Developing a Happy Christian Marriage in Three Steps
by ChristianCrush Team
Fewer people are getting married and more are getting divorced. For all intents and purposes, marriage is failing as an institution. Yet is it really a failing, or is it just a redefinition? Honestly, it’s too easy to say that the institution is a total loss. Thousands of couples get married every month. If marriage really was in a stand-still, it’d make more sense if the numbers were decreasing.
Way back when, women with college degrees generally faced a lifetime of spinsterhood. Pick up any book from the turn of the century and you’ll find a world where childrearing wasn’t just a woman’s profession, it was the only woman’s profession. Men didn’t want to be married to wives who were equally or more educated than they were. Since then, however, the social climate has changed. Educated wives are no longer taboo. In fact, it’s more common for men to have less education than women. Gender norms in the household – when the man makes the money and the woman takes care of the children – have drastically changed, and there is no reason to believe they won’t continue to do the same for years to come. There will always be typical “man” things to do and typical “woman” things to do. So what we need isn’t a complete reversion to marriage in the 50s, but a way to approach modern marriage with a healthier perspective.
It’s always fascinating to hear arguments about “saving” marriage. I’ve never been married, but I’ve been surrounded by married couples my entire life. I have to say, I have never quite understood the threat that marriage is under. I see the threat to people’s hearts and minds, but I see the “threat” to marriage mostly as a consequence of other, larger problems. Take a look at society and consider how it thinks about marriage. On the whole, I’d say the perspective is actually quite positive. There are always a few people who speak out and say marriage is terrible and should be illegal, but on the whole, people like to be married. We like to team up for life and work toward a common goal. That must mean that the true problem critics have is not with the idea of marriage itself, but with the people who get married.
Since there are so many people who still want to get married, why not start teaching them what Biblical marriage is all about? Notice how I say “Biblical”, not “traditional”. They aren’t always the same, even if many people think they are. In traditional marriage, the man is the boss and the woman follows. It’s not an inherently evil system, but there’s no wiggle room, and that’s one thing that humans really need. In Biblical marriage, the man and the woman are equal in their responsibilities toward one another. Where one falls, the other supports, and where one is weak, the other is strong. Many people wrongly interpret the Bible’s stance on marriage. It’s not about the man forcing the woman to submit to every decision he makes, which was often the case when a woman’s only sphere of influence was the home. Instead, it’s about valuing the woman’s perspective/preferences as equal to the man’s. A Christian husband should lead his marriage by bringing him and his wife to consensus on important decisions, rather than bulldozing her views with his. One great analogy of marriage is the captain pilot and copilot. Under normal conditions, they make decisions equally and share all responsibilities flying the plane. However, if anything were to go wrong, the captain pilot is ultimately responsible. Likewise, men are ultimately responsible for how well their marriages are doing and must sensitively respect and cherish their wives and consider their thoughts/feelings before making any decisions. By doing this, wives will feel valued, respected, and honored, which will motivate them to cherish their husbands in return. Therefore, sharing power in marriage is essential. Both partners need to feel like what they think/feel about each area of their lives is considered and respected. The more couples cultivate this atmosphere, the more the two will become one.
Everyone needs to remember the following three qualities to get started on a healthy marriage.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV). Love covers a multitude of sins, and when you love someone, it changes how you think of them. I’ve never seen such transformations as those that are based in love. When today’s couples learn to truly love one another, not simply lust after one another, it’ll be a step in the right direction. Also, couples must actively do behaviors that will help them stay in love.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3, NIV). Look at the reference above. The word “work” isn’t in any of those phrases. But if you look at what’s required, according to that verse, it sounds like hard work. Always humble, gentle, and patient? It’s a tall order even for the kindest of hearts, and married couples are supposed to strive for those qualities every day. In Hosea 2:19, marriage is a forever-deal that works with steadfast love and mercy. It’s work to live up to that calling, but it’s life-changing and rewarding, too.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV). Part of the reason marriages dissolve into divorce is a lack of respect, not simply between two people, but among society as a whole. We must continually strive towards respecting our partner’s thoughts and feelings, regardless of how different from our own they may be. Mutual respect and consideration is key to collaboration and oneness within matrimony.
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Dr. Wyatt Fisher is a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado, has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and specializes in marriage therapy. He blogs at http://www.christiancrush.com/relationship/
What other qualities would help couples have God-honoring marriages?