overtake our offense at what they did.

The Pharisees were unwilling to welcome the tax collectors and sinners even when God in Jesus was welcoming them into the Kingdom. Choosing to forgive isn’t easy, but living in unforgiveness made them, and it can make us, miss out on what God is doing.

Photos:
“Love At All Costs”, Courtesy of Gus Moretta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Let It Go”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Please Forgive Me”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Relationship Issues: Biblical Wisdom for Life

Human beings are, by virtue of our makeup, called into community and relationships. Having been made in God’s image, we are relational by nature and gravitate toward relationships with others – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). However, living as we do in the aftermath of Genesis 3, it’s not surprising that our various relationships (whether with our friends, spouses, colleagues, neighbors and even strangers on the internet) are complicated and difficult. You may find yourself desiring relationships but struggling with them for a variety of reasons related to relationship issues, including pride, anger, lack of forgiveness, hurt, lack of trust, struggles to be vulnerable and so on.

Bible Verses about Relationship Issues

God has not left us alone in this. The Bible gives us wisdom on how to navigate this important area of life, challenging and encouraging us to enter and conduct relationships in a healthy manner. Below are a few key verses with wisdom on handling and thinking about relationships in a life-giving way.

The call to love others

When asked to summarize what the message of the Bible was, here’s how that conversation with Jesus went:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.Matthew 22:35-40

In other words, love is what it’s all about. We are called to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.

The two commands to love God and our neighbor are very closely linked. Another biblical author expressed it this way: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:7-8, 20).

The gist of it is that we can’t say something like, “People are so hard to get along with, but what matters is that I love God”. This verse is saying if we know and love God, it follows that we love people too (as difficult as that may be!).

“A new command I give you,” Jesus told his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Our relationships are to be marked by love, which will show people that we truly belong to Jesus.

Living with compassion and forgiveness

We are all sinners. We hurt, disappoint, frustrate, annoy, and generally do stuff to one another that we shouldn’t. We need forgiveness from others (admitting this calls for humility), and we also need to extend forgiveness to others.

The apostle Paul said to the young community of Christians in Ephesus, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Not only are we called to get rid of bitterness, which undermines relationships, but we are to extend forgiveness, which builds and rebuilds relationships. To live well with others in meaningful relationships, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are necessary.

It’s challenging and interesting that Paul says to be compassionate and forgiving towards others in the same way God forgave us. That’s humbling, because we need forgiveness from God often, and he is more than willing to grant it. By the power of the Holy Spirit who can do more than we can even imagine or ask for, God is able to transform our hearts to enable us to forgive others.

Dealing with our anger

The earlier verse mentioned getting rid of anger. Anger is a real issue for many. While anger is a valid emotional reaction to circumstances or certain actions by people, it can become crippling if we live in it. Anger can fester and take root so deep that even being in the same room with the person becomes impossible.

Instead of stewing in our anger and letting it lead us down a dark path, we are encouraged, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). The longer we hold onto our anger, the further it drives a wedge between us and the person we are angry with.

That wedge is something the devil can exploit to undermine or destroy the relationship. Sometimes you can be so angry with someone that after a while you don’t even remember why you’re angry because the issue has faded from view, and the anger has become an entity unto itself. That’s a dangerous place to be. It is wise to address our anger and its root cause sooner rather than later.

Being in community

Because we are creatures made in God’s image, we are relational by nature, though we come at this differently. Some love huge crowds, while others are content to have a deep conversation with one person. In either case, relating to others meets a need in us.

Ecclesiastes also makes this observation about human life: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). The book of Proverbs has this gem, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We sharpen one another by giving each other wisdom, guidance, assistance and so much more.

God has placed us in many different communities, including the community of faith. To live out the Christian life, we need that community. The reciprocal pronoun “one another” is prominent in the New Testament: “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16); “Be servants of one another’ (Galatians 5:13); “Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 5:11); “Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21); “Forgive one another” (Col. 3:13); “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16); “Love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22) and so many more.

The Christian life is a life lived out in community, in a shared life with others. If you are not part of a community of faith, may I encourage you to join one?

