The world is full of marriage advice floating around in books, podcasts, pre-marital counseling, and in the words of wise friends and family members. Often, however, this is given before a couple has their wedding, and there are still stars in everyone’s eyes – long before the reality of being married to another sinner kicks in.
Marriage is a glorious gift from God, created for companionship and children, and that gives us a tangible picture of God’s love for the church, his bride. In addition, the Lord uses it to achieve His purpose of making us holy.
Perhaps you are about to embark on this amazing adventure and are looking for marriage advice to help smooth the path ahead. Being able to apply tried-and-tested wisdom will go a long way toward building a happy marriage. Or maybe it’s a few years or even a decade or two since you said: “I do.” In whatever stage you find yourself, these solid pieces of marriage advice will stand you in good stead:
1. Let freedom ring
You may be bound together in holy matrimony, but it is important to make some space for being separate and maintaining your individuality in your relationship. Because each marriage consists of unique individuals, exactly where these lines fall can only be ascertained by spouses and will likely require some adjustment on both sides to get the balance right.
We must allow each other the liberty of having some special hobbies and friends that are not shared. If you and your spouse are not in agreement about this, the best course of action is to err on the side of giving the other person the freedom that they feel they need, even when this feels difficult and unfair.
2. Focus on the good
Once again, this marriage advice rolls glibly off the tongue, and yet requires huge amounts of self-control to achieve (thankfully God gives us the fruit of the Spirit in abundance, especially when we ask him for it). Some marriage counselors advise writing down every bad or annoying habit or characteristic that one can think of about the other person, exchanging lists, and then burning them in a symbolic decision to not dwell on each other’s weaknesses.
The next step would be to write down lists of every good and admirable aspect that a spouse enjoys and appreciates about their partner and to focus on these things. It might mean hanging the list up on the inside of one’s cupboard door and reading it daily to be reminded of the good, especially when times are tough, and the temptation is to turn to negativity.
Once again, the pay-off is that when someone is aware of what their spouse sees as good points, they try harder to build on them; and when this is reciprocated in marriage it deepens the bond and creates a caring, loving atmosphere.
3. Build a bridge of communication
Are you good at talking things over with your spouse? Can you discuss your feelings together? Are there certain subjects you must tiptoe around, or which are completely taboo? While many couples assume that communication is one of their strong points at the beginning of marriage, the bridge of communication needs to be constructed and maintained over the years, else it can weaken without either party realizing it until it reaches the point of collapse.
Marriage advice about communication includes some dos and don’ts. Do maintain respect for each other in the words that you use and how you use them. Do remember that how you greet each other at the end of the day (or at any time) is important and sets the tone for your communication. Set aside a special time every day to chat with your spouse. Ideally, do have a weekly “date night” to get away from the mundaneness of home life and focus on one another.
Don’t ignore your common interests or each other’s thoughts, and don’t fail to keep quiet when you know you should. The art of communication does not develop overnight, but, like everything in marriage, can be developed gradually over the years.
4. Obey the “clean fight” rules
On this side of heaven, occasional spats and some fiery encounters are sure to erupt between two people sharing a bed. Therefore, it is important to set and then to stick to some ground rules for how you conduct yourselves when you disagree.
These could include things like deciding on the right time to argue (never at bedtime!), having the main goal of the discussion to improve your marriage through deepened understanding, taking care with the words that you use – knowing that personal attacks and insults leave scars that can last a lifetime, intentionally lowering your voice because shouting in anger just comes so naturally), never quarreling in public, and knowing when to call it quits.
Of course, many people who are in troubled marriages are beyond the point of being able to resolve issues in this calm, level-headed way, but even employing one or two rules can lead to improvement. Expert help is needed to help settle more serious problems.
5. These three words
Even more critical than the words, “I love you” is the golden phrase, “I am sorry.” Because living together in perfect harmony is an ideal, treating repentance as a prime ingredient in marriage and being quick to make humble admissions can be helpful. While it may be difficult to express regret over unkind words or actions, God calls us to repentant of our sin, both to Him and to those we have wronged.
Altercations are rarely one person’s fault – it generally involves both parties – so being ready to patch up an argument with a genuine, heartfelt apology can be a great way to reach a peaceful resolution. This means it is less about who started it or who is at fault, but more about the practice of quickly making things right again.
Whether you are optimistically envisioning your future marriage, or at a low point of feeling like your marriage is hopeless, embracing this marriage advice will be the best way to ensure the realization of a marriage that honors God and brings the pleasure of companionship to both the husband and wife.
Praying for your marriage and taking time to pray together daily is perhaps the cornerstone on which every other good habit is built. Remember that God brought the two of you together and He has good plans for your marriage.
We must humble ourselves to be sanctified in the way in which He has intended. Sanctification is seldom pleasant at the time, but by allowing ourselves to be refined, we can grow and mature, and move toward being the person that God has created us to be. That is certainly a beautiful picture!
“Tall Bridge”, Courtesy of Cody Hiscox, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pixie Lights”, Courtesy of Diego PH, Unsplash.com, CC0 License