If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself spending idle moments browsing through post after post on Facebook of other married couples having the time of their lives, and hated yourself for it after. My wife and I have had our share of marriage or life challenges, during which we always seem to manage to view a picture of friends smiling on vacation in Hawaii. Not helpful.
Time has a pretty good piece on why Facebook makes us feel miserable:
Facebook is supposed to envelope us in the warm embrace of our social network, and scanning friends’ pages is supposed to make us feel loved, supported and important (at least in the lives of those we like). But skimming through photos of friends’ life successes can trigger feelings of envy, misery and loneliness as well, according to researchers from two German universities.
Alexandra Sifferlin, Time
If you’re married, it’s safe to assume you’ve been caught in this trap at one point or another. And while we all want happy marriages, the trick is to learn from couples you admire without envying them.
Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds…
Hebrews 10:24 (VOICE)
The Bible talks a lot about the role of relationships in our lives. When it comes to marriage, we need friends we can look to for help on how to enjoy life together with our spouse, and overcome the hurdles we face in life with faith.
To spare you any further Facebook agony, we’ve compiled a list of 7 things that we’ve seen happily married couples try to do everyday.
1) Embrace each others’ strength
Follow the lead of one another because of your respect for Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 (NIRV)
My wife and I are constantly finding ourselves pointing out weaknesses way more often than we highlight and encourage each other’s’ strengths. It’s an easy pattern to get into, since getting hurt makes us want to lash out and blame.
I like this scripture because it emphasizes the importance of being keenly aware of what areas our spouses are stronger than us in. In our marriage, my wife is miles beyond me in areas like schedule, finances, and punctuality (I’m a little too comfortable arriving “fashionably late” to an appointment). I tend to be the one making sure we get time to relax and unwind, and I take care of some of the more strenuous chores around the house. In general, the things that bother me don’t necessarily bother her as much, and vice versa.
What would it look like for you to follow the lead of your spouse? How does respect for Christ motivate this following?
This yin-yang situation is a great example of the need to follow each others’ lead. When we can see the strengths in each other that come from God, it makes us want to listen and learn, which in turns makes us a lot happier.
2) Find creative ways to build each other’s’ confidence
He did it to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her with water and the word.
Ephesians 5:26 (NIRV)
This is somewhat of an extension of the first point, but it deserves its own spot on the list. What kind of things do you do to make your spouse feel more confident?
A practical thing we can take away from the scripture is to provide scriptures and spiritual insights for our spouses that will help them grow. Paul is calling out husbands explicitly in this verse, so guys, we are on notice!
Whenever I put together Bible studies for my wife, shared notes with her or even texted her scriptures, she always glows. Aside from just the general thoughtfulness of taking the time to think about her, she’s always deeply encouraged to know that I’m considering her needs, and have some direction for her own walk with God.
I can recall times I’ve shared with her scriptures on dealing with anxiety. Seeing her go to God in prayer like the scriptures say to do, and in turn watching her becoming happier as her stress decreases, was incredibly encouraging for me. Obeying this scripture builds my faith in the power and effectiveness of the Bible.
3) Make time for each other
In the same way, husbands should love their wives. They should love them as they love their own bodies. Any man who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:28 (NIRV)
In marriage, it’s far too easy to get caught up in our own personal needs, and neglect the needs of our spouse. As an admittedly selfish guy, I think I can speak for all my fellow husbands when I say that the first person we usually think about is not our wives, but ourselves.
My wife and I often recall and share with others about the first 6 months of our marriage, when things felt at their most volatile. I think one of the biggest challenges of adjusting to married life is shedding your single life and becoming one with your spouse.
As a single guy, I lived the way I wanted to live, and didn’t really have to answer to anyone. When i got married, I more or less continued the same heart and behavior…coming home when I felt like it, not cleaning, spending however I wanted. We would get in constant fights, and most of them could be traced back to one of us (usually me!) wanting my way, and not getting it.
