It’s no secret, the most important aspect of a happy marriage is good communication. I’d certainly agree, as there are many different forms of communication. I believe that understanding this and your spouse, combined with the ability to talk to[J1] each other and have the other person really listen, is important in creating harmony in the relationship. For example, I know when something is wrong with my wife. I can read her like a book. It’s almost to the point where I can read her mind. We know each other so well that when she tries to avoid an argument, I know she’s trying because I can read her body language. She’s communicating even though she thinks she’s not.
After being married for 16 years, we’ve learned (the hard way) to communicate, even when we don’t want to. To me, communication is the ability to say what we mean and how we really feel about any topic or issue. I find that my wife is traditionally more open to saying what she feels on the spot, and wants an immediate response. I expect this from her every time we disagree. Contrary, I’m very much closed off when it comes to communication and it takes me a while to “rationalize” my behavior, recognizing we need to solve our problem, and approach each other with a humbled heart and with an open ear and mind. I struggle with this, but I seek God for help through prayer.
For newlyweds, this is certainly more difficult. I believe that both parties need to learn how to look for covert clues as to what the other person is really saying. For instance, when a partner is silent, it’s less likely there is something wrong than it is that they just don’t know what to say. Silence is the most common way that couples don’t communicate. Shouting seems to be the other. Perhaps the solution is in creating time just for talking. I know of couples who purposely set rules when discussing their issues. The gift in trying this is both parties have the opportunity to calm and collect their thoughts prior to engaging the issue.
To help alleviate disagreements, couples should commit to equality. Recognizing each partner’s equality eliminates the need for a power struggle. Being equal provides the ability for each partner to exercise their freedom in Christ and their personhood . The best time to build good communication habits is in the early stages of a relationship, or marriage . Practicing positive steps to problem-solving avoids long-winded disagreements and personal attacks later in the marriage. Understanding and accepting your mate’s past, goals, talents, likes, dislikes, and character will reduce assumptions being made. At this point, together, you can set realistic goals for your relationship .
As a couple, we should examine ourselves and establish a repentant heart. This displays a willingness to accept responsibility for our attitudes and relationship with our mate and God. A repentant heart re-establishes communication, enabling us to discover our sins, and settling our marital disputes. I’d recommend each partner examine themselves to accept responsibility and above everything, lift each other up in prayer.
-Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
– Titus 2:4, “And so train the young women to love their husbands…”
– Proverbs 31:10-12, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”
 Ronald E. Hawkins. Strengthening Marital Intimacy. Kearney: Baker Book House Co., 1991, 17.
Parrott, Les and Leslie. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2006, 78.
Worthington, Everette L. Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy. Downers
Grove, IVP Academic, 1999, 80.
God’s Design for Marriage
How many times have you heard married people complain about their marriage and make statements such as, “My life is over!” or “Marriage isn’t for me” or “I live in a prison!” As counselors, Christy and I see this frequently. In a world where 1 out of 2 marriages fail, it’s no doubt, there are many people who have extremely low perceptions of marriage—a view certainly not supported by the Scriptures. So, why is marriage such a warfare? Why does it seem to be so tough to have a really meaningful relationship with somebody you love? After all, life is about relationships—isn’t it? And the most needful relationship is the one that occurs between a man and a woman in marriage, and yet the fulfillment of it is so elusive. In fact, whenever we see marriage portrayed, it’s usually a fighting, unfaithful, discontented, bitter kind of wrangling situation that ends up in separation, divorce, and so forth. I believe the most significant contributing factor for this is a disregard for biblical teaching on how to build a strong marriage—the answer is found in examining God’s original design for marriage.
So, what are God’s expectations, or ingredients, for the marriage relationship? After all, He designed the sacred marital institution. What did He have in mind when he established it? God’s perspective comes from His own “marriage” to Israel. The prophet Isaiah portrays the relationship between the Lord and His people as a marriage (Isaiah 62:1-5). Notice what God said the Bridegroom does for His bride:
He protects and purifies her.
