I’ve now been married to my wife for a little over 4 years. That by no means makes me a marriage expert, but it does mean that I’ve had 4 years to learn several things to do and not to do. Some things I’ve learned by trial and lots of error – other things I’ve been blessed to learn by hearing from Godly couples who have practiced years of loving one another with a Christ-like love.
This isn’t an exahustive list, but here are a few do’s and don’ts that I try to always remember as I strive to be a better spouse…
1. Do seek God first
The most important thing you can do for your marriage is to seek God. If you don’t seek Him first you will spend your time and efforts in ways that will ultimately fail you. You can have the money, the house, the business, and the car… but without a relationship with God you will ultimately end up being an empty and selfish spouse.
Marriage is an extremely difficult thing and without a good foundation whatever kind of marriage you build will eventually crumble when under pressure. Putting God first in your marriage provides a solid foundation that will hold together even when you’re marriage feels like it is falling apart.
2. Do not talk negatively about your spouse
Words have the power of life and death within them. You may realize it makes sense to speak kindly to your spouse when they are around, but many times we are tempted to take our negativity out on them when they aren’t around. It’s just as important that our speech is positive towards our spouse when speaking to others as it is when speaking to them.
Speaking negatively of your spouse to others will unfairly destroy the image that people may have of your spouse and simultaneously damage your perception of your spouse. If you dive head first into tearing down your spouse while in a fit of anger, telling someone else will usually only snowball the negativity. Since marriage is about becoming one flesh when you tear down your spouse you are actually hurting yourself just as much as you are hurting them. Use your words to speak life into your spouse and you will at the same time speak new life into your relationship with them.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)
3. Do pray daily with your spouse
Praying daily with your spouse is a much more difficult commitment than it might seem at first. It can be awkward praying aloud with the one who is closest to you, but it will produce a spiritual intimacy in your marriage that isn’t possible without it. I’ve written about the importance of praying with your wife before and it remains a struggle in my own life to make a daily practice of it. Praying daily with your spouse encourages communication and chips away at the pride and selfishness that so easily inserts itself into relationships. If you want to truly fail-proof your marriage, I challenge you to start praying with your spouse. There is nothing else that can strengthen and empower your marriage like connecting with the presence of God through prayer.
4. Do be willing to communicate in all circumstances
Communication is vitally important in a marriage. Communication may happen naturally with your co-workers or with your friends, but sometimes it can be easy to take for granted communication with your spouse. With all of our to-do lists and responsibilities as an employee, parent, volunteer etc.. sometimes the only time you may have for face to face communication is the few minutes as you both lay down in bed for sleep at night. Whatever time you do have to communicate, use it.
Communication keeps a marriage healthy by preventing bitterness to take place. If there is an issue simmering, it is much better to communicate about it respectfully for a moment rather than pushing it down and it motivating disrespectful behavior towards one another for weeks, months, or maybe even years.
If a lack of communication occurs in marriage then almost always walls of bitterness will take its’ place.
5. Do always honor your spouse with your body and mind
God’s design for marriage is ultimately about two people becoming one (Genesis 2:24). It is about true intimacy and about giving yourself completely to someone – physically and emotionally. It is a beautiful gift, but one that must be safeguarded.
The enemy hates strong marriages, because strong marriages are a serious threat to his destructive plans. We are bombarded with fanciful images and extravagant ideas of what love is supposed to look like so it can be tempting to allow your eyes to look on the other side of the fence.
Marriages are strengthened by the trust you place in your spouse, therefore, it is extremely important that we take serious the idea of “taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we honor that trust by guarding our hearts and eyes then we build unity and strength into our marriages. At the same time, marriages are weakened when that trust is broken by not guarding our hearts and eyes.
Temptation is bountiful, but by choosing to give our eyes and our hearts only to our spouse we protect our relationship and build a fulfilling marriage that will outlast the fleeting pleasure and excitement of what is portrayed on television and movie screens each week.