Walking wisely

Lastly, but not least, part of being wise in our relationships lies in not only knowing who to be involved with, but who to steer clear of. “Do not be misled,” Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Be wise who you hang out and build your life with.

If you struggle with certain kinds of addictions, for instance, it may not be healthy for you to hang out with people that actively participate in that lifestyle. Cultivate relationships with people that love the Lord and are actively pursuing him.

Christian Counseling for Relationships

The area of relationship issues may be a complicated or painful one for you, whether you’re carrying hurt, disappointment, fear of commitment, or anger. A Christian counselor can help you, not only with thinking through relationships from a Biblical perspective but also with giving you skills and tools to enable your relationships to flourish. Whether it’s for talk or another kind of therapy, consider connecting with a Christian counselor.

Photos:
“Black Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reflection”, Courtesy of The HK Photo Company, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of Emmanuel Phaeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Together”, Courtesy of Cassidy Rowell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage? 6 Truths from God’s Word

Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about marriage?” If so, this article is for you. In the beginning, when the world was young and harmony reigned, God blessed the first marriage, between Adam and Eve. After Adam was created, there was nothing in the creation like him, and God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”. God created and brought Eve to Adam. Created in God’s image and Adam’s equal, Eve was “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” as Adam put it.

Adam and Eve had one another in this brave new world – someone who was an equal but different and complementary. Since people are made in God’s image, it makes sense that Adam and Eve had an innate desire for relationship and that it wouldn’t be good for either of them to be alone. As descendants of Adam and Eve, all of us are the result of this first marriage.

Cut to the 21st century, where many struggle with the relevance of the institution of marriage. Despite our difficulties with marriage, there is a beauty to the way marriage brings two lives together and the two become one flesh, one new family unit when they leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24).

This “leaving and cleaving” creates a committed space of unashamed intimacy within which a man and woman build a life together. What can we continue to learn from the Bible about marriage?

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

It is good

One of the things the Bible says about marriage is that it is good. The book of ancient wisdom called Proverbs puts it this way: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Presumably, she who finds a husband also finds what is good.

Again, this makes sense in light of human nature and our inclination toward being in relationship with others, including this most intimate of human relationships. The marriage relationship is a life-long commitment (Romans 7:2). All things being equal, weddings are generally a time of celebration.

In some liturgies, the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus turned water into wine is mentioned as another divine endorsement of marriage. If God was behind marriage when the world was perfect and the specter of arguments and divorce was absent, the wedding at Cana shows us God still endorsing marriage even in our broken world. It is good, and it is worth celebrating.

It is a mystery

Of all the things one could say about marriage, one apt description is that it is a mystery. It’s a mystery in a least two ways. First, despite our culture’s fractious relationship with marriage, the vast majority of people are still drawn towards making the public and lifelong commitment that is marriage.

Second, and more important, reflecting on marriage while writing to Christians in the city of Ephesus, the apostle Paul brings up what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds these believers that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh.

But then he says that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his church. This is a “profound mystery”, he says (Ephesians 5:32). It’s a bit mind-bending, but human marriage is patterned after and is an echo of the relationship between Christ and his people. Getting married draws you inadvertently into something beyond yourself, something timeless and cosmic – profound mystery indeed.

It isn’t for everyone

Even though marriage is a good gift, it isn’t for everyone. There are some for whom the celibate life is their calling. Both Jesus and Paul make this point. Some people have made the choice to remain single “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus continues, saying, “Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12).

In other words, some people may decide to stay single to maintain an unswerving focus on the kingdom. Paul puts it this way:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…if you do marry, you have not sinned… I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.1 Corinthians 7:17, 28, 32

In other words, if you want to get married, that’s great, but marriage comes with certain responsibilities or anxieties, and you must be aware of that. If you want to stay single, that’s also great. The single life enables a certain kind of unbroken focus on the kingdom. In other words, the calling toward either marriage or singleness is morally neutral; each life comes with its own joys and burdens.

It’s not perfect

Marriage is not perfect because the people in it aren’t perfect. The reality is that people no longer get married in the blissful context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now way more complicated than that. Coming after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage now happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.

Adam went from composing poetry for Eve, his beloved wife, saying, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command: “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it”, he says (Genesis 3:12).

