Marriage is both the most challenging relationship and the most rewarding relationship. While working on your marriage, allow these principles to guide you.
1 – Two Healthy Individuals Make A Healthy Marriage
God says two people will become one flesh—meaning husband and wife function together, inseparably, like one body. You are on the same team which will grow stronger as each individual grows stronger. Your loyalty to each other should be greater than all other relationships. God gives each sex its own role to contribute to the good of the team. Being one flesh doesn’t mean you lose your individuality. The more you become the person God made you to be, the better off your marriage will be.
Read Genesis 2:15-25 and Mark 10:1-9.
2 – Change The Marriage By Changing Yourself
When you focus on yourself, which you can control with God’s help, you help your marriage in the most efficient way. Life is primarily a place for you to explore how you can grow and secondarily a place where you can expect God to address your partner’s flaws. Focus on your own growth twice as much as your partner’s growth. Increase your awareness of what is happening with you. Ask God for what you need rather than demanding your partner be a certain way.
Read Matthew 7:1-12.
3 – Your Partner Does Not Owe You Anything
Each of us is on our own journey to become more loving, which is clearly God’s goal for every believer. Do not judge your partner (do not condemn); instead use discernment to determine your response. You are accountable to God for your behavior regardless of your partner’s behavior. Making requests is legitimate because marriage is a cooperative effort, but coercing your partner into your desired behaviors won’t work in the long run. If you take advantage of your partner, you are also hurting yourself. If you are depleted, first look to God, the source of everything good.
Read Romans 14:12-13 and Galatians 6:1-4.
4 – Your Relationship With God Outlasts Your Marriage
Marriage ends upon death and it doesn’t exist in heaven. A covenant is unconditional. Your vows and commitment to your partner are first made to God—to serve His plans and grow His kingdom.
Read Matthew 22:30.
5 – Boundaries Are Protective Not Harmful
Relationships thrive on freedom and self-control. Decide for yourself but let your partner decide for himself or herself. You can enforce a boundary for yourself (choose how you want to respond) but boundaries are not placed on others (don’t imagine you can control your partner’s behavior).
Read Galatians 5:1, 5:13-25, and 6:5.
6 – Your Partner Can Manipulate You Only If You Allow It
If your partner attempts to persuade you, your response is your responsibility. Speak for yourself only. If you don’t want to go along with your partner’s request (or aggressive demand), speak up to declare your disagreement. A healthy individual maintains their integrity at all times. Don’t compromise who God made you to be. This is not a license for selfishness.
Read Galatians 5:13-25 (again).
7 – Only God Knows Everything
Learn about your partner but don’t presume to know your partner’s thoughts, feelings, or motives. If you believe you are discerning a particular idea, mood, or attitude, ask for clarification tentatively. Instead of stating, “You are…” ask, “Are you…?” or state “I am…” Overcommunicate with each other to reduce the chances of misunderstanding.
Read 1 John 3:20 and Hebrews 4:13.
These 7 principles aren’t the only ones I use in counseling, but they are a good place to start if you are seeking help for your marriage. As you can hopefully see by now they carry the theme that you should focus on what you can control and leave the rest up to God. You can’t ever go wrong by pursuing a better marriage that way.
Read more about freedom in marriage.
Read more about overcommunicating.
Picture by Matt Pavlik from Marriage From Roots To Fruits.
If you want help working on these principles in your marriage, contact Matt Pavlik.