Couple with boxing gloves. Are you FOR your relationship?

Deeper than any specific words or actions is the position from which both you and your spouse come to your marriage. When both of you are for your relationship even the most difficult challenges can be overcome. That’s because God is for your marriage. And if the three of you are in this together you will succeed.

The process of building a successful marriage that lasts is harder than most people are prepared for. When your marriage is less than you expected it’s easy to fall into the trap of fighting against your spouse instead of fighting for your relationship. But your spouse is not your enemy. If both of you are people of good will, you can do this.

Many people who write or talk to me say something like, “If my spouse would only . . ., we’d be OK.” And assessing how much your spouse is for your relationship is a valid and sometimes difficult question. (If it seems you’re “sleeping with the enemy” your marriage may be toxic. If so, that will require a different approach.)

But just as important is assessing whether you are truly for your relationship. Are you undermining the connection between you by your selfishness, criticism, or withdrawal? What’s it like to be married to you? Are you more concerned with getting instead of investing of yourself in your marriage?

Every marriage is the union of two sinners. But looking at what it means to be for your relationship can be like the picture on the front of the box of puzzle pieces; it shows what you’re working toward. How much do these characteristics describe you and your spouse?

Both of you say what you do and do what you say.

Making your words and your actions consistent with each other is a matter of integrity, and it builds trust. Any kind of relationship, marriage or otherwise, needs a measure of trust in order to survive. “Unfinished” people often struggle here, but this is a place you both work toward.

You both consistently seek the good of the relationship.

The opposite of this is seeking your own comfort without regard for the other person or the relationship. Some have twisted this to deteriorate into codependency or toxic submission; that’s not what this is about. Caring for yourself so that you can have something to bring to the marriage is important. When both of you are seeking the good of the relationship from a position of strength wonderful things happen.

You both have confidence the relationship is a priority to the other.

It’s not enough for you to say your relationship is a priority; your spouse needs to feel that is true, and you need to feel the same from them. If your spouse doesn’t sense this your response must not be, “I told you our marriage is important to me!” Instead, your job is to understand what would say to your spouse that your relationship is a priority, and then do that.

You both refrain from doing things that harm the other or the relationship.

You will harm each other. Guaranteed. But in order to be for the relationship you each are engaged in a process of learning to love well. When you discover you’ve hurt your spouse you apologize quickly and intentionally work to stop the behavior that is harmful. Often that requires you embark on healing past wounds that keep leaking out in harmful words or actions.

Both of you are willing and able to engage in working through problems.

I often hear from spouses who feel they are the only one interested in making their marriage better. If you change the dance, your marriage will change. But true power comes when both of you see yourselves as sitting on the same side of the table looking at the problem and seeking to find solutions. You’re not attacking your partner; you’re attacking the problem.

You both invest what is required for the good of the relationship.

Marriage does not work as a 50/50 proposition. It only works with each of you giving 100%. You cannot manipulate your spouse into giving more; you can only be the invitation for them to do so. In a healthy marriage both of you are looking to see what you can give more than what you can get. You’re not keeping score. You often seek to feed yourself so you have something to bring to the relationship.

Are You For Your Marriage?

Being for your relationship does not mean you’re perfect. You won’t be! But where is your heart? If you’re not sure, that’s the place to invest some time, thought, and prayer. Get some help from a friend, Christian counselor, or personal coach. Waiting for your spouse to change won’t work.

And if your spouse is a person of good will and is basically for your relationship, take a step toward them. Let your heart be open to working through problems together. Learn the skills necessary to make marriage work. Every couple needs to learn things they didn’t know they needed to learn.

And if your spouse is not for your relationship, your manipulation, criticism, or withdrawal won’t help. This is a time to pray about your troubled marriage and get input from God and from healthy others.

Both of you being for your relationship does not mean all your needs will get met or that you will experience “happily ever after.” But it will mean you can experience the satisfaction and connection of working through challenges together. That will be more than worth it.

Your Turn: Are you truly for your relationship? Does your spouse sense this? Is your spouse for your relationship? Leave a comment below.

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