“Marriage is hard.”
How many times have you heard this phrase, witnessed it from other marriages, or even experienced this first-hand? If you are a wife or a husband, you more than likely know that this is truer than true. Yes, marriage is unbelievably difficult. From the moment you say “I do”, everything changes. You all of a sudden have this person who you share the same amount of space with, you sleep in the same bed, eat and shower in the same areas, and not to mention you now have a “one-ness” with this same person. Mark 10:7-8 NIV, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” You and your husband are one flesh in the eyes of God. Which is kind’ve incredible in many ways, but can also be tricky. You pick up on each other’s subtle and unique characteristics that nobody else might notice, you know when they are frustrated or upset, and you might even know exactly what they need to make their day better. It’s like your very own Spidey-Sense.
We like to refer to this sixth-sense as “The Holy Spirit” though. It is so amazing to know that God is the greatest advocate of our marriage. The Holy Spirit is constantly working in us to reveal the best parts of our spouse while convicting our own hearts of what doesn’t edify our marriage. So why, if we have The Holy Spirit, is marriage still considered to be so difficult?
Ethan, and I have been married for nearly a whole year! September 24th, 2017 will forever be a day neither of us can forget. Still being newlyweds, I’m sure we have much to learn, but we have certainly accomplished a lot in our first year of marriage. I wanted to compile what we have cultivated and share it with other couples, or anybody looking to get married in the future, in hopes that it might encourage you as well.
God Is Our Greatest Advocate.
I briefly mentioned this above, “God is the greatest advocate of our marriage”. God never wants to see marriages fall apart or be stressful. God created marriage to be kept as a holy covenant. The union of a bride and groom is the visual representation of Christ coming back for His Bride, the church. When God created man, He knew it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so he created a “helper suitable for him”. He created women to be our husband’s helpers, or “ezers” which translates to “helper-companion” in Hebrew. Timothy Keller, in his book “The Meaning of Marriage” gives “ezer” the description “the troops sent into battle that you couldn’t have won the war without”. God created wives with specific tasks in mind. That is why we have verses about being a Godly wife like Proverbs 31:10-31, 1 Peter 3:1-6, Titus 2:1-15, and so on. Then there are verses geared directly toward husbands such as Ephesians 5:25-30, Colossians 3:19, etc. God wrote out very distinct instructions on what is required of a wife and a husband. He was rooting for our marriages to be successful from the day Adam and Eve established their union.
I can’t stress this enough, without The Holy Spirit, marriage is infinite times more difficult. On the days my husband and I fall short of who we are called to be in marriage, The Holy Spirit fights for our union even in the midst of our weakness.
I Do Not Belong To My Self.
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 NIV “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his own wife.”
Now that I am married to Ethan, he owns my body and vice versa, I have ownership over him. “Marital Duty” in 1 Corinthians 7:3 is referring specifically to sex. Basically anytime my husband wants to be intimate, I should not deny him that right because that is denying him the authority that I freely gave him the day we were married. The only time we are directed to abstain from sex inside of marriage is when we are both devoting ourselves to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5).
This reveals to us that God holds sexual intimacy between husband and wife to have great value. I am not saying that cures all problems but it certainly re-establishes a safe space with our spouse. When my husband has worked all day, has been through a stressful season, or just needs to feel love on a level that no other human being can present to him, it is my responsibility to fulfill that for him. Sex releases hormones and chemicals in our brains called dopamine, serotonin, vasopressin (specifically in men) and oxytocin (specifically in women). They are bonding agents, they are what make us feel good and what makes us go back for more. These chemicals alleviate pain, they de-stress us, they are essentially like “love-drugs” in our brains. They draw us back to our partner that we are one flesh with. They are powerful so when your body is constantly rejected the release of these hormones, it simply adds to the stress.
What has been so hard about this concept is that life just doesn’t care when you have to have sex. You still have to be up at 5 a.m., take care of the children’s needs, go to your 9-5, be back to prepare dinner and take care of the home, then by the time the kids are in bed, it’s 10 p.m. That is a long day. The last thing on your mind is to turn over to your husband to “get it on” right then and there. What you usually want to do is say “Not tonight, honey”, or “I’m too tired”, then fall asleep without thinking twice. However, this becomes a vicious cycle almost every single day. This is what Ethan and I refer to as “giving each other our leftovers”. In life, we as people tend to devote ourselves wholeheartedly and one-hundred percent to our work, our children, and our homes. Then when we are expected to continue to give our deepest efforts to our own spouse, the most important relationship we have with another human, we like to say that we have done enough for the day or become lazy in that department. I’m not saying neglect other areas of your life, but that you should not allow yourself to invest all of your energy then have nothing to offer your spouse. If your spouse gets your leftovers, it communicates to them that they are the least of your priorities and this becomes a very harsh reality.
I know it is easier said than done, but Ethan and I have found that when we push through all of the moments we want to say we are “too tired”, our marriage, the testimony of our covenant, becomes more God-honoring and less flesh-honoring. We have to put each other’s needs before our own. Besides our relationship with Christ, our spouse must always supersede all other priorities.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”
You probably said vows similar to this on your wedding day to your husband or wife. At this moment, together you created a covenant, not just before your guests or your pastor, but most importantly before The Lord. I urge you, to love your spouse fiercely like never before, if not for them, then for God. Christ is pleased and exalted by marriages that continuously deny themselves and strive for more.
You Can Never Communicate Too Much.
Men and women are created in God’s image, but not each other’s. We have very distinct qualities about ourselves that sets us apart from the other gender. One way to best describe it is men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Men have very distinguished sectors with specific files in each one. They tend to only open one compartment at a time. Women are like spaghetti because every thought meshes together. The husband is connected to the kids, the kids are connected to extracurricular activities and school, school is connected to church and God, God is connected to personal development and growth, growth is connected to exercising and dieting, dieting is connected to “What the heck is for dinner tonight?” You get the point, though. Women can have thirties thoughts in a matter of minutes, it’s crazy. That is simply how we were designed though.
When you create a marriage covenant, you are essentially intertwining two entirely different people together. You have different likes, dislikes, backgrounds, goals, and ways of thinking or communicating. Part of growing in marriage is learning how to communicate successfully with your spouse. Truly, you can never over-communicate something. If you try to explain something to your husband or wife and they don’t get it, it might help to explain it a different way. Your spouse might learn in a different way than you do. If they are a visual learner, try to write your statements down or give them a chart/diagrams for them to go over. If they are an auditory learner, they do best participating in discussions and hearing from you personally. If they are a kinesthetic learner, like myself, they enjoy hands-on learning, they learn best when they are moving or experiencing first-hand. Patience is also super important. It might seem like they will get where you are coming from or understand you. Being consistent in explaining and showing patience to your partner, makes it easier to remember because you are coming from a place of love and not “Why haven’t you gotten this yet?”
Learn and observe your spouse’s love languages. Then communicate yours as well. Knowing each other’s love languages helps a ton because you might feel love through quality time but they feel most loved by acts of service. It simply depends on you and your spouse. Also, know that you can create your own love languages. My husband likes to say baked goods are one of his in particular. After you learn what really blesses your husband or wife, continue to take note of what they like, don’t like, what gets under their skin, and what turns them on. Never stop taking in your partner, you are in this for the long haul. By studying them and wanting to know more about them, you communicate that they are meaningful enough to you to continue to invest in them and your marriage!
In our marriages, we will inevitably change a ton. When Ethan and I were first married, we noticed our love languages changed drastically. Before we were married, I was more of a physical touch person and now I fall more under the receiving gifts category. That can happen in any marriage so it is always helpful to be aware of your spouse’s development.
The tone of your voice sets the temperature for your conversation. Whether you are arguing or having a simple conversation, our tones can completely alter the message we are trying to send. I had to work on this when Ethan and I were first dating, actually. My family is loud and outspoken, which I followed. I spoke in a loud voice, and though I generally never meant my words to come across harsh, Ethan didn’t always receive it that way. 1 Peter 3:4 NIV, “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Speaking to each other with raised voices, doesn’t compel the other person to understand what you are saying to them. It usually just causes the argument to intensify. I would encourage you to evaluate how you and your spouse speak to each other, so that even your disagreements are God-honoring.
Marriage is an incredible action that we should commit to on a daily basis. God created marriage so that He might be glorified by how we react and develop in it with our spouse. Wives are called to submit themselves as they do to the Lord and in everything. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church, “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.” (Ephesians 5:26-27) Both husbands and wives have unmistakable qualities that they are appointed to follow. When we accept God’s unquestionable and perfect design for our marriages, we see them flourish. We see fewer divorces, we see happier children, we see families thrive and Christ glorified. Your marriage is more important than your kids, your work, your hobbies, your phone, etc. Love your spouse beyond your greatest efforts, let The Holy Spirit lead you where you thought you were not worthy of going, and allow Him to purge any part of you that does not magnify a Godly marriage.
I love to pray with my followers and know what The Lord is convicting them of in their own lives. What is something I can pray for for you today? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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