Ray and I have been married for over 16 years, and it’s been really hard sometimes. There have been times when both of us wanted to just give up, but we didn’t want to be another divorce statistic and cause our children more pain (we were both previously married).
When you’re dating, you think the person that you’re with is wonderful. After the honeymoon, the blinders fall off and you begin to see the reality – and you want to address things! He (or she) didn’t act this way when you dated! What happened? This is where commitment over the long haul comes in.
It’s not our job to change our husbands, or theirs to change us. That’s God’s job. Our role as wives is to honor and respect our husbands, and to be their help-mate. Their position is to love us as Christ loves the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-28)
Neither of these roles is easy, and that is why we need Jesus to help us each day…and need unwavering commitment to the marriage and our spouse. Here are marriage tips to help your marriage stay strong and to endure, using the acronym COMMIT:
C. Communication. When Ray and I dated, we would spend hours just talking, about everything. We were best friends. To this day, I can still talk to Ray about anything. He’s such a good listener. (I wish I could say the same; I tend to talk on and on, without letting him get a word in edgewise!) Communication, though, means both husband and wife share their hearts freely. It requires not only physically hearing what the person said, but really listening.
Women especially need to work at this, because men are not always real open about their feelings. They must be drawn out. If your husband is talking about a problem at work, and he gripes about his supervisor or co-workers, some gentle probing might reveal that he is discouraged or concerned about his job performance.
Communication also means the ability to pick up on non-verbal cues from your spouse – stooped shoulders, tension in the body, an anxious look in the eye, the person seeming distracted, etc. Learn to ask questions, without nagging or pushing. Express your sincere concern and your love.
Finally, communication means being able to discuss issues of conflict: sharing with your husband or wife in a calm, truthful, mature manner without resorting to accusation, blame, name-calling, shouting, door-slamming, or the like. Hot topics like finances mustn’t be ignored, but be discussed, and worked through. Sometimes you have to just agree to disagree for now, and come back to the discussion later when you have both chilled out.
If necessary, get a third-party involved such as another married couple or a counselor to help you work through heated issues when you can’t find any resolution to the conflict yourselves. Most of all, keep talking with each other about other, lighter, more pleasant things, like you did when you dated.
Deepen your friendship. This is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, even after the children are grown. Share your dreams and goals. Encourage each other. See the best in each other, and compliment one another. It’s your choice: you can focus on faults or the good in each other.
O. Openness and honesty. One of the beautiful things about marriage is that you can just be yourself with someone, and still be loved. He knows all your flaws, and he’s still with you! Marriage is also a precious thing because you can be completely open and honest with one another, and not be rejected.
A marriage will begin to crumble if a husband or wife becomes dishonest. You have to be able to trust each other for the marriage to thrive, because intimate relationships are based on a foundation of trust. Half-truths, lies, exaggerations, distortions, and hiding things have no place in a healthy marriage.
If a husband or wife has lied to the other spouse before, then there’s always a little suspicion in the mind. Hiding things from your spouse creates an atmosphere of distrust, betrayal, and insecurity. No marriage will grow closer under these conditions, and they often drive a wedge between husband and wife.
This is especially important in relation to your husband or wife having “friendships” of the opposite sex. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to avoid all appearance of evil. Common sense also tells us that spending an inordinate amount of time alone with another person of the opposite sex might open the door to temptation. This is especially true if your marriage has a lot of problems, and you are feeling lonely, rejected, or ignored.
Guard your marriage! Set firm boundaries around your relationship. This includes not allowing pornography (magazines, videos, or on the internet) into your home. Men are especially vulnerable when it comes to their eye gate, because they are visual creatures. If someone is calling, emailing, or having any other kind of communication with your husband or wife on a regular basis, this is a big red flag.
You have every right to ask questions and for your husband or wife to answer you honestly in this situation. Don’t be an ostrich, and pretend nothing is going on. There are some people who don’t care if your husband or wife are married; they will go after him (or her). Fight for your marriage; let others of the opposite sex clearly know they are on “no trespassing property!” No one is immune to temptation. Given the wrong circumstances and the wrong person, anyone can fall into sin. Pray daily for your marriage.
Openness and honesty also apply to issues like unpaid bills, money deposited into checking or savings accounts, filing taxes, situations at work, health issues, situations with your children, etc.
If you grew up in a family where you didn’t talk about your feelings openly, or were even made to “stuff” your feelings as I was, then you need to learn effective ways of openly communicating your feelings – without a volcanic explosion. A husband and wife should be able to say, “I’m feeling like you’re angry at me about something. Have I done something to offend you?” and the spouse should be able to respond, “Yes, I am upset with you about something. This is really bothering me.”
This will help both husband and wife to relieve the building, underlying tension in their relationship, and it will open the door to resolving the situation. Avoid “you always” and “you never” statements, and use “I feel,” “I’d like it if you would,” and “I sense.”
When expressing your honest feelings, remember that saying something because it’s true doesn’t make it right. Telling your husband he’s being lazy is not going to help your marriage….any more than him telling you that he hates your new haircut. Neither will nagging, criticizing, scolding, mocking, manipulating, controlling, or pressuring.
Instead, encourage him to go for a walk, to help you with repairs around the house, or to go on a date riding bikes. Communicate openly, but kindly. Proverbs 31:26 says the law of kindness is on her tongue.
M. Meaningful gestures of affection. All human beings need touch. Research shows that babies and children who are not touched enough have developmental problems, and can even become sick and die. Studies also show that human touch can help lower blood pressure, reduce physical pain, and relieve anxiety and depression. the healing power of touch
Have you ever watched a young couple in love? They just can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, can they? After the wedding, couples get into a daily routine, and a pattern may emerge of touching each other less and less from work, errands, housework, and demands of children. Women don’t want to be used as objects, being touched only during the act of intercourse. Warm hugs and smiles, a playful pat on the bottom, a kiss, or an oil massage prior to bedtime can go a long way in helping the “crockpot cooker” woman to get ready for sex with her “microwave-ready” man. Even try tickling!
Men also liked to be touched and hugged. When you’re in the living room, sit close to him and put your hand on his thigh. As you’re walking through the mall, hold onto his arm securely. At home as you’re cooking, flirt with him. When he comes home, greet him with a smile and a hug. In bed, lightly rub his neck or back to relax him. His tension from work will melt – and it may lead to bigger and better things, lol!
M. Mended fences. Sometimes couples don’t touch each other because they are angry or upset with each other. All married couples are going to have conflict. This is normal, and even healthy, because we’re not clones of each other. It’s important to work through differences with God’s love, understanding, and most of all His forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:26 (The Message) says, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”
We’ve all heard the expression, “Keep short accounts.” That means don’t keep a list (record) of your spouse’s wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NLT) Don’t stockpile resentments. Wipe the slate clean every day. God does. He says he has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12 NKJV). Shouldn’t we do the same?
Forgive quickly and completely; don’t hold onto bitterness and resentment. Anger and bitterness just keeps us the prisoner. You have the key; let go and let God. As Joyce Meyer says, keep strife out like the plague, because it opens the door to the enemy and every evil thing. (1 Corinthians 3:3, NKJV)
Be the first to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Pride will keep us holding onto our “rights” forever, but to have a healthy marriage, walk in humility and brokenness. Let go of the past, and don’t drag it back up. It’s not worth it! Mend your fences, and protect your home and family.
I. Intimacy. Frequent and passionate sex is vital for a healthy marriage. It is up to each couple to decide how often they need sex to keep their relationship strong and happy, but couples who go without sex for months are probably having serious problems…and might be more vulnerable to an affair. One study showed that most married couples have sex twice a week. Another survey in 2003 by Durex revealed that people have sex 127 times a year. sex.
For some people, this will be sufficient; for others, it won’t be nearly enough. Talk about it with your husband or wife. Sex often suffers just because of boredom. Your sex life won’t get better by ignoring it. Discuss your preferences, what feels good and what doesn’t, when you’re not in bed. Then try what pleases your mate, as long as it isn’t physically or emotionally painful or uncomfortable.
Trying different sexual positions, having sex in another room of the house, or even sex on vacation can reignite passion (what is it about going to the beach that makes us so amorous?). Each person should have an attitude of serving the other, not having a selfish attitude of, “It’s all about me and my pleasure.”
Prayer also helps your sex life. Does it feel wrong to pray to God about sex? He’s the one who made it! Tell Him everything. And enjoy your husband, or wife. Why should the non-believers have all the fun? Christian married couples should be having frequent, hot sex!
In cases when one or both of the spouses have been sexually abused or raped in childhood or as an adult, counseling is often necessary to help that person heal and to overcome an aversion to sex (or to overcome sexual addictions). Medical conditions can also affect the sex life, and the couple should communicate openly in times like these – and use other physical ways of expressing love such as kissing, hugging, body rubs, etc.
Even if the spouse has not been sexually abused and just does not want sex because of work pressures, sickness, fatigue, children’s demands, or just not feeling up to it, the husband or the wife should respect their wishes…as long as it’s not for too prolonged a period of time. (1 Corinthians 7:5) Sex should be fulfilling, pleasurable and fun for both husband and wife.
T. Time Alone. This means for the two of you without the kids, and you also need time alone individually. Happily married couples enjoy each other’s company, and need dates – just as you did pre-marriage! Find a babysitter. It’s important. When you go out, don’t talk about the kids or the bills, either. Stay on top of news events, share about the book you’re reading this week, enjoy a matinee together, go to Starbucks for a café latte, enjoy the latest exhibit at the museum.
Our friends Herb and Diane have been married for five years, but you’d never know it – you’d think they were still in the dating stage. They have the best marriage I’ve ever seen, and genuinely love spending time together. Herb is a pastor and hospice chaplain, and Diane works at home with two home businesses, so their work hours are flexible. They take advantage of that fact, and do a lot of things together.
On the other hand, Ray and I tend to get on each other’s nerves if we’re together too long, so we have to have some time apart. We are very different people, and sometimes I wonder how we even got married! He reads the news voraciously, watches science fiction movies (which I don’t care for), reads, talks on his cell phone a lot with his friends (it’s like a permanent attachment to his ear now), checks email and surfs the net.
I write, read, work on speaking material, check email and Twitter, spend time with our daughters, lunch with girlfriends, and shop. Each of us is pursuing our passions and interests. A husband and a wife should develop their personal growth through education, interests, friendships, talents, and skills.
Several years ago, Ray took scuba diving lessons. I have no interest in that at all, and did not join him in the adventure. But he had a lot of fun doing it. Likewise, he has no interest in blogging, which I love. Married couples need a balance of time together and solitude. The years together should be bringing them closer, making them into “one flesh” as God desires. (Genesis 2:24, NKJV)
The husband and the wife should be supportive of each other’s interests and growth. People can’t grow in an atmosphere of domination, control, manipulation, and rejection. Ray has always supported my speaking and writing, and I have tried to encourage him in furthering his education, sharpening his job skills, and fulfilling his great calling from God to missions work.
Ask your husband or your wife what their dreams are – then help them to achieve them. Walk hand in hand, with God and each other, into your great destiny!
My prayer is that these marriage tips were helpful, practical and relevant for you. May God bless your marriage with all blessings from above, making it a beautiful picture of Christ and the church – and a source of fulfillment and happiness for you both.