This summer, Nathan and I celebrated 18 years since we said “I Do.” It has been an exciting journey so far! There have been many highs and a few lows, but through it all I know there is no one I would rather do this journey with than him. Throughout the years it has become clear to us that the key to a good marriage is constant attention to your individual relationship with the Lord. When we focus on loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, everything else just seems to naturally fall in line. When we walk in step with the Holy Spirit and obey His guidance, we are then able to truly love others the way they need to be loved. Walking in step with God should be the first priority in any marriage. It is only with God that a marriage can fully succeed and flourish. That is the beginning. But once you have established this beginning, what should you do to have a successful and fulfilling marriage? It starts with knowing what NOT to do.
Father of the Bride Speech
Recently we went to the wedding of one of my cousins. It was a beautiful wedding and the couple was obviously in love. As my Uncle got up to give the Father of the Bride speech, I awaited the advice he would give the young couple.
My Uncle loves to tell stories and talk about how things work, so I was surprised when he stated he would not be giving any advice on what to do in their marriage. This time he decided to take a different angle. Instead he was going to share three things not to do:
- Do not lie
- Do not be disrespectful
- Do not be unfaithful
These three things are very simple, easily understood, but very important to put into practice. They are key elements to a solid foundation in which trust can be given and love can grow.
Truth is a must. This piece of advice has been around for thousands of years. Do not lie is even one of the Ten Commandments. A marriage is built on trust. Withholding the truth or telling lies or half truths will destroy a marriage, guaranteed. Sometimes I think we trick ourselves into believing it doesn’t really matter, it’s just a little “white lie.” But the truth is each time we do let one slip, it gets easier and easier until that becomes our default. It is a dangerous slippery slope that is best to completely avoid.
There will come a time when you mess up. It will happen and will happen often. We are all human after all. What’s important is when we mess up, we own it. We come clean. We admit to our mistake and ask for forgiveness. It may be scary. You may not know how your spouse will respond, but truth is always the best. Healing and forgiveness can happen when things are brought to light. Lies and mistakes left hidden will destroy and ruin the relationship.
Psalm 34:13 // Proverbs 12:19, 22 // Proverbs 28:13 // Colossians 3:9-10
Respect, mutual respect, is a must to have a healthy relationship. Without respect people either check out or rebel. When we first got married we learned this great advice. “You can be right, but still wrong at the top of your lungs!” Oftentimes it’s more about the delivery than the content. You can disagree or question but do it in a loving and respectful way. I am constantly checking myself and asking myself if my tone of voice, my facial expressions and my word choice are kind and respectful. If they aren’t, the tension and discord is on me, not them.
I have learned that pausing before reacting is key. If we pause and pray, we allow God to guide our words and our delivery. When we are respectful with our interactions people feel heard and understood. People are willing to work through a situation to resolve an issue. This is important if we actually want to make progress.
Psalm 19:14 // Matthew 7:7 // Romans 12:9-18 // 1 Peter 3:8-17
The last do not is do not be unfaithful. Marriage is the union of two people into one. In Genesis 2:24 God explains that a “man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” When you are unfaithful it breaks this bond of unity. Not only is unfaithfulness a sin against your spouse – it is a sin against yourself. Unfaithfulness is destructive and without help will ruin a marriage.
Proverbs 6:32 // Matthew 19:4-9 // 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 // Hebrews 13:4
I think we can all agree that this is wise advice. But what should we do if we do one of these “Do Nots”? The first step is to ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” We need to go to God and ask Him to forgive us. Thank goodness He is a loving and kind God and will forgive us each and every time.
Next we need to go to our spouse and ask their forgiveness. As a couple it is important that we live out Ephesians 4:32 to each other. “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Sometimes a conversation is all that is needed. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. There are times when the hurt and pain are so deep that we need help processing through the mistakes or sin. It is okay to need help. Maybe you need to ask a trusted friend, mentor or Pastor to help you navigate the tricky conversations. Counseling may even be needed. I truly believe we would all be better off if we all got a little (or maybe a lot) of counseling throughout our lifetimes. One of my regrets during a particularly hard season of life was not going to counseling earlier. Don’t be ashamed or feel guilty if you need some outside help.
A marriage is a lot of work, especially if you want a good one. It takes time and effort. Most importantly it takes God. In Ecclesiastes 4:12 it says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” When God is not the third wheel but the glue that holds us together, we can get through anything that life throws at us. If we stay connected to Him, we will be led by Him and will know how to love and support our spouse well.
Many people recommit to their spouse by repeating their vows. Let’s remember that when we said “I Do,” we were making a choice for a lifetime. Take some time today to focus on these “Do Nots” so that you can live out your “I Do.”