There’s so much to say about marriage, and I’m not an expert — but I’ve learned some things over time, and I’ve counseled a lot of marriages. I’ve found out that just because a couple says “I do” there’s no lifetime guarantee of joy and happiness. Here’s one key that helps you build a strong marriage:
Key #1 is: Put Your Spouse First. The main cause of marital discord or divorce is selfishness – thinking of yourself before your spouse. It sounds simplistic, but real love is putting the other person first. That means you’ll have to work at understanding your spouse and give real effort to meeting their needs.
Have you noticed that men and women are very different from each other? I am convinced that most women don’t understand what makes men tick, and vice versa. A huge key to putting your spouse first is knowing what they need. They aren’t like you – their needs are different from yours! Here are the top needs – I recommend reading and studying more about them. One great book is “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard F. Harley Jr.
A man’s top for our needs are:
1) Honor / Respect. When a husband feels disrespected, it’s hard for him to love his wife, and he reacts in ways that feel unloving to his wife.
2) Sex. Wives might think, “why does he need so much sex?” Because he does! Wise is the wife who seeks to meet that need.
3) Recreation / Fun. Men like to play/recreate with their wives. Find things you like to do together.
4) Domestic Support. A man’s home should be his castle, his place of peace.
A woman’s top needs are:
1) Security – both emotional and environmental. When a woman feels unsafe, it’s hard for her to honor and respect her husband, then she reacts in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband.
2) Non-sexual Affection. Things like holding hands and loving touches that don’t lead to sex.
3) Open Communication. Women need their husband’s words and feelings! They need to connect.
4) Spiritual Leadership. They truly want a man to be the spiritual head of the family.
Seek to learn these things. When you put your spouse first and meet their needs (instead of demanding that your own be met), you are well on your way to a strong, happy marriage that is heaven on earth.
Look to God’s Word. The Bible is how we get a vision for our life. Too often we are trying to conform to the world’s vision for marriage, and it fails miserably.
Instead, as a Christian, focus regularly on what God says about your role in marriage, and become a doer of His Word. When you govern your relationship His way, it works!
To best understand your God-given roles in a marriage, read, study and meditate these verses regularly (they’re posted here from the AMPC version). Write them down and put them on your bathroom mirror if you need to. If any of it sounds like bad news to you, read it again! Every word is in the Bible for your benefit—ask God to help you understand it and walk in it. He has only your best interests at heart.
(Side note: be sure to only read the part that is addressed to you! Don’t read what God is saying to your spouse and try to “make them do it”).
• Wives, read Ephesians 5:22-24, 33 – Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands… let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [[a]that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and [b]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]. (Also read 1 Peter 3:1-4)
• Husbands, read Ephesians 5:25-33 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless]. Even so husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members (parts) of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church. However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self. (Also read 1 Peter 3:7)
Spend Time Together. No relationship gets better without putting in the time, being around each other, learning each other and enjoying each other. If you’re a businessman, how does your business get more prosperous? You work at it, spend time on it. If you’re a musician or a dancer, how do you stay good or get better at it? You practice.
You get the idea. The way a relationship gets better or stays strong is by spending time on it. Here are a few ideas how to do that:
• Weekly dates. These must be scheduled, and let nothing else take precedence! It doesn’t have to be expensive – go on a picnic, take a walk, go out for ice cream, rent a video, sit outside, etc. You might have to do it after kids go to bed. Teach your children that mommy and daddy need time together (it’s a great example for them).
• Daily time alone together. Best recommendation – go to bed at the same time and have pillow talk.
• Do chores or errands together. Not only do many hands make light work, but you can develop a sense of teamwork, accomplishing things together, supporting one another.
• Once or twice a year weekend getaways. Again, doesn’t have to be expensive, just get away. Removed from every day pressures. Marriage retreats.
• Allow for time with guys/girls. Let your spouse spend time with their friends. Let absence make the heart grow fonder.
• Always be reading a marriage book together. You know the saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ If you’re doing small, consistent things to strengthen your marriage, you won’t have big blow ups that cost a lot in time and heartache.
Take action today. Begin reading the verses under Key #2, and ask God for one area where you can put your spouse first and make them feel special. Make a date this week to do something together. These steps can help make your marriage a little slice of heaven!
Adapted from “3 Keys to a Heaven On Earth Marriage”