Important Steps in Building My Marriage
My husband and I just celebrated
our sixteenth wedding anniversary. For those who are just thinking about
getting married, that is a huge milestone. Compared with couples of my parents’
generation, we still have a ways to go before we celebrate our fiftieth.
Even though sixteen years sounds
like a long time, it doesn’t seem that long ago when my husband and I were
engaged. We were engaged in January and married in July of the same year. The
six months of engagement were very important because that was a precious time
of not just planning for the day of the wedding but also preparing ourselves to
spend the rest of our lives with one another.
Looking back at my personal journey,
I notice that there were significant steps that we took both during engagement
and marriage that were meaningful and helpful in building our marriage. These
steps came about from understanding what marriage really involves.
Yet, knowing important principles
and teachings in the Bible related to marriage didn’t automatically translate
into us becoming the perfect husband and wife. There were many lessons we had
to learn—and are still learning—in reality.
A LIFELONG COMMITMENT
“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore,
what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mt 19:6)
God planned from the beginning
that marriage should last a lifetime. If a lifelong commitment is not the
foundation on which we build our marriage, then it won’t be long until cracks
appear in our relationship. Marriage needs to be based on a covenant of
commitment and love.
After my husband and I were
introduced, even before we got engaged, we talked about this commitment. We
both understood that married couples must confront adversity and crises that
can knock both husband and wife off their feet. It could be an illness,
financial trouble, an accident, or a failure that leads to losing respect for
one another. How would we handle such problems?
We decided that we had to enter
marriage with the conviction that we would never consider, even for a moment,
divorce or do anything that would jeopardize our hope of entering heaven. We
knew that marriage was a commitment that called us to continually put the
other’s needs above our own, to forgive the other’s mistakes, and to always
pray for God’s strength to go through tough times together.
In a marriage, we all need to have
this determination. Maintaining the relationship is not based on whether the
wife or the husband remains a certain way or looks a certain way. It is not
conditional on the couple’s joy or sex life. A Christian marriage is founded on
commitment to one another.
There are times when a husband and
wife don’t enjoy each other. Maybe your spouse has let you down, or you get
into a fight and the relationship stalls.
What is important, however, is
whether or not you still accept your spouse despite his or her flaws. These
daily or weekly irritants, if not dealt with, can bring tremendous damage to
Remember, even minor irritations
often cause pain in a marriage. Therefore, we should humbly ask God to help us,
asking the Holy Spirit to anoint us with grace and wisdom. If we stay committed
to God’s teaching, our marriage will hold steady through all circumstances.
Commitment becomes more powerful than our circumstances or moods.
This is why Jesus Christ has to be
part of the marriage. God has to be the foundation, for the unshakable truth of
God’s word holds a marriage together. Even though we may face hardships or
heavy pressures in life, the marriage will grow stronger because committing to
one another and to God nurtures lasting love.
Just as God has made an
unconditional covenant with us, He calls us to make such a commitment in our
“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In loving kindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.” (Hos 2:19, 20)
When we say our vows before the
Lord, we take on the covenant of marriage. This promise of lifelong commitment
is made before the congregation and God. Those who have been married for many
years still need to consciously commit to each other on a regular basis. When
we focus on our commitment to each other, it broadens our life.
A lifelong love story is
deliberate. It is intentional. It is a choice to look ahead and not back. A
healthy marriage doesn’t happen by accident—it is a result of the daily choice
to obey God’s teachings about marriage.
GROWING TOGETHER SPIRITUALLY
As I got to know my husband better
before marriage, I discovered he had qualities that I adored, which were also
qualities that I frankly didn’t have. I found him more attractive and more
intelligent as our relationship developed and we got to know each other better.
When I was around him, I felt more complete, and we simply couldn’t wait to see
We set aside a time to pray each
day and read the Bible, and I looked up to him as a spiritual leader, even
without him knowing it. One day, when we were talking over the phone, my
husband started sharing his shortcomings, fears, and doubts about certain
matters. As I listened, I validated his feelings and actually felt closer to
Although I had not expressed my
concerns to him, I also had worries about embracing a life together and dealing
with problems that could arise in the future. I really liked my husband’s
initiation in establishing an “us” approach, where both of us contributed to
the relationship and were willing to share everything.
Since he was so willing to open up
about his feelings, we started talking about how to handle tough times
together. This conversation made me feel connected to him on a more intimate
Intimacy often refers to the
physical relationship, but it actually means communication and closeness at the
deepest level. When a couple experiences mental, spiritual, and emotional
intimacy, not only does it reduce loneliness and self-centeredness, it really
strengthens their lives. Such closeness needs to be cultivated moment by
moment, day by day, month by month, year by year.
