Marriage is a symbol for Christians in close community to reflect the will of God. We talked previously about what Godly marriage can look like and have even gotten into some good tips to improve your marriage or conversation starters to help develop more compassion and intimacy between spouses. But a recent article on Prepare-Enrich, our preferred premarital/marital counseling/enrichment tool reminded us sometimes we need to address the basics.
If you go check out their article here, they go back to the basics and address a foundational pitfall of avoiding assumptions that lead to marital conflict. (My favorite out of the article is to not assume what their intentions are.) So in going back to the basics on that article, I want to identify 5 marriage basics Christians need to have within their relationship.
- Remember Why You Decided To Be Together
If it was simply a secular understanding of why you are together in your marriage, this tip still really works. Your spouse was super funny, they caught your eye in the crowd, or they seemed to really care about people. The problem from a secular position is that what tends to originally attract people may end up being a source of frustration otherwise, the humor may wear off, the good looks may not be enough, etc.
For Christians though, our love for one another, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, is a witness to others of God’s love. While marriage is not always going to be roses and rainbows, our ability to love one another can remain. We don’t have to like each other 24/7, but we do need to continue to love each other. (I also want to note I am a domestic violence victim advocate, so this is not a conviction for you to stay in an abusive relationship. If you or your children are in danger, you need to go find safety for yourself and your children.)
- Listen First, Talk When Necessary
As someone that loves to help fix things, this has been a growth area for me. Listening, actively hearing what people are saying, what they mean with what they say, and how they truly feel, is vital to a marriage. This will help you empathize, avoid future conflict when you missed the message, and better meet each other’s needs. I realize we are busy and you do not always hear what the other person is saying, I’m guilty of this as much as the next person. But when my wife needs to get my attention, I truly listen if I don’t seem to understand, I ask for clarification so I can listen some more.
Sometimes being the hero can happen, but they need to know that you are there for them more than being a super hero. Show up, put away the phone, and listen to what they say with their mouth but also what their heart says too.
- Communicate Well
This might seem weird after just talking about listening well, but communication only starts with listening. We need to make sure to share what is truly on our hearts. If your spouse asks if anything is wrong, be honest. If you see your spouse upset but only want to hear a positive response, do not ask how they are doing. Do not lie to each other because honest creates distrust. Remember who you are talking to, your partner in life, the one you made a commitment to. Do you speak to them in harsh tone? Then you need to ask for forgiveness and change your attitude.
And communication does not have to be words. Get creative with it with a love note on the mirror that your spouse will find in the morning. Let it be in your actions as you surprise them with a gift of appreciation and honoring their commitment to you and God. Pray together. Offer a soft touch in a moment when it is easier to be harsh and critical. Reminisce about your day each evening. And grow in your love and commitment to each other as you communicate.
- Have Good Boundaries
Protect your marriage, from others and from your own self. Boundaries are having a healthy time together, but also not. In counseling, I talk about who you are united together, just as we are united in Christ, but we are also our own individual just as God gave us gifts that He did not specifically intend for other people. You can have your own interests in things as well as expect to go on date nights together.
This also requires you to leave your previous family to go to your new one. You are not married to your work and you must have separation from it. Self-care is important, but do not let workouts, escapism into video games, or even volunteering at church pull you away constantly from your marriage. Boundaries can take the shape of several things in a marriage: time you have for each other where you are distracted with TV, events, or work, privacy where you feel you have to snoop or nag when a fight happens but you cannot give them space, and personal space in the sense of not constantly requiring their attention, energy, or presence. Exercise them consistently and frequency.
- Have Mercy and Grace
This one is a little bit cheating, because we have already reviewed a Barna study that talks about mercy in marriage and parenting. But the take away is too important, the need for it too critical. A quick recap of the article notes that unconditional forgiveness, mercy and grace, that is given and received will strongly grow a relationship. And is it not that mercy and grace from Jesus dying on the cross that we have already received and are expected to give to one another?
You’ll notice we do not put anything on here about fighting, but conflict will happen. Good communication and boundaries that we previously talked about is important, but conflict tends to have a winner and loser or two losers. It’s hard to think of a conflict where both people truly win and it definitely is not the norm. So, if you win, have mercy. If you lose, have grace. We all fall short of this, so understand we will hurt one another and do it again, but find growth in yourself and within your marriage.
This certainly isn’t every fundamental of a marriage and there are so many other good tips and lessons to be learn. What is a favorite of yours that has not been shared.