She’s now merely “The woman”. Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame to one another, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding ourselves and our motives from one another and God.

Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Sin entered our lives, complicating and twisting this beautiful relationship given to us by God.

It should be protected

Because we are not perfect and we’re getting married in a post-Genesis 3 world, marriages are fragile and need protection from the people in (and those not in) them. The Bible is full of warnings against adultery, but it also concerns itself with harmful attitudes between husbands and wives that undermine love, mutual appreciation, warmth, forgiveness and so on.

It also addresses the harmful attitudes of others who are not in the marriage and who don’t take the marriage covenant seriously. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

God is aware of the world we live in, the temptations and challenges we encounter in daily life. Sometimes the spouses in a marriage, or the people close to them, don’t honor the marriage covenant. This can have dire consequences for all involved.

It’s a partnership

A marriage is a partnership in which both spouses have a role to play and something to contribute to the nurture and health of the relationship, and any children that may come from the marriage. Both the husband and wife have a role to play in instructing their children and in how they relate to each other.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction,” says Proverbs 1:8, “and do not forsake your mother’s teaching”. Paul talks about the framework within which our relationships work. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”, he writes in Ephesians 5:21.

There is to be a conciliatory attitude in the marriage relationship to help that relationship flourish, so when we talk about “submission” and “loving one another,” it is not about sublimating your personality or strength but about leveraging it toward making the marriage work. This requires the work and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in us.

Christian Couples Counseling

Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship in a constructive manner. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes.

Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue working toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider Christian couples counseling with your spouse.

Photos:
“Bride and Groom”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding in Abruzzo”, Courtesy of Foto Pettine, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of freestocks, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Putting the Ring on the Finger”, Courtesy of Sir Manuel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

11 Ways to Love Your Spouse Well

Many marriages will end when one feels the other does not love them anymore or does not love them how they need. People will say that they have “fallen out of love” with their spouses, or maybe they are exhausted from giving so much love but not receiving enough love in return.

Even though love in marriage is about giving and receiving love (not just one or the other), it is often the culprit behind extramarital affairs, separation, and divorce.

11 Ways to Love Your Spouse Well

It is vital in healthy, thriving marriages to choose to love your spouse well every day because this is the most important human relationship in your life, so this is a shortlist of ways to love well.

1. Spend time with them.

This seems silly to say, but life gets seriously busy, especially with work and children in the mix. It is often difficult to prioritize spending quality time together, and there may often be days when you barely speak at all.

This behavior can lead to emotional distance in your relationship, where you become like ships passing through the night instead of partners, lovers, companions, and best friends. So choose time every day, even if it is simply 15-30 quiet and uninterrupted minutes (phones away, televisions off, children not with you) talking about how you are doing, how your day was, or any other important things.

Schedule date nights or date days/weekends with your spouse when you can get away and focus solely on each other. You will never be able to know how to love them well if you are not working to know them every day. They will change, and so will you. Do not let them pass you by over time so that you do not know one another anymore.

2. Prioritize them over every person in your life, including your children.

Your spouse should be (and know that he or she is) the most important person in your life, under your relationship with Jesus if you are a Christian. This relationship must be protected and nurtured because it is the glue of your family. Without a healthy marriage, parenting will always be a huge challenge, and there will be constant dysfunction.

Your whole family will be unhealthy if your marriage is unhealthy. Put them above your work, extended family (like your family of origin), and even your children. Though your children are next in line of priority, your marriage should be at the top. To love your children well you need to love your spouse well.

3. Develop empathy for them: put yourself in their shoes.

Consider how they feel, what they feel, and why they feel it. Empathy is a beautiful and effective way to demonstrate love. If you do not ever consider their feelings with family decisions or about the health of your marriage or any other matter of importance, they will feel unseen, unheard, and not valued by you.

4. Be honest with them when you feel like they are not loving you well in return.

If you are the one who is loving so much that it is hurting you, it is time to be honest with your spouse about this. If you are constantly working hard to meet their needs and fulfill their wants and wishes to the point that your own needs are not being met, your relationship could be unhealthy. It is time to share with them that you feel you are carrying the emotional load of the relationship and that you want a reciprocal relationship. Be specific with what you need and want in return.

