After 25+ years of marriage and ministry, I have discovered a few key habits of couples who have a vibrant and healthy relationship with each other. When couples avoid these habits, trouble could be right around the corner.Marriage can be one of the most challenging relationships we ever have, but it can also be the most rewarding!
Marriage can be one of the most challenging relationships we ever have, but it can also be the most rewarding!
1. Seek to Grow in your walk with God first and foremost.*
Think of it like the instructions on the airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on yourself. Breathe in the wisdom of God so you breathe out humility, faithfulness, and gratitude.
Marriage is a picture of our relationship with God. (See Ephesians 5:21-33).
As we grow to become the person God created us to be, we discover that when we lose our lives serving our spouse, we actually find our lives (See Matthew 10:39).
To grow in our relationship with God requires the same 5 things we need to grow in a relationship with our spouse or a friend:
- Talking (prayer)
- Listening (reading the Scriptures, listening to His voice)
- Adjusting our behavior to accomodate the other (living a life that honors God)
- Introducing our friends to the other (loving, serving, and spiritually reaching out to our friends and family)
- Meeting the other’s friends (connecting with others who follow Christ)
*Regardless of your belief in God, applying these spiritual principles to your life truly make a difference.
2. “Never let the sun go down while you are angry.”
This requires us to work through conflict every day. When we do not do this, bitterness can creep in. When bitterness creeps in, distance between us becomes a certainty. In the midst of the distance comes temptation.
Learning to forgive is a must in marriage!
Unforgiveness in our hearts creates doubts in our mind.
Make your home a sanctuary.
Work very hard to walk in step with the Spirit and not operate in the flesh.
- Work very hard to treat the other as who they are in Christ (not as they have been when operating according to the sinful nature).
- Work very hard to avoid triggering the other person.
- Work very hard to avoid losing your temper or using harsh words.
When you do, that is like a relapse.
- Move towards an apology as soon as possible.
- Forgive as soon as possible.
Share a monthly or regular breakfast “business meeting”
When a conversation turns into a conflict, put it on your list of things to discuss later like in a public setting like a coffee shop.
Your goal is to keep the peace and build harmony in the home.
Setting this time aside will help you avoid arguing throughout the week. “Let’s talk about this at our next breakfast.” This can move logistics and what feels like nagging from other nights of the week.
- Using the Communication Worksheet – Come with 3 or 4 areas you would like to discuss – areas needing improvement.
- If you both listed at least one item in common then choose that one to discuss.
- Ask yourselves:
What has helped us with this issue in the past?
What are some things we have tried that did not work?
What are some new things we could try to grow together in this area?
- Choose at least one thing to try together for the next few weeks to make improvement.
- Using the Conflict Resolution Worksheet – Come together at your breakfast time to discuss the 8 to 10 ideas you had on your own to improve this area.
- Choose one to three ideas that you might have in common to build upon.
3. “Pray together outloud everyday.” – Andy Stanley
According to Andy Stanley, the divorce rate of couples who pray together on a regular basis is 1 in 10,000. Praying out loud together (not just during meals) requires humility, staying on the same page spiritually, and helps with going to bed in peace (rather than with anger).
Ask God to bless your spouse. Ask God to be with your spouse in the ways he or she needs Him to be.
4. Stay Connected and Keep Pursuing Each Other
Without being intentional, we drift apart. Jobs, babies, in-laws, life, and darkness can come between us.
In addition, the very things that attract us to our spouse become what annoys us later.
To combat this, we need to continue to date each other, express love to each other, and make intimacy an important aspect of our relationship. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-6 and “A Covenant Relationship” (10/9/13) a message by Tim Keller).
Avoid discussing finances, kids, or any other topics that trigger your conflict during dates.
The following assessments can help us understand each other better and be a great date night conversations:
- 5 Love Languages
- MBTI– personality (free version or ask me for the $30 in-depth version)
- Gallup’s Strengths Finder
Great date night conversation questions could include:
- Tell the story of when you knew you were in love with your spouse of the one you are dating. Each take a turn sharing.
- Share 3 ways you are grateful for your spouse from the past month. Could be about the children, work, home life, or anything!
- What was the most helpful thing you heard at the workshop?
- At which of the 5 habits are you best?
- Which of the 5 needs more work for you?
- What are some next steps you feel you should take together?
Seek ways to serve your spouse.
5. Connect with Others
Having others speak into our lives, help us make decisions, and help us process the ups and downs of our marriage can be extremely helpful. Connecting with other couples and even serving with our spouse can be life-giving.
We have found connecting with a local church to be vital in our marriage!
Consider the Healthy Layers of Relationships (as demonstrated by Jesus):
- Running partners (the 3) – “Love The Lord with all your soul.” (knowing and being known)
- Life group (the 12) – “Love The Lord with all your mind” (grow)
- Network (the 70) – “Love The Lord with all your strength.” (serve)
- Gateway Inspire service (Sermon on the Mount) – “Love The Lord with all your heart.” (connect)
Rather than thinking of 4 different things to do, think of having layers of relationships. You can simplify your life when your running partners are part of your life group. Your life group serves together with other life groups as part of a network. Together with other networks, you celebrate what God is doing in your community and learn more about Him together on Sundays.
For more help in your relationship, consider: