I am thinking about marriage this week. On Sunday I am kicking off a sermon series entitled “My Crazy Family” and the first sermon is “My Crazy Spouse.” I have been reading scripture, looking through marriage material, reflecting on my marriage along with what I have seen through the years of working with people in the Church. Here are some big thoughts.
1. Living Together is Not Marriage. I know everyone seems to be doing it, but fight hard against it. Two separate lives under one roof is not the same as working together as one. In fact, not only does it disappoint God and your parents it will destroy your marriage. Divorce is two or three times higher for couples who live together first. You do not honor marriage by avoiding it, rather you embrace it and live as God intended.
2. Marry Someone with a Common Faith. This is HUGE. It will not seem like it at 18 or 21, but when the years roll by, and you are trying to build a healthy lasting marriage and family, you will need to be on the same page spiritually. I know several couples who ignored this idea and deeply regret it now.
3. The First Ten Years Are the Hardest. You are repeatedly going to want to give up. Don’t do it. Even if your friends are doing it. Even if it seems much easier. Stick with it. It will get better, I promise.
4. Work Through Your Issues and Don’t Avoid Them. Talk to each other. Clear communication about what you are feeling is vital. Go to a counselor. Talk to a Pastor. Get connected to an older Christian couple who can help. Avoiding issues will only make them worse.
5. You Can Only Control Your Actions. You do the right thing. Complaining and whining never fixed anything. Be the best spouse you can possibly be every day. You will have to answer to God for what you did. Give your marriage your full effort and serve your spouse selflessly.
6. The Little Things Make a Big Difference. I remind couples that termites destroy more homes than earthquakes. Marriages are usually destroyed by neglecting little things. Say the words “I love you,” even when you don’t feel it. Pick up your clothes and put away the dishes. Help with meals. Send the text and make the call. Buys cards and give gifts. Do little things your spouse enjoys, and it will make a big difference.
7. Love Your Spouse More Than Anything Else (Including Your Children). One day the kids will move away. One day you will retire. One day it will be just the two of you. Will you have anything left? Many couples never learn to love each other, and it falls apart down the road.
8. Avoid the Comparison Trap. Other people will look like they have a wonderful relationship all the time. You will think you are a failure because theirs looks so good and yours feels so wrong. Don’t believe it. One thing I know after years of working with couples is those who push how wonderful their marriage feels are the biggest mess. It is all a show. Don’t let their fake relationship be a model for the real thing.
9. It Will be the Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do. Marriage is made to last 50 to 60 years or more. It will be with you when you work, when you sleep, when you rest and when you grow old. Nothing other than your relationship with God will consume more of your time, energy and emotions. There will be days that are simply hard work. Do the work.
10. It is the Most Rewarding Thing You Will Ever Do. There is no way to thoroughly explain to you what it is like to have a deep long-term relationship. Done right, you will have suffered together, loved together, work together, parented together and shared every intimate detail. You will be known, and you will know your spouse. There will be moments and seasons that will make you feel more deeply than you ever thought possible. Hang in there until the end.
These are my thoughts. What would you add to the list?
Marriage is a long beautiful journey with someone you love. I hope you will find the right person and commit deeply for a lifetime. The journey is long, and the reward is great.