5. Pay attention to their needs and wants.

Be on the lookout for what they want and what they need. Acknowledge that you hear and respect them when they directly share these with you. If you cannot meet those needs, and you will not be able to meet them all, help them problem-solve about ways to get what they need and want.

However, if it is something that they specifically need from you, make it your priority to serve them in the way they need. If they want something from you that will cause you pain or harm, then set a boundary, and say no. Offer a compromise.

You could also practice this if there is something that they want with which you are uncomfortable (like some sexual activity, for example). Just because your spouse wants it, does not mean they need it or will get it. If it seems reasonable and, in your power, to help, then do so.

6. Support their dreams and work.

This could be a great way to demonstrate your love for your spouse. Always be open in communication about dreams, goals, and work. Let them share with you and honor them. If there is something physical that you can do (like financially support a dream or carve out time to hang out with the kids so that your spouse can work toward it), then do it.

If it is not in your hands, then hear them and provide support. They need you on their team, just as you need them on yours.

If your dream is inconsistent with what your relationship needs, it could be that your dream needs to be carefully assessed. You should never pursue a dream at the expense of your relationship, so it is even more important to have your spouse on board (and to be on board with theirs, too).

7. Serve them.

Take over the dishes. Help take out the trash. Do the bills. Cut up the credit card if your spouse hates it. Book a trip. Make the bed. Take them lunch. Hang out with the kids. Serving is an incredible display of love.

8. Be willing to be wrong.

You are not always right, nor do you always know what is right. When you are willing to acknowledge that you are wrong, it goes a long way in your relationship. However, if you never apologize and always react defensively, your marriage will suffer in the long run. This kind of behavior turns your spouse away and reduces the feeling of emotional safety in the relationship.

9. Listen.

This is a way to show respect for your spouse. Be willing to listen. “Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry.” Listen to their words and listen to the things they do that speak louder than words. Listen to what they feel and what they think. Listen to their body cues and body language. Listen to their health and their other relationships. If you notice that your spouse is struggling or needs you to step in and love them better, it is your job to do that.

10. Keep the fun alive and flirt, too.

Remember when you used to have fun? Think of a list of things that you can do that you both (or even just one of you) enjoy, and spend time doing that together! What did you do before that you both used to enjoy? Is it possible to put it back into your life? If you enjoy game nights, going to the movies, going shopping together, or going on trips, it does not matter what it is, just carve out time to do what you enjoy together.

Keep flirting, too! It is a way to keep the fun in your marriage, and it will show your spouse that you still find them attractive and that you still want them. This can be a great way to nurture your sexual relationship.

11. Pay attention to how they feel loved most.

One helpful (but not exhaustive) tool to use is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. He lists what he believed to be the top five ways that spouses give and receive love in his book, and they are relevant to discuss here. You may do some of the things above, but your spouse may not feel loved. Pay attention to how they feel love. It usually is different than what makes you feel love and how you give love. The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation: Words that speak on how you feel or what you think about your spouse. They could be kind words about them as a person or something that they have done, or they could be how you feel about them.

Physical Touch: Some people feel most loved with hugs, cuddles, massages, kisses, or sexual activity. Touch your spouse! Your sexual health in your relationship is vital to the overall health of your relationship.

Gifts: Thoughtful gifts are how many feel loved, and if this is your spouse’s love language, be intentional about surprising them often with small (and sometimes big) gifts.

Acts of Service: Some find it incredible when their spouses serve them in some way.

Quality Time: Some just want to be together without distraction. That for them feels like love.

No matter what you choose to do, pay attention to what you need and what your spouse needs. Do everything in your power to love them well and meet any needs that you can. This is the foundation of a healthy marriage, and nurture it in the long run, helping safeguard against affairs, separation, or divorce.

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for more practical ways to love your spouse or you could use some additional support in your relationship, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment. We would be happy to help.

Photos:
“Dream Come True”, Courtesy of Oziel Gomez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bridge”, Courtesy of Shea Rouda, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart in the Sand”, Courtesy of Khadeeja Yasser, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking on the Beach”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License