Marriage is difficult. It just is. Two different people who look at the world very differently will have different ideas about how to make decisions for the family. No matter how much you and your spouse are alike, you’re still very different. So with so many marriages ending in divorce, what’s the secret?
After years of working with couples struggling in their marriages and seeing other marriages fall apart that I never had a chance to help, I’m surprised how simple and avoidable the problems are. That’s not to say that you’ll never have problems — you married someone who was excited to marry you after all — but keeping a few things in mind can drastically change the tone of your marriage.
First, for those not yet married, here’s the most important quality to look for in a spouse: find someone who loves Jesus more than they love you. (Important: that doesn’t mean find someone who loves church work more than you. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 keeps that proper perspective.) Since God is love, and Jesus is how God showed his love to us, if your spouse knows that kind of love and forgiveness, they will know how to share it with you and your children.
Then comes the most important question: why do you want to get married to that person? When I ask couples why they want to get married, the answer almost always describes what they get from each other: “He makes me laugh. She’s pretty. We have fun together.” Using the Biblical description of marriage in Ephesians 5, marriage is about love, and love is about self-sacrifice, so marry the person for whom you can say, “I am dedicated to living a life of service to this person for the rest of my life. I will be fulfilled in what I can give and how I can be a blessing, not based on what I get from the other person.” When you approach marriage with the same approach as Jesus came to us, you can fulfill your purpose regardless whether your spouse does or not (although it’s certainly more enjoyable when both seek the same for each other—refer back to the first tip).
If you’re already married, the above rule still applies, even if that wasn’t your motivation when you first married. I expect there are certain ways you already want to please your spouse—just expand that idea into the other rooms of your home.
Marriage is an amazing blessing, but since God designed it to reflect our relationship with Him, we find the greatest joy when we seek to make our marriages fit that pattern, and the more we connect that marriage with Jesus, the better we will connect with each other.