Marriage

mar-riage [mar-ij] --noun
the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.

It's amazing how even the Webster's dictionary has made marriage such a bland word.  As if every married person is doomed from the very beginning. The definition should be "when a man and woman make a life commitment to each other because they are so amazingly in love that they don't want to spend a single day apart".....or, at least that's how we all felt when we first got married, right?  

Marriage can be and is such a very fun and beautiful thing.  But sadly, the words that often surround newly engaged and married couples are not uplifting words but phrases such as "oh, the next time around is better" or "you'll forget about that love stuff in a few months when reality hits you".  These phrases are often said with out even giving any thought as to how heart piercing they really are -- there are even some of us who say them simply out of bitterness and frustration with our own relationships and/or marriages.  
 
I've been married to my husband for 5 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, 5 hours, 56 minutes and 24 seconds (as of right this moment...oops, 26 seconds now).  And I wouldn't trade what we have for anything.  I am not saying we know everything about a good marriage nor am I saying that we are the perfect married couple...no no.  I am not saying that it has been extremely easy, I'm also not saying it has been extremely hard -- I am saying that it has been an amazing learning experience for the both of us.  We are constantly learning, constantly changing (for the better), and constantly trying to love each other the way that Christ loves his church. For better or worse, we are in this for the long haul -- so the way we see it, is that we better stop complaining and start learning and growing!

Here are two main scriptures that often come up in sermons about marriage.  We often hear the first one directed towards wives, and often many people take this scripture out of context (whether women say it degrades them --which it doesn't-- or when men use it to degrade women by using the first verse and that verse only).  However, these scriptures go completely hand in hand and there are so many blessings that come from practicing them.  Read on, you'll see....

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" [Ephesians 5:22-24]

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body." [Ephesians 5:25-30]

Wives should submit to their husbands, in everything.  However, husbands should love their wives and treat them with respect -- husbands are not to be the only decision maker, but husbands and wives should come together and make decisions as one. 
You'll find that in most marriages, at some point or another, one spouse is always feeling as though they are putting more into the marriage than the other (and vice versa).  This is when one spouse feels unimportant (or less superior in some cases), or as if their feelings don't matter.  This is when strife becomes apparent, this is when fights happen, this is when spouses don't talk for days, this is when hearts get hurt and we allow bitterness and anger to take the front seat.  This is when we fall out of God's will for our marriagesWhen we step away from scripture and try to live our marriage how the world thinks it 'should' be, we fail.  Our marriages fail.  And that is why the divorce rate soars over 50% in our country right now.  It's hard trying to have a Godly marriage in such an ungodly world where you are surrounded by media and people who want to give their opinions on your marriage, when many of them don't even know what a good and real marriage is.  The template for a 'good marriage' has changed so much over the years.  It's time to get back to the basics.

I've personally put together just a few rules (and this isn't all of them) that we (Mark and I) try to live by when striving to keep that Godly marriage that Christ desires us to have with our spouse (minus the obvious ones like 'do not commit adultery' etc).  Over the next few weeks I'll touch on each one -- many of them individually.  I encourage everyone to leave their own opinions, encouragement for others, and scriptures.  After all, we're all here to help each other.  Please keep in mind that I will be having larger blogs to expand on some of these points -- they will provide scriptures etc.  There are so many issues in marriages that I can't put them all in one blog -- I should be busy writing for the next 20 years.... :)

In no particular order....except the first one:

