I never dreamed about marriage when I was a little girl. I had a Barbie and a Ken doll, but Barbie was always taking care of Ken after a major accident or something.
I pretended that she was more like a doctor than a wife. I wasn’t the little girl who imagined my wedding dress, or planned how many kids I would have. I wasn’t against marriage; just didn’t think much about it.
My husband’s parents were married for 64 years before his dad died, and my parents are still married and have been for over 50 years. I probably took marriage for granted more than anything – never thought to really ask my parents about their marriage.
They seemed happy to me, although they did argue at times. My parents’ generation did not really divulge their issues and challenges, let alone their feelings, so my parents didn’t talk about the things that they went through as I was growing up. I never saw marriage as something you had to necessarily work on.
Despite not really planning for it as a young girl, I got married when I was 26 years old. I was so happy to be married, I loved it when I found my husband, but still probably didn’t put the thought or work into it that I should have. I wanted to have a career and my husband had just stopped pursuing performing and was teaching music to kids in New York City.
We enjoyed spending time together, exploring the city. We had our first kid way before we expected. When it turned out he had special needs, my heart went into figuring out every possible way to help him and every intervention and therapy that he needed.
As time went on, and our second kid arrived, I realized that I hadn’t invested much time into my marriage. I had a passion for my kids, but not so much for learning about and understanding my husband.
I always figured he would be OK because he was grown and he never really complained. But my attention was completely on the kids and that’s when I first started to see the strain in my marriage.
I think each stage of our growth for a family has its own specific challenges. The tendency through the baby years is for all the attention and love to be given to the children. At the same time, mothers are tired, adjusting to a new life, and their body is going through the trauma of having had a baby.
The last thing most new mothers are thinking about is how to meet their husband’s needs. We can even sometimes grow resentful that he has needs because he should understand what we are going through. If you are working at the same time, sometimes you barely have the energy and strength to get to the next day having fed everyone.
During the elementary school years, we can become engrossed in our children’s lives and activities. It can be a fun time, but the conversations with our spouse usually center around the kids and how they are doing. At times we’ve become used to each other and the relationship can be neglected amidst the flurry of life’s activities.
During the high school years, our children are getting older and so are we. This can be the time in our lives when parenting is the most challenging and perhaps our desire for comfort becomes stronger. I know that I was a lot more tired, impatient and frustrated trying to navigate the challenges that presented themselves while my kids were in high school.
At this age, our children are establishing their own identities and pulling away from us. Some of us can miss this and long for closeness from our kids more than our husbands.
Perhaps your experiences are not like the ones described. Needless to say, whatever challenges have come to your marriage, there are certain things that we can all learn.
After having gone through a difficult time with one of our children in high school, I decided I had to take my marriage more seriously. Over the years our hearts had grown cold toward each other and we were living separate lives in the same house. We were both so bitter and unhappy with each other.
I had looked to the Bible for so many things in my life, but hadn’t seriously studied what God says about marriage. God has a plan for marriage. The Bible teaches that marriage should be honored by all:
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.Hebrews 13:4 (NLT)
While this scripture points out the fate of those who are immoral in God’s eyes, it starts by saying that we should honor marriage. I have learned that this doesn’t just mean not to be immoral, it is also suggesting that we should honor our husbands.
That means that we highly respect them. I had to ask myself – did I honor my husband? I did not trust his decisions. I did not value his parenting. I undermined him in front of the kids. I disrespected him in my heart. When he said something, I would question it in my thoughts. I would roll my eyes. I would criticize him often.
The wise woman builds her house [on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives], But the foolish one [who lacks spiritual insight] tears it down with her own hands [by ignoring godly principles].Proverbs 14:1 (AMP)
A wise woman strengthens her family, but a foolish woman destroys hers by what she does.Proverbs 14:1 (NCV)
The Bible teaches us to build and strengthen our families. What was I building? Was my family strengthened? I realized that my criticalness, bitterness, selfishness and arrogance only worked to destroy my home by destroying my husband. I had only built resentment between us and in our children. This is not what I wanted but it was the result of not taking my marriage seriously.
I have learned so much over 25 years of marriage. I have had to work hard in all areas of my own heart and all areas of the relationship. Here are five fundamental principles that are particularly helpful and when you think about them every day, they help your marriage grow:
2 When they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him—to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband].1 Peter 3:2 (AMPC)
This scripture describes many qualities of a loving wife, which exists in a relationship of admiration. What a challenge to treat our husbands the way the scripture describes! Have you lost your admiration for your husband? What I admired in my husband when we were first married turned into things that I criticized as our marriage grew older.
