Much thanks to all of you who’ve suggested blog post topics. I really like your ideas, and I’m going to work my way through them over the coming months. In fact, today’s post was inspired by a reader e-mail. Before I answer her questions, I want to say that I do not, under any circumstances, consider myself to be a marriage expert, because I’ve failed at marriage once before. I can’t prescribe to anyone how they should handle their marriage. This is merely my perspective
“It sounds like you and your husband have a wonderful marriage. I am struggling to figure out how to live out my faith through my marriage. I don’t really know what a Christian marriage is supposed to look like since the home I grew up in did not have one. Can you give any words of wisdom? How have you developed such a strong marriage? What do you do to keep it strong? How does being Christian affect the way you relate to each other in your marriage?”
I’m very blessed to be married to a man whom I adore, and who adores me. We enjoy remarkable compatibility 99% of the time. However, in the interest of total honesty, and with my husband’s permission, I can freely tell you that we too have difficult times. In fact, we’ve sought help from a marriage counselor twice in our nearly decade-long relationship. I’m not ashamed to tell you this – in fact, I’m proud. Our marriage is so important to us that when we had problems that we couldn’t solve on our own, we cared enough to seek professional help.
Because we’re both devout Christians, my husband and I strive to maintain a Biblical marriage. This means that after our relationship with God, our marriage comes first. This also means that we are “mutually submissive” to each other, as God commands:
Wives, submit to your husbands as 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 his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, 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 22-33
There are many Christians who bristle at the idea of mutual submission, or marriage as a partnership, because of the verse “wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” However, when you read the entire passage, you see that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. My husband sees this as the ultimate act of submission. We always try to treat each other with the utmost love and respect, and neither of us attempts to control or dominate the other.
I can tell you a few things that we do to keep our marriage strong. These things may not work for everyone, but they do work for us.
1) Marriage comes first. Long-time readers know that my husband and I participate in few activities outside the home, because we devote what little free time we have to each other. We rarely even go anywhere alone, to the point where people express surprise when they see one of us without the other. We follow the Biblical order of priorities:
1) God – Deuteronomy 6:5
2) Spouse – Ephesians 5:25
3) Children – Proverbs 22:6
4) Extended family – Deuteronomy 5:16
5) Brothers and sisters in Christ – Galations 5:13 (among many other verses)
6) The rest of the world – Matthew 28:19
When faced with a decision about whether to make a commitment of time, we first look to see how the activity fits into our order of priorities.
2) Marriage is between God, husband and wife. We see God as a third partner in our marriage, and we keep personal matters between the three of us. You’ll notice that I never talk about arguments with my husband, or complaints that I may have about him on this blog. I don’t do this to make all of you think that we have an absolutely perfect marriage – no marriage is perfect. I keep these things to myself out of respect for my husband. I won’t say that I’ve never complained, because I do make mistakes, but I make a concerted effort to build my husband up in public – not tear him down. If we have problems, we turn to each other, or to God in prayer, to solve them.
3) We don’t undermine each other in front of the children. This can be difficult (I know it often is for me) but we really try to present a united front when dealing with the children. If my husband disciplines them in a way that I don’t agree with, or vice versa, and they come complaining to me, I always try to answer, “If Dad says no, he means it.” Then I take up my complaint with him later, in private.
4) Sex is a gift from God. The Bible says that in marriage we become one flesh with our husbands (see II Peter 2:9. Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Matthew 19:5; Luke 1:34; I Corinthians 7:2-5, 9; Ephesians 5:31). There is simply no greater intimacy that we can share, and couples who have regular sex report greater happiness and contentment in marriage. Corinthians 7:1-6 teaches that our bodies are each other’s to enjoy and we are not to withhold sex from each other except by mutual agreement for a time set aside for prayer.
This can be very difficult for us moms to do, especially when we’re tired and stressed from dealing with little kids all day. Sometimes it’s easier to just say no, because we want time for ourselves. I’m certainly guilty of that. However, as a couple, we work very hard to make sure that physical intimacy is a regular part of our lives, and it really does keep us close and connected.
5) Decisions should be made together. Long ago, we agreed that we would make no big decisions without consulting each other. For example, if we are contemplating a purchase of more than $100, we talk about it first. If we’re having an issue with one of the kids, we discuss the best plan of action. We don’t do this because we lack the confidence or ability to make those decisions for ourselves – we do it because we value each other’s imput, and seek harmony in all areas of our lives. Life is calmer and happier when we’re on the same page.
6) We’re in it for the long haul. Even during the most difficult times, I always knew in my heart that I would never give up, because I love my husband, and I made a commitment to him that I take very seriously. We’ve been through what seems like a lifetime of trials – selling 25 years’ accumulation of “stuff,” running a business, career changes, moves, IVF, serious health problems, the deaths of family members. In all of those things, we turned toward each other, not away, and looked to God for help.
7) Each of us pulls our own weight. Around here, my husband is the breadwinner, but I show my respect for his hard work by providing him with an orderly house (well…usually) and good, homecooked meals. I also work hard to be a good steward of his provision for our family, which is why I’m a meticulous record-keeper, and I devote time to many frugal pursuits, such as cloth diapers, homemade baby food and wipes, garage-saling, scratch cooking, breastfeeding, coupon clipping, etc. We always say that his job is to make the money, and my job is to keep as much of it as possible. This is not to say that he doesn’t also help with housework and childcare – he absolutely does – but I’ll discuss division of labor in a future post.
8) A sense of humor goes a long way. I sincerely believe that one big reason for our continued happiness is our ability to have fun together. We laugh all the time, and we appreciate the little things, so we’re never short of entertainment. My husband’s notes to me are a good example. When you can find the humor in even the most difficult situations, and you don’t take yourself too seriously, life is a lot more fun.
This is how the Crap Family Chronicles came to be (which reminds me…the last two weeks would make a couple of excellent episodes for the chronicles).
If you’re interested in my husband’s perspective on our relationship, as well as the story of how we came to be, please see my husband’s guest posts:
I’m just warning you…if romance novels make you weep (or if you’re just pregnant and hormonal like me), you might want to have a box of tissues handy 🙂[print-me/]