- He honors and values her.
- He identifies Himself with her, as signified by giving her new names.
We know that in the beginning, God intended for marriage to be man and woman—to become one. He says in Ephesians 5:31 (& Gen 2:24), “For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother when he gets married and be joined to his wife. The two shall become one.” Centuries later, Paul echoed Isaiah’s bridal portrait of God and Israel when he described the marriage between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:21–33). Once again, the Bridegroom shows His love by protecting, honoring, valuing, and purifying His bride. Finally, Jesus identified Himself with her. Paul exhorted Christians to build their marriages on a similar basis.
Also, in Malachi 2:14, we see that marriage is a holy covenant before God. In the Jewish custom, God’s people signed a written agreement at the time of the marriage to seal the covenant. The marriage ceremony, therefore, is meant to be a public demonstration of a couple’s commitment to a covenant relationship. It’s not the “ceremony” that’s important in a marriage, it’s the couple’s covenant commitment before God and men.
Furthermore, Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the woman you love all the days of your life that will soon be over. God has given you these days under the sun. This is the good you will get in life and in your work which you have done under the sun.” We are to cherish each and every moment God blesses us with our spouse. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives. You must love them as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.”
God’s command for a man to love his wife is more than an emotion, a feeling, or a game. It’s a determined act whereby he must direct his energies for the specific purpose to provide for, to protect, and to be passionate toward his wife. Some men provide well and are willing to lay down their lives to protect. God commands them also to be a passionate, intimate husband. By loving his wife, he provides her a home, the resources to live, and a safe and secure place for her and the children. By loving her emotionally, he assures and comforts her, shielding her from fear and harm. By loving her physically, he proves that his attentions and focus are on her and she is secure in his desires.
The commandment to love his wife means that the husband is to commit his energy, resources, creativity, and attention, and to focus on his wife. It is more than just provision and protection. Loving a wife means preferring her above ALL others.
Likewise, The wife is commanded by God to respect her husband.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.— Ephesians 5: 22-24
Arguably, and too often, Biblical teachers have equated “be subject” with “obey.” As a consequence, opposition has grown in the American culture to the extent that many women refuse to say “love, honor, and obey” in the traditional wedding vows. It is really a huge mistake. The word “obey” is not the proper emphasis for “being subject to” or “submission” as translated in the commandment. Instead of the word “obey” amplifying the phrase “be subject to” or the word “submit,” let’s use the word “respect.” Now let’s restate the commandment. Wives, respect your husband, just as you respect the Lord. That changes something dramatically. Instead of the ultimatum to obey (like a lowly slave), respect opens the door to balance and understanding. Respect is something given in measure to being respectable. Respect is in parallel with love and honor. Obedience does not require love or honor; however, respect does.
There is a world full of poets and philosophers explaining love and marriage to us. But this mystery described in the Bible far surpasses them all. If you will ask any married person why they put up with their spouses’ mistakes and quirks, they will give the same answer regardless of gender. “Because, I love him (her).” It is because love covers a multitude of sins. This is the same simple answer for why God continues to deal with us. He loves us, and His love covers the multitude of our sins.
Evident by Scripture and displayed through the love of Christ, we all should view marriage through the eyes of God and Christ, as a high and holy calling to serve our spouses in the ways described. This is the heart of a biblical foundation for marriage. There can be no greater love and commitment expressed between two people than to exhibit the character that God has shown toward Israel and that Christ has shown toward the church.
Therefore, the key to building any ever-lasting, consummate love is to have Christ in the center of it! It’s only through the strength of Christ can we endure all trials. (Phil 4:13)
Marital Tips to Reflect On:
Together, reflect on creation’s first relationship with God in the Garden of Eden. Discuss how man’s fall affects your current relationship today?
With your partner, discuss the expectations you have of your life together.
What unspoken values or expectations do each of you bring to your marriage?
In what ways might you influence the quality of your marriage?
Source: Homework from Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott’s book Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts