By Emily Pollard
Most people will admit to you that marriage is hard. If someone has told you marriage is easy, they’ve probably never been married. Many married couples will also readily admit that they are still learning after 15, 20, even 30 years of practice. That’s because marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Think about what you’re called to do as a spouse…
*Become one with another person
*Love your spouse unconditionally and selflessly
*Help your spouse grow spiritually
*Submit (as the wife) or lead the family (as the husband)
These responsibilities can be daunting but, aside from our own relationship with the Savior, I can’t think of a more rewarding and God-glorifying relationship than a godly marriage. My husband, Carl, and I have only been married for 4 months. So, I am by no means an expert on marriage, but there are 4 marriage-altering lessons that I have learned through trial and error (mostly error) in the short time we’ve been married.
1. Sharing is caring.
Opening up with one another about our deepest struggles and most shameful moments is something Carl’s and my personalities are naturally resistant to. The fear of disappointing your spouse or shame of admitting mistakes/temptations is crippling for many. However, the husband-and-wife relationship is called by God to be unified (Gen. 2:24). A key ingredient in growing as one is knowing your spouse and being known by your spouse. A strong line of communication between a husband and wife eliminates and simplifies so many problems. If you truly care for your spouse, you will work to share every part of life with them, and you will provide the safe space for him/her to communicate openly with you. As brother and sister in Christ, spouses are also called to speak the truth with one another (Eph. 4:25). It is possible to discuss uncomfortable and/or tense matters with your spouse. Hiding matters that need to be shared will hinder unity between you and your spouse.
2. Silence is powerful.
The power your words have over your spouse’s spirit is humbling. It is also easy to abuse. While honesty is always the best policy, being too honest is possible. If you are an opinionated person (like me), it is so tempting to blurt out advice or correction at every turn. While the peanut gallery comments don’t usually come from a mind of pride and hostility, they are discouraging and demeaning to your spouse. We all need correction at times (Gal. 6:1). That isn’t the point. The point is you married your spouse because you love who they are, and you like the way they think. Micromanaging their dishwashing method, the way they brush their teeth, or correcting them in front other people is destructive. In James 3, the tongue is compared to a small fire that can set an entire forest ablaze (James 3:4-6). The words your spouse hears from you can make them or break them. Don’t nag. Even if your spouse is wrong, it doesn’t mean they need you to tell them (James 4:11). Chances are, they already know and would admit it if you gave them the chance. The world is full of judgment and criticism. Your spouse needs you to build them up, not knock them down more (1Thess. 5:14).
3. Respect your spouse’s role.
While the world often describes God’s design for marriage as degrading toward women and partial toward men, anyone who seeks to fulfill God’s roles for men and women in marriage sees firsthand that there are challenges for husbands and wives. While we know this to be true, we still make our spouse’s job harder sometimes by disrespecting the challenges they face in trying to be a submissive wife or leading husband. The bottom line, it’s hard to be the leader (Eph. 5:23), and it’s hard to be submissive (Eph. 5:24). But what makes it easier is dwelling on the different yet often equally challenging commands you are each striving to fulfill. In the midst of an argument or a life-altering decision, remember that you both have difficult roles to maintain. Above all, you are both still in submission to God’s final say (1 Cor. 11:3)
4. Be willing to sacrifice.
A healthy marriage is not without sacrifice from both parties. As a Christian your goal is to love your spouse as Christ has demonstrated love for us in His own life. Christ was aware of what we needed before you and I even existed. Pay attention to your spouse, not just what they say, but their mood or things they may need that they don’t ask for. In order to provide the salvation we needed, Jesus “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7), “humbled himself” (Phil 2:8), and “bore our sins” (1 Pet. 2:24). In other words, Jesus denied His own wants, did so without complaining and fixed a problem we couldn’t fix on our own. Do the same for your spouse. If Christ was willing to endure abuse, mockery, and crucifixion because He loved us, surely we can make trivial sacrifices like helping with chores or letting your spouse pick dinner for once. Christ spent 33 years of His life on earth for us. We can take time out of our day to check on our spouse and provide for their needs.
These are just 4 out of the countless lessons to be learned in marriage. I know Carl and I have a lifetime worth of growing to do together. Praise God for the blessing of marriage!