We naturally assume that if we let
our future spouse see our weaknesses, they won’t like us anymore. The fact is
that we are all imperfect and emotional human beings. But it is our
imperfections and our willingness to share our deepest feelings that draw us
closer to each other.
When we share our weaknesses with
each other and how we need each other’s prayer, when we confess our faults to
each other, when we share a part of ourselves that we are confused about or are
ashamed of, we take intimacy to a new depth. Reaching this stage requires that
we be humble and accepting of one another.
Some couples talk, but they sugarcoat
or camouflage their true selves so that they present someone completely
different. This is not healthy. No one can keep the act going forever. It is
important to be yourself, instead of trying to hide behind a mask.
We should not try to impress our
future spouse by concealing who we are. It says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be
without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” If we want a
lasting and deep marriage, we must remove any disguises as fully as possible.
In marriage, honesty about who we
are makes our connection real. It makes our need for God real, and it forces us
to draw more spiritual strength from our heavenly Father. He will equip us with
His strength. When we pray for each other’s spiritual growth, we are
demonstrating God’s love in a powerful way.
WORKING THROUGH ISSUES TOGETHER
There is no doubt that marriage is
full of challenges. There are issues at predictable developmental stages, and
there are issues that result from the unpredictabilities of life.
On top of that, there are values
that need to be re-evaluated. There are struggles that need to be overcome.
There are conflicts that need to be resolved. Many adjustments must be made.
Marriage is indeed a people-maturing machine.
We have to be prepared to take on
these difficulties together even before getting married. In the course of
engagement, you may be asked to face something you didn’t expect. When you hear
your fiancé’s honesty, you may have conflicting emotions—you care for him but
are overwhelmed by what he’s saying. It can be unsettling.
At this point, you really only
have one choice—to kneel down in front of God and ask Him to give you the
wisdom to discover solutions, find godly guidance, and decide as a couple how
to resolve this issue.
It is important to work together.
Sometimes, when a couple has a disagreement, one person will try to force the
other to accept his or her views. This attitude is not about true love but
about having power and control.
Other couples will prefer to
withdraw and not deal with the issues. As a result, the relationship will die
as they become emotionally divorced.
Many couples find it hard to love
and respect their spouse because they have checked out of the marriage mentally
and emotionally. When encountering difficulties, it’s important not to lose
yourself. Instead of pressuring each other or avoiding the problem, work things
out by communicating and listening to each other, putting the issue in prayer,
and coming up with a solution together.
I have learned that it is seldom
God’s will for me to run from a difficult situation. If I don’t learn in one
area, God just gives me another chance to learn somewhere else. Ignoring a
problem won’t make it disappear. It only gets worse.
I remember my husband and I had
moments when we faced difficult patches in our relationship. As we surrendered
to God’s guidance and brought everything to Him, it really forced us to grow
even more spiritually. Even though some issues took time to resolve, we kept
our faith and trusted in God.
God has much to teach us when we
work through issues. Instead of being torn apart as a couple, we need to come
together as a team to face whatever life sends us. We can’t have moments
claiming “This is your problem, not mine,” but must find the best solution
My husband and I came out of
crises and issues stronger both individually and as a team. We also discovered
that both of us respected and valued each other so much more after overcoming
A relationship gains deeper strength
when it is stretched to the breaking point and doesn’t break. Indeed, many
couples who have come to a mutually agreeable solution not only glorify God but
also benefit each other.
UNDERSTANDING OUR ROLES
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular
so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her
husband. (Eph 5:33)
A Husband’s Role
The Bible says that the husband
is the head of the wife (Eph 5:23). Here, and in the verses following, the
apostle Paul charges all husbands with a loving leadership of their wives. But
being the head does not mean being bossy and throwing around authority.
A husband’s love for his wife has
to be so strong that he is willing to die to save her, just as Christ loved the
church! It means that the wife is looking to the husband to sacrifice his own
comfort and convenience and make decisions on what is best for the family.
My husband knows that I
constantly depend on him to lead me with his character and strength. Because he
is the head, I look to him to back me up in all areas of married life. I am
going to look to him for leadership when hard decisions about career, having
kids, parenting, or other issues arise. Most of all, I am going to look to him
to set the pace spiritually.
I never once met a wife who had a
problem with her husband being a spiritual leader of their home, where the
husband was really laying down his life for her, looking out for her needs, and
meeting those needs. But I have met many wives who struggled with husbands who
weren’t spiritually leading their homes, who weren’t laying down their lives
and loving their wives like how Christ loves the church.