His excitement about life became in my mind annoying hyperactivity. His gift for performing turned into me just thinking he had an insatiable need for attention. His happy-go-lucky optimism turned into a lack of seriousness about important issues. Love had turned to bitterness and hatred.
I had lost my admiration for my husband and the things that I originally thought were amazing about him were reduced to annoying habits in my mind. I had become prideful and arrogant toward him and there was no room for admiration.
What is keeping you from admiring your husband? What do you need to change in order to regain your admiration?
13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.1 Thessalonians 5:13-15 (Message)
11 She inspires trust, and her husband’s heart is safe with her, and because of her, he has every good thing. 12 Every day of her life she does what is best for him, never anything harmful or hurtful.Proverbs 31:11-12 (Voice)
To attend to someone means to show the worth of a person by giving them undivided concentration. I learned that I was much more attentive to my boys than to my husband’s needs. I had to learn to attend to my husband’s needs which started with a daily decision to do so.
First, I had to want to know his needs. I learned to measure how my marriage is doing by how my husband feels, as opposed to how I feel. These questions helped me get clarity:
- Is he confident?
- Does he feel like his heart is safe with me?
- Do I make his life better?
- Is he respected by his friends?
- Would he say that I treat him well?
- Do I do what’s best for him every day?
- Am I patient and attentive?
- Do I look for the best in him?
1 The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs.1 Peter 3:1 (Message)
5 For in this way in former times the holy women, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands and adapting themselves to them; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham [following him and having regard for him as head of their house], calling him lord. And you have become her daughters if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear [that is, being respectful toward your husband but not giving in to intimidation, nor allowing yourself to be led into sin, nor to be harmed].1 Peter 3:5-6 (AMP)
3 Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?Amos 3:3 (NLT)
These scriptures talk about many principles. One of them is submission, which is strength under control. Our modern world doesn’t like that word, nor does it usually use that word in marriage, but God does. It means to defer to another’s opinion or thoughts.
This is difficult for me to do when I’m in love with my own opinions. Do you ever defer to your husband’s thoughts, or do you tend to fight to get your way?
To adapt means to adjust oneself. The scriptures encourage wives to adapt to and to respond to their husbands’ needs. When our child cries, we rush to respond.
Some more questions to reflect on:
- What do we do when our husbands are hurting?
- When they are discouraged?
- When they feel misunderstood or intimidated by their bosses, or tired of the grind?
- Do we respond to those needs?
- Do we try to figure out what his needs are?
- Do we adjust to meet those needs?
- Do we try to get on the same page with our husbands when it comes to finances? To raising the kids?
- Do we adjust our way of thinking to align with his?
- What makes it difficult for you to adapt to your husband?
7-12 If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins. So don’t waste your time on a scoffer; all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.
But if you correct those who care about life, that’s different—they’ll love you for it! Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it; tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God. It’s through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens, and the years of your life ripen. Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; mock life and life will mock you.Proverbs 9:7-12 (Message)
Marriage, like anything else in life, will not get better unless we work at it. If we are not willing to see what we need to change and how we need to grow, neither will take place.
What happens when your husband tries to point out things that you need to change? Here are some questions to ask ourselves as we assess our marriages:
- What are the strengths/weaknesses/tendencies of our relationship?
- What have we learned over the years?
- What do we value?
- How well do we work together?
- Do we enjoy being together?
- Do our lives influence others for the good?
- Do we learn from each other?
- What things are difficult to talk about?
- What issues do we usually disagree on?
- What issues do we avoid?
- Do we have any secrets that we are keeping from each other?
When I refused to admit my wrongs, I was miserable, moaning and complaining all day long so that even my bones felt brittle.Psalm 32:3 (Voice)
When we refuse to admit wrongs, it makes us miserable. Sometimes we think our marriage is making us miserable, or our husband is making us miserable, but it’s really the fact that we are refusing to admit wrong. Change begins with admitting where we are in our marriages.
- Have you grown bitter?
- Have you been more attentive to the children than your husband?
- Have you lost your honor for him?
- The more honest we are, the more chance for change.
Today our marriage is different. It is a source of strength for us both and we’ve learned to have a deeper, more honest and faithful marriage. We’ve learned to fight against sin and issues that tear apart our relationship.
Any marriage can turn around if we are willing to work on it and apply these five fundamentals as well as the many other Biblical truths about marriage and relationships each day.