1. God is always first (not your spouse) [Matthew 22:37, Luke 14:26] -- we will expand on this later,  but this doesn't mean you just do whatever you feel like God is calling you to do without consent from your spouse.  If it is truly God's will, everything will fall into place and it will include your spouses willingness to work with you or highly support you.   Also keep in mind that there is a time and season for everything.  Just because your spouse may not agree with you about something now, doesn't mean God isn't working on them so that they will agree with you in the future....when the time is right.
2. Never Stop Praying (and it helps if you pray together) -- many of us often get so comfortable in our lives that we completely forget to pray.  Make it a daily routine, pray with your spouse in the morning or in the evenings (something we need to work on!), and make sure you always set aside that alone time with God.
3. Always make time for each other -- whether it's a date night alone with your spouse or watching a movie after the kids go to bed, no matter how tired you are or what your day might have been like, always make time for your husband/wife at some point during your day/evening.
4. Always trust-- there are many marriages that have failed simply because one spouse did not trust the other and had no reason whatsoever to not trust them. I've heard husbands say "I would never cheat on my wife, but because she accuses me all the time, it doesn't make me want to be near her anymore than I want to be near another woman that I'm not married to."  We'll touch more on this later too.
5. Don't 'down' your spouse or speak badly about them to others (goes along with the next one) -- I am constantly saddened when I hear husbands and wives speaking badly about their spouse in public places, at work, to friends or even to people they don't know.  It is not abnormal to have a close friend (of the same gender) who you can confide in with relationship issues. However, there is a limit as to the things that you should speak of with them.  You should first and foremost speak with God about it, pray about it.  The next step is to confront your spouse about it in a loving way -- not involving yelling (trust me, you'll get no where).  Again, we will have to touch more on this later.
6. Do not speak badly about your spouse on the internet or on social networking sites-- my #1 pet peeve right here.  What you say about your spouse on facebook or other social networking sites is seen by 100+ people every single day.  It is not only public humiliation for your spouse, but it is public humiliation for YOU.  It is childish.  It is very disrespectful. And it is not showing love to your spouse at all.  Many say "I'm teaching them a lesson" when it is not a spouses responsibility to teach their spouse a lesson out of bitterness and anger.  [Ephesians 4:29]  [2 Timothy 1:7 -- self control] 
7. Love...in every situation -- as I stated before, you're going to find that at some point or another you are giving more than your spouse and other times your spouse is giving more than you.  Ex: If I come home from work one day extremely tired and upset and start snapping at my husband, his reaction should not be snapping back at me.  His reaction should be to talk to me, ask me if I need to talk about my day, ask me if I'd like dinner out instead of cooking, ask me if we can sit down and pray about it.  In most cases, we don't truly mean to personally attack our spouse.  If one spouse is angry and the other doesn't add 'fuel to the fire', chances are that the angry spouse will calm down much quicker than if you react in anger yourself.  I may snap back several times at him, but if one spouse keeps their cool....it will end well for everyone.  My husband once told me "you've gotta give a little to get a little"....and that is so true.  We may not always feel like our marriages are fair, but it all evens out in the end.
8. Never Lie, no matter how little it is -- because believe it or not, it creates trust issues...even the little ones.
9. Never ever ever ever involve your parents or the in-laws -- big definite no no.  All too often married couples confide in their parents or in-laws and they are only setting themselves up for failure.  When you confide in someone that has a biased opinion, you're not helping your marriage....you're hurting it.
10. Never compare your spouse to others --  it's disrespectful, no matter what the situation.  Just because Mr Jones next door rubs his wife's back every night doesn't mean they have a happy marriage.  And just because Mrs. Jones cooks dinner for her husband every night doesn't mean they have an amazing marriage.  But even if they didn't do those things, it doesn't mean they have a horrible marriage.  We should always uplift our spouse, even if they don't do the same for us.  The blessings that come from doing this will be amazing.  And they might even get the hint with out you having to compare them to someone else.  

11. Communicate -- aka...TALK TO EACH OTHER.  Even if it means what your spouse has to say hurts.  Unless you are 100% (and I mean ONE HUNDRED PERCENT) honest with your spouse, there will always be confusion and tension.  If you want your spouse to quit smoking, tell them.  If your spouse makes you feel self conscious, tell them. If you want your spouse to make dinner for you, tell them.  If you want your spouse to take the kids for a day so you can relax, tell them. If your spouse downs you too much, tell them.  Just because you're thinking something doesn't mean your spouse is automatically going to read your mind or "hints" and do what you want them to do.  Especially husbands -- they just weren't created that way.  Each person is different and you'll need to learn how to communicate honestly with your spouse in a respectful way.  HOWEVER, be open to your spouses reply -- you may find that they aren't the entire problem.  Maybe there are things that you need to work on in your life instead of the other way around.  This will be another big separate blog.  

Suggestion: Skim through (or read) The Five Love Languages -- apply it and find out what your spouses 'love language' is.  There is also a nifty test online here.  Have your spouse take it and figure out what makes their love clock tick.  You'd be surprised what the outcome is....maybe.  We'll touch a little on The Five Love Languages in one of our upcoming blogs.

Each marriage is different and I urge each and every person to dive into the word of God themselves.  Test your own relationship and apply scriptures to your own marriage.  The best way to learn is to figure things out on your own.  But a little help never hurt :)   

Until next time...

 

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