Too many people slide into marriage without much intentionality. It’s just something you do – “if we feel like it.” But for something as important as marriage, something that will affect your health, wellbeing and happiness for the rest of your life and the wellbeing of many others, “sliding” isn’t a good plan. The only way to succeed is to be Married on Purpose.
Marriage is perhaps the riskiest endeavor humankind currently engages in. Is there any other agreement you would enter into when the general failure rate is around 50%? Two attached sinners are certain to destroy each other if left alone. And even if your marriage lasts you are guaranteed a super-sized dose of frustration, disappointment, and deep internal pain.
Is it any wonder young people are frequently delaying marriage, opting for other living arrangements, trying the hook-up culture, and/or declining to get involved in serious dating relationships? That’s certainly not the case for all. But for the first time there are more single adults in our country than married adults.
Of course most people who get married believe they’re the exception. MY husband won’t get too busy with work to have time to make me feel special, or leave dirty sox and dishes lying around. MY wife will always look beautiful, and always cheer me on in whatever I’m pursuing. OUR relationship will never deteriorate into apathy, conflict, or miserable détente.
If you’re right, if your marriage is the exception, it will be because you and your spouse make daily intentional investments on purpose. Like a garden, without daily attention to planting good seeds, pulling weeds, and watering regularly, your marriage will produce thistles instead of flowers.
Here are some things to invest in daily to assure you are Married on Purpose.
Regardless of your age, how mature are you? People who get married before coming to a certain understanding about life have added difficulty developing a happy marriage. None of us comes into our adult life having all the tools we need to succeed at marriage or at life. That’s why it’s critical to make regular investments in growing up.
Important character traits develop over time. What kind of investments are you making that allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in your life? How are you doing on kindness, gentleness, joy, peace, self-control, love, etc? What about traits such as courage, patience, faithfulness, flexibility, honesty, integrity, and faith? If you’re naturally a drama queen, a spineless whiner, a control freak, a perfectionist, or an angry aggressor, now is the time to make a change. And making investments in your character maturity is something that continues throughout life.
Relationship with God
Fixing a broken marriage horizontally is not likely to work until the marriage – and the people involved – are fixed vertically. If your relationship with God is not growing all the marriage techniques in the world are only superficial, window-dressing, empty. Regular investment in your relationship with God allows you to grow in the other areas also. Without that you cannot develop a truly mature character, become unselfish and forgiving, etc.
What are you doing on a daily basis to remain close to God? How must time do you spend listening to Him? How often are you communicating with Him? Learning more about Him? Your spiritual life will have seasons of greater and lesser emotional connection, but the daily investment needs to be there regardless.
Any time you begin to care more about yourself than about your spouse your marriage begins to deteriorate. Any time your needs become more important than your spouse’s you’ll become bitter. It’s selfishness (sometimes showing up as fear) that keeps you from caringly confronting issues that need to be addressed. (If your spouse is truly abusive, get help right away!)
Daily investment in unselfishness means paying attention to the little things that make life good for your spouse, responding kindly, listening intently, learning their love language, taking time to understand, and so much more. It’s not all about you!
Perhaps the biggest thing that surprised me when I married Al was coming to understand the enormous impact I had on my husband. He was a mature successful man. But my responses to him, the way I carried myself, my own emotional state – all that and more had a huge impact on him. I believe it’s that way in every marriage.
You are a sinner just as your spouse is, and you will need to extend each other forgiveness often (see below). But daily investing in learning how your behavior, words, and attitude impact your spouse, and making necessary adjustments for your spouse’s wellbeing, will result in dividends beyond what you can imagine. You take the initiative, and lovingly be the person God needs you to be to your spouse for this season.
No life, and certainly no marriage, will escape serious trouble. A natural disaster such as fire or flood, a child with a disability or serious illness, a job loss, a major health challenge – something, or many somethings, will happen. And then there’s the small and large sinful brokenness you both brought into the marriage.
Resilience means daily making the choice to keep going. That’s not a guarantee of marriage happiness. (I’ve written about when your marriage fails anyway.) Resilience means understanding yourself enough to know when you need some healthy soul nourishment, and seeing that you get it, so that you have something inside to continue to fight with. It means not expecting perfection but choosing hope anyway.
You will hurt your spouse. Your spouse will hurt you. If you’re back from the honeymoon you’ve likely both hurt each other many times over. The question is, what do you do then? If you cannot learn to forgive you will either shrivel up in bitterness or explode in anger.
Daily investment in forgiveness means keeping short accounts with each other. When you’re wrong, admit it quickly, When you cause your spouse pain, ask for forgiveness. When you are wronged, care enough to confront, and then let it go. You don’t accept bad behavior, but you let God be the one to decide if and how much your spouse hurts over their sin. You live in the light, facing forward, choosing to see the best in each other.
Marriage is not primarily about your happiness; it’s about learning to love well. It’s the laboratory where you become like Jesus. Our highest calling is to become like Jesus, who is the demonstration of who God is. And God is love. So our highest calling is to become like Love.
This has nothing to do with sappy weakness or “anything goes.” Love is sometimes fierce, sometimes sacrificial, sometimes tender, sometimes understanding. As Paul wrote, Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
How are you investing daily in loving well?
To that degree your marriage will succeed.
Your Turn: What kinds of investments are you making daily in learning to love well? What new investments do you need to engage in? Leave a comment below.
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