We’re in this thing for the long haul – that is, forever! That’s how my husband and I feel about our marriage. I hope you feel the same way about yours. Your vows may have included “Till death do us part”. Ours did. So we have to stay married until one of us kills the other, right? Tee hee.
But we should try to make this the most pleasant experience we can so that it is easier to keep our vows. Does that sound like a good idea?
I have some ideas gleaned from 25 years of marriage and many books I’ve read about marriage over the years for sustaining and enhancing the relationship that is known as marriage.
First of all, we need to understand what marriage really is. What does marriage mean to you? If you see marriage as a contract, like a legal contract, then you will think of it as an agreement that you will do some things if the other person does certain things. If they fail to do what they promised, then you have the legal right to cancel the contract and get out of the deal.
But if you see marriage as a covenant, then you make a commitment to fulfill what you promise to do, no matter what the other person does. So if you promise to love, honor, and cherish your mate, as long as you both shall live, then that is what you will do no matter what. Until death parts you.
In my opinion, a covenant is a better way to think about marriage for the sake of the stability of the relationship and for the good of children that come into the family formed by the marriage.
In keeping the marriage covenant, you do your part to love and take care of your spouse, no matter what they do. You do what you promised to do. You have more incentive to be a person of integrity, and honor your word. You remember promising these things in front of your family, friends and your Creator. You uphold and honor the vows that you made on your wedding day, and they are of the utmost importance to you.
If you hold this high view of marriage, then I have some tips to help you maintain the most important relationship in your life.
1. Set your heart and mind to love, help and serve your mate, so that life is better for him or her. Check your motives. Make sure that you are not doing this selfishly; that you are not trying to get your own needs met or trying to manipulate him or her to do what you want. Do everything you do out of love for that other person. If your spouse is not treating you in a loving way, but you keep loving them and treating them tenderly, your behavior will convict them, and show them a better way.
2. Do things together. Spend time together. Have a real relationship. Find something you both enjoy doing, and make sure you’re doing it together regularly.
3. Confront your mate if he or she is doing something that is unloving.* In love, tell your spouse what you want and need from him or her. Don’t let fear stop you. Be open about how you feel. Assume the best about your mate. Start from the belief that your spouse doesn’t realize that he or she is being selfish or hurting you.
4. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. This will probably be necessary many times each day. Try to keep your communication open and honest and clear. When misunderstandings and disagreements occur, do your best to clear them up in a calm, rational manner. If you keep the love flowing from your side, the odds of this happening will be much better.
5. Honor, trust and expect the best from your mate. Communication will be good and helpful if you honor and trust each other.
6. Read lots of books about marriage. In my opinion, the best books are based on biblical principles, because they have a solid, time-tested foundation. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to get counseling when you need it.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you keep love as your main motivation for all that you do, you will be more likely to be able to live out these ideals.
Even if you can’t live them out perfectly, these are wonderful goals to aim for in your marriage.
As the years go by, you and your spouse will keep the love alive and build a marriage that lasts forever.
*If there is any abuse happening, by all means, seek counsel. If you find that your mate is unreasonable and not treating you with love and respect, you should definitely get counseling. You should never allow physical abuse.