I’m convinced that all couples stand at the altar wanting to be happily married and believing that they can be. Have you watched one of those YouTube proposals with the flash card testimony? They’re beautiful. And the dreams on those cards are still attainable.
The Bible gives commands for the kind of people we all need to be. Applying those principles (with some poetic license) to our marriages keeps us on track or fills in the missing pieces in a less-than-happy marriage. Stated succinctly, our marriages would be a lot better off if we extended basic human decency to our spouses.
Be kind (Ephesians 4:32) We’ve all been kind to the people we encounter in our world only to get home and turn into a mean, cranky, unreasonable person. Why would we chose to be kind in public and then allow ourselves to be unkind in the privacy of our home, to the people with whom we’ll spend a lifetime?
Be tenderhearted (Ephesians 4:3) Marriages need tenderness. Touching, praying together, carefully-chosen words in the morning and evening, and comforting are all ways we show our tenderness to a spouse. Specific seasons of marriage may cry out for an extra measure of tenderness; for instance, sickness, loss of a loved one, pregnancy and childbirth, or transitions.
Be forgiving (Ephesians 4:32) There will be mistakes, and over the course of a long marriage, there will be a lot of mistakes. We have a choice of what to do with those mistakes. We can tally them, nurture them, harbor them, and assume that each one was an attack on us personally or on our marriage. Or, we can see them for what they were. They were mistakes. We can forgive and move on.
Over the course of a long marriage, there will also be wrongs committed, serious wrongs. Those too must be forgiven both for the health of the marriage and for the individuals.
Be perfect (Matthew 5:48) The word perfect carries a meaning of being complete and mature. When we come to marriage already complete, satisfied, mature, we don’t need to seek for completion in a spouse. We don’t tear him down or drain him dry trying to nourish. We’re already complete. It takes a lot of pressure off our spouse if he/she is responsible for himself, but does not to have to satisfy a long list of spousal expectations.
Be separate (II Corinthians 6:17) As married people, we separate ourselves from everyone else and devote ourselves only to our spouse. Other than contacting for information purposes, I don’t call, text, chat with, or message other men. I don’t maintain a social connection to other men except through their wives. I’m separated from them and separated to my husband.
Be doers of the Word (James 1:22) Husbands and wives can be active doing the “to do” list instead of just listening to it and avoiding. Especially if you have a spouse with a love language of deeds of service or gifts, this one goes a long way. It’s probably not enough just to say, “I love you.” There will need to be some housework or flowers to demonstrate it.
Be ready (Matthew 24:44) While the context is preparing for the second coming of our Savior, we can loosely apply the principle to marriage. Be ready. Be prepared for the future. Avoid being blindsided. This principle applies to finances, scheduling, health, and the list goes on. Marriages often have one spouse who’s punctual and one who is relaxed on arrival times, one who preps for the future and one who works well under pressure. Finding a balance we can agree on that defines our “readiness,” can take frustration out of the day-to-day.
Be transformed (Romans 12:2) The world lives in infidelity, dishonesty, and materialism. Our marriages can be a haven from worldliness where we are transformed into people of faithfulness, transparency, and integrity. Many a marriage begins with a spouse thinking she can change her partner. Our interests would be better served by transforming ourselves than in attempting to change our spouse.
Be thankful (Colossians 3:15) Talk to anyone who has celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary. The word gratitude is sure to come up. Expressing gratitude to each other, being thankful for the relationships we have—be thankful.
Be not unequally yoked (II Corinthians 6:14) Opposites attract. He’s a morning person. She’s a night owl. He’s a spender. She’s a saver. The differences in marriages give life its texture and vibrancy. There are however inequalities to be avoided: most notably, when one person is a follower of Christ and one is not. With a profound inequality in the core values, heartbreak will follow. A fundamental difference in faith in God is one principle that God requires be resolved before two are yoked in marriage. If you are married to an unbeliever, you can live in faith looking forward to the day he will be won over (I Peter 3:1).
So is a happy marriage still possible? Absolutely! Follow after faith. Be the person who is kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, complete, separated, serving, prepared, changeable, and thankful. It’s a big order; but in it, you will find your reward. Read “How To BE Happily Married Part 2.”