Pastor Craig Carter
RELATIONSHIPS WITH SPOUSE
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way…Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT, MSG)
You’ll notice Paul suggests the marriage relationship teaches us something about the relationship between Christ and His Church. The one-liners here apply not just to husbands and wives, but to all people, especially within the Body of Christ. You and I are to treat one another as “Christ treats the church” – with love and honor.
1) Make them your BFF. Marriage has many aspects as husbands and wives are lovers, business partners, and teammates. But we’ve found the key to a successful, long-lasting marriage is friendship. When all the warm feelings and fuzzy emotions are stripped away, what remains? If there is not a genuine friendship, there is not much hope for the marriage. Your spouse should be your “best friend forever.”
2) Lower your expectations and raise your commitment. I heard a preacher say this on a Christian radio program. At first, I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, but upon more reflection I am convinced he’s right. Many marital problems arise from unrealistic expectations. When expectations aren’t met, what inevitably occurs? We become unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but oftentimes we go about it in the wrong way. Keith Sanford is a professor of psychology at Baylor University in Waco, TX who has devoted his career to finding out what makes marriages work. He says: “The real secret of happy couples is that they aren’t always happy. They’re just able to keep the negative in check by balancing it with a healthy dose of positive. That happens when they’re both willing to work at marriage. Happiness isn’t something that couples fall into by luck or accident. It’s something they make.” In other words, happy couples are highly committed couples. What if instead of placing high expectations on our spouses (that are probably impossible standards for anyone to meet), we increase our commitment to them? Nowhere in Scripture do we read, “Stick with your partner as long as he/she meets your expectations and makes you happy.” Instead, we find, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10 NIV). It’s important to remember this principle assumes mutual commitment. It’s not one person saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am. You need to lower your expectations and learn to live with it.” It certainly doesn’t mean a person should lower his/her expectations to the point that they tolerate abuse of any kind. But when both parties lower their expectations, not of themselves but of their partner, while increasing their commitment to the other person, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
3) Speak the truth…in love. “Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 CEV) Truth-telling is an indispensable part of marriage (or any healthy relationship for that matter). Husbands and wives must trust one another and that requires us to tell the truth. Many problems in marriage could easily be short-circuited with candor. Husbands and wives must be able to say the “hard things” to each other. According to the Bible, love is acting in the other person’s best interest. Love each other enough to tell the truth. And act in ways that communicate love by being patient, kind, forgiving, etc.
4) Stay in your lane. While speaking the truth, we need to make sure we don’t overstep our bounds. As husband and wife we become one, but we are still individual persons. What we’re talking about here is boundaries. God designed boundaries for some very good reasons. Boundaries protect love. They enhance freedom. They allow people to be separate yet stay connected. Boundaries define responsibility so that people know what their tasks are. A relationship like marriage requires each partner to have a sense of ownership. Boundaries are basically about self-control. When you take control of yourself, you will love better and more purposefully and intentionally so that you and your spouse can have the intimacy you desire.
5) Choose forgiveness over resolution. Just like there are no perfect parents and no perfect children, there is no such thing as a perfect husband or perfect wife. We are an imperfect lot and we make mistakes and say and do hurtful things. Forgiveness is God’s way of dealing with the harm we inflict on one another. Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32 NCV) When trouble arises, disagreements occur, or feelings are hurt, we should seek to resolve the situation. We do that by talking things out, seeking compromise, or even enlisting the help of a third party to help us arrive at a resolution. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing any or all of those things. However, remember that we are to forgive each other just as God has forgiven us. That means the other party does not have to earn it or even ask for it. It also means that we have to be equipped with an endless supply of forgiveness. As Jesus puts it, we are to forgive 70 times 7 times!
Even though there is no such thing as a perfect husband or wife, a perfect marriage is still possible. How so? Our definition: “A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”
In your relationship with your spouse, what is the next right thing to do?
What are some of the one-liners that guide your life? I’d love to hear about them! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy National Family Month!