Whether it was neglecting to come home on time or not making an effort to stay connected throughout the day, I was adjusting to the fact that my wife was now my priority, above even myself. My needs came second now. Once I started to clue into that a bit, things got a lot better, and we both became a lot happier.
4) Make healthy boundaries with extended family
Scripture says, “That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two will become one.”
Ephesians 5:31 (NIRV)
In-laws and extended family can be tricky waters to navigate, because the Bible obviously calls us to love our families. However, a common thing that can cause tension in a marriage is a lack of communication and boundaries in regards to how to engage with and spend time with your spouse’s family.
I like this scripture a lot because it says that there isn’t anything on earth that we go through that should have the power to separate our marriages. When it comes to extended family, an important thing to remember is that no matter what the needs are, the priorities of “God then marriage” will never change. Couples that approach giving to and spending time with family with this in mind tend to approach it with smiles on their faces, rather than scowls.
As we enter the new year, try having a conversation with your spouse about what you want the time spent with family to look for your marriage. Make a plan together on how to stay unified, and still get the times you need to connect no matter what the needs are in your families. These are some common examples of situations that may come up with family that you will need to stay unified on:
- God – no matter what happens with your schedule, work as a team to make sure you don’t compromise on the time you spend with God, and continue to grow in your walks with Him
- Finances – how much you will spend on gifts, vacations, etc.
- Time – prioritizing connecting time with your wife over everything else.
5) Express gratitude (little things, along the way)
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers.
Ephesians 1:16 (NIRV)
When we fail to express gratitude, we set ourselves up to become bitter, and a bitter couple is not a happy couple. Perhaps you’ve seen the couple at the coffee shop, staring at their phones, scowling, refusing to make eye contact. Or perhaps you are that couple! This is a couple that, at some point, lost touch with why they loved each other, and are now only able to see how they’ve been disappointed by each other.
When you get in touch with, and in turn express gratitude for your spouse, it keeps the love in your heart fresh. I can remember my sweaty hand dialing the numbers on my phone to tell the girl who would later become my wife that I liked her. The memory is emblazoned into my memory because of how nervous I was…I was anxiously pacing my office building parking lot trying to work up the nerve to call her. When she picked up, and reciprocated my “advance” (if that’s the right word), I remember feeling elated, so much so that I could barely sleep that night.
When I think about her answering my call that afternoon, I get grateful. When I talked to God about that moment, and the countless others that followed in my relationship with her, it not only changes my attitude and leads me to love her more.
6) Learn to quickly forgive
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:21 (NIV)
Forgiveness is a heavy topic when it comes to marriage, easily something we could cover in an entire article series. It almost goes without saying, but happily married couples try practicing forgiveness as aggressively as possible.
It’s incredibly tempting to not deal with hurt feelings when they come up, but like a wound that gets infected, there are long term consequences for neglecting to heal them. Forgiveness is the medicine we need to deal with the pain we experience in marriage when we hurt each other.
The trick is to forgive each other of little hurts along the way. The better you get at doing this, the better equipped you’ll be to handle dealing with the deeper challenges you’ll face in marriage. Check out Hebrews 12 for more.
7) Make home your haven
Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
Mark 10:9 (NIV)
There’s no shortage of worries and distractions in life, and they want nothing more than to monopolize as much of our attention as possible. Career, hobbies, and crises are all examples of legitimate things that we can get absorbed into. The trick to a happy marriage, however, is to find out how to devote the appropriate amount of time to them without sacrificing the unity of your marriage.
Happily married couples know how to keep the stressors of life at bay in such a way that their marriage does not get torn apart. What special things can you incorporate into your time with your spouse at home? Do you have regular times set aside just to connect, that you prioritize and refuse to let be rescheduled or cancelled? Who are some other couples that you can schedule enjoyable evenings with to build memories and talk about marriage and life?
If we trust that God put us together with our spouses, then we can also believe Him when He says that our marriage can come first even in the midst of difficult times. Creating special times with your spouse and prioritizing them even during stressful times will help keep your marriage strong when life gets more overwhelming.