How would you grade your marriage today? There are few things that make a bigger impact on your sense of wellbeing than the quality of your closest personal relationship–your marriage. Regardless of how healthy your relationship is, it can get better. And now is a great time to focus on becoming the spouse God needs you to be in building a stronger marriage this year.

Marriage was God’s idea. But He never promised you a marriage without struggle, or that your marriage would fulfill all your emotional, sexual, or personal needs. The healthiest godly marriages bring both deep joy and real heartache. If your marriage could meet your deepest needs God would become unnecessary, and He won’t let that happen.

The majority of married people I talk to are focused on their spouse’s bad behavior. But the only person you can do something about is you.

So what are you going to do about the partner in your marriage that you have control over–you? Doing the same thing you’ve always done will get you the marriage you have already. Building the kind of marriage you want tomorrow will require you becoming the person God needs you to be–before Him, and to your spouse.

Here are three great things to focus on so you can become the spouse God needs you to be.

  1. Clear Vision

Marriage impacts your wellbeing so deeply. And when you’re right in the middle of it, with the stakes so high, your emotions easily get involved. Frustration, anger, resentment, desire, fatigue. Your emotions are valid, but emotions cloud your vision. And you need clarity if you’re going to build a better marriage.

Are you being selfish? Is your marriage toxic? Are you magnifying your spouse’s faults out of proportion to their good qualities? Are you mistakenly holding to the belief that you can “fix” them if you try harder? Are you either overlooking or magnifying your own contribution to the unhappiness? Sometimes it’s hard to honestly answer such questions on your own.

Ask a trusted friend for some honest input. Seek out someone such as an older church friend, a counselor, a trained pastor, someone you believe can keep a confidence. Don’t go looking for someone who will tell you what you want to hear, but someone who will tell you the truth. Be honest with them when you ask for input and consider their insight seriously.

And then seek God’s perspective. Only He knows everything about your spouse’s heart and your heart. Again, don’t go to God hoping to hear a certain response. Go with a heart that intently wants to hear what He has to say. Ask Him to help you see your spouse’s heart, your own heart, and your marriage through His eyes. That will change everything.

  1. A Heart of Love

Love, not niceness!

If you’re prickly, then you may need to work on becoming less controlling or hard to please. But love is not weakness. Love does not settle for less. Rosie Makinney’s Fight for Love Ministries exemplifies this when it comes to porn’s destructive impact on marriages. Love hates what harms its beloved. Loving your spouse and working for the good of your relationship may require courage, risk, and endurance.

Both husbands and wives have tremendous power and influence when it comes to the wellbeing of their spouse. How are you using your power and influence? Love means you’re not first seeking to get your own needs met, but you’re seeking the good of the other.

Evaluate your own heart. Where is your heart closed to your spouse? Are you nursing resentment or bitterness toward them? Bring those parts of you to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to give you the kind of heart toward your spouse that He has.

And if you struggle to deal with the hurt, resentment, or contempt toward your spouse that so easily builds up, get some help.

  1. Consistent Action

A clear vision about your marriage and a heart of love from God for your spouse now needs to be put into action. Who does God need you to be to your spouse in this season?

A manipulative controlling spouse is miserable to be around, and will not result in the kind of marriage you want or that God wants for you. God may need you to take your grubby hands off your spouse so that He can do His work. You can trust God with your marriage. That’s hard for many people to fully embrace, but God is the only One who can be so trusted.

Love may require you to be strong and set some very hard boundaries. If your spouse is acting badly such as abusing alcohol or drugs, using pornography, cheating, or other bad behavior it is not loving to enable them. There are times the most loving thing to do is actually to walk away–sometimes temporarily, and occasionally permanently.

It’s certain you did not have all the skills you need when you got marriage. What do you need to learn? If you are a talker, you may need to learn to listen. If you withdraw, you may need to learn to stay engaged in a difficult conversation. You may need to learn the hard steps to building authentic intimacy not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

What Can You Do?

Remember, we’re looking at what you can do to have a stronger marriage this year. This is not about being happier, though I pray you are happier. It’s not about getting more of your needs met, though I hope that does happen. This is about learning to love well, which is really what marriage is all about.

You will be fruitful in seeking to build a better marriage by seeking clarity, paying attention to having a loving heart, and taking consistent action in being the spouse God needs you to be.

And may your marriage be more vibrant by this time next year than it is today.

Your Turn: Do you have clarity about the state of your marriage? How loving is your heart? What consistent action will you be taking for the good of your relationship? Leave a comment below.

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New Year, New Marriage

Do you need something to be different in your marriage?

This free download is written as a letter to Dear Wife at the beginning of the year, but the messages here are applicable any time and for both spouses. Learn how to identify the destructive patterns in your relationship and take the steps to move forward into the New Marriage God has for you.