It’s important to remember that
God charges husbands to be the spiritual leader, to love and die for their
wives. This is the kind of leader wives want and need. This is the divine plan
“For I have known him, in order that he may
command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the
LORD.” (Gen 18:19)
It is essential to the spiritual
health of the children and wife to have the husband set up the family’s
devotion time. In my family, even though my husband may sometimes be tired from
work, he still continues the routine he established of reading the Bible and
praying together as a family. It is a blessing for our child to see his father
setting a good example in a family’s spiritual life.
A Wife’s Role
While the husband’s role is to
love his wife unconditionally and die for her, the wife’s role is to submit and
respect her husband in all circumstances. Many sisters cringe when they hear
“submit.” They ask, “Why should women be inferior to men? Why should I follow
his preferences? Does that mean if I questioned anything, I would be viewed as
not submissive? Is submission the only way to ensure a blessed marriage?”
Being submissive does not mean
wives are not allowed to speak up or give their perspective. It does not mean
being the lesser of the two. Husbands are not called to treat their wives like
a child, and wives are not called to be their husbands’ clone. Husbands are not
the only decision maker in the family.
Being submissive means respecting
the husband and taking his lead. When difficulties arise, it may mean yielding
to and being understanding of the husband’s decisions, despite having a
different view. A wife needs to fully believe in her husband and be confident
in his leadership.
I feel that as a wife, I should
take on the role of an encourager. I tell myself that each day, I need to be
ready to comfort, not criticize, my husband. I need to speak words of
encouragement and give him emotional nourishment. It’s one of the reasons why a
husband needs his wife’s respect and support.
As I strive to make God the
center of my life, I also pray daily, “Please be the head of my husband. I
usher him to You on a daily basis so that You will lead him and speak to him
Imagine a wife who speaks words
of wisdom and encouragement to her husband. It will be like pouring sunshine,
water, and nutrients on a plant. When the husband feels encouraged and
respected, he will continue to bloom and grow. This is because the wife is not
trying to change her husband, but she loves and respects her husband through
Likewise, husbands also need to
do the same for their wives. We have the power to bring life by giving
encouragement to each other.
God’s love flows to the husband
as the wife offers words that encourage, affirm, and build him up as he grows
closer in his relationship with God and with her. This is very precious in a
marriage. When a wife truly respects and loves her husband, this is when they
can be “heirs of the gracious gifts of life—so that nothing may hinder [their]
prayers” (1 Pet 3:7).
SHARING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Having unreasonable and
unrealistic expectations will cause a lot of harm in a marriage. So what can we
do to avoid this? First, we must list our expectations and examine them at the
beginning of marriage. Be completely honest with your spouse. Share and clarify
what they are.
Marriage is a real eye-opener.
Once you get specific with your spouse about your expectations, you will
discover that both of you have different opinions, thoughts, and habits.
Remember, your wife or your husband is human, which makes that person unique
and imperfect. Therefore, we need to give up unrealistic expectations. If not,
they will only lead us to frustration and more disappointment.
Here are some examples of
We will never have disagreements because we love
If you truly love me, you will never criticize
My needs are always the most important. I will
not need to verbally share my needs with you if you truly love me. You should
know my needs.
We cannot demand or force love
from others. In a healthy marriage, there is constant communication and
accommodation of one another. We need to respond to each other’s needs even if
they are not the same as ours.
Sharing our expectations, whether
unrealistic or not, brings us to reflect, “Am I placing demands on my spouse?
How are my expectations affecting my spouse? What can I do in order to improve
Marriage requires maturity, and
that means both spouses need to face reality, abandon unrealistic expectations,
and work on being transformed by God’s teaching and His love. This requires
character, maturity, self-restraint, and humility.
We shouldn’t drive our spouse away
from us, but draw our lover close to our heart. We must be willing to adjust
and re-adjust our position to accommodate our spouse.
Once we surrender to God, His love
will flow through our marriage. Fears, demands, and differences will diminish.
There is no doubt that marriage takes
enormous amounts of love, energy, courage, and determination. As long as we
keep our love story intentional, we can feel we are the apple of our spouse’s
eye. After all, who doesn’t love being loved? We can definitely experience that
in a marriage.
After sixteen years of marriage, I
can honestly say that my husband and I have a much deeper, more mature love
than on our wedding day. We have worked through difficult moments, and I truly
feel that he loves me, believes in me, fights for me, and encourages me to see
myself through the word of God. He opens me up to grow, to learn, and even to
change. I feel loved every day.
To be able to share the rest of
your life with the one you love and to seek after God with an ever-deepening
understanding is the crowning glory of marriage. To be able to intentionally
nurture the inner spiritual life in a marriage will give you a greater sense of
purpose and meaning.
Husbands and wives are not meant
to depend solely on each other—God must be the head of the family. As we invite
God into our marriage, we can definitely experience all the promises in the
Bible—love, joy, peace, protection, provisions, deliverance and many more!
All glory to our Lord Jesus