“I’m sorry, but I don’t love you.” Those were the damaging words that tumbled out of my mouth (Mark Maulding) to my wife, Ellen, during the first year we were married. I cringe when I think about it now. It’s not that we had a horrible marriage. But, there was a deficit from my side that I desperately wanted to address, but was powerless to do so.
Thirty years later, I love Ellen more than ever, and I feel more loved by her than I ever have. Would you like to know our secret? It’s the healing, freeing, powerful grace of God in Jesus Christ! Below are 30 things we’ve learned in 30 years of marriage walking together in Christ:
1. A revelation from the Holy Spirit of Jesus and His complete Gospel/New Covenant is the foundation for a successful marriage.
2. Intimacy in marriage is rooted in experiencing God’s unconditional acceptance of you in Christ.
3. Jesus is your life and your identity, not your spouse, kids or job. Not knowing this always leads to relational idolatry.
4. Asking Jesus to live through you to love your spouse every day is the only way marriage will ever work.
5. Communication is one of the biggest challenges. That takes time, intentionality and God’s grace.
6. Men and women are designed by God as loving leaders and respectful responders respectively.
7. Almost every problem in a marriage is a result of one or both spouse’s fleshly strategies taking over.
8. There is only one answer to the flesh–brokenness, so we can know Christ in us as our Life, in an ever increasing way.
9. Marriage is one of God’s greatest vehicles to break you, such as revealing the bankruptcy of your flesh and freeing you from it.
10. Conflict is inevitable, but reconciliation is always possible because Christ is in us.
11. Forgiving your spouse every time is essential.
12. Not asking for forgiveness when you have hurt your spouse is not only prideful but puts undue pressure on the relationship.
13. Speaking the truth in love to your spouse about their fleshly behavior is not easy but is often necessary as the Holy Spirit leads you. As a result, both of you can grow.
14. Yielding your rights to God prevents you from living in constant disappointment and hurt. For instance, yield the right for your spouse to meet your deepest need for love. Only Jesus can do that.
15. You are not responsible to make your spouse happy but you are responsible to love and respect him/her.
16. When a spouse shares a problem, unless they ask for it, they are not looking for a fix but a listening and understanding heart.
17. Christ living through both parents, not just one, is the best way to raise your kids.
18. Time away from the kids is an act of love that will help you feel closer to each other. This includes taking your wife on a date at least once a month which is up to the husband. (And will keep your wife sane!)
19. Though not the most important, marital sex is important for a healthy marriage.
20. It takes time and God’s grace to accept, but He knew exactly what He was doing when He put you with a spouse’s personality type, totally the opposite of yours.
21. Don’t talk about weighty matters past 8:00pm when you’re tired and worn out from the day.
22. If you have been offended by your spouse, talk about it right then and do not let much time go by.
23. It’s OK to feel frustrated, angry and express emotion with your spouse but it is not OK to spew hurtful words or actions out of your anger, frustration or strong emotion.
24. Be on the same page about how to handle your finances using a budget. (Read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey)
25. “Different” is not necessarily “wrong”. For example, having your shirts hung on hangers pointing left is “different,” but not “wrong” if they are hung pointing right.)
26. Do stuff together (activities) as this gives opportunity for social, emotional growth and enrichment with each other.
27. Do stuff apart (activities) as this gives opportunity to let your relationship breathe and minister to others.
28. Learn your love language and your spouse’s love language. (See The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman)
29. Know and understand your spouse’s temperament and yours, along with how they complement one another and how they may conflict.
30. When you want to communicate with your spouse, make sure you have their undivided attention. In this day and age, miscommunication is an epidemic due to T.V., mobile phones, IPads and other technological devices. Make sure all of these are down when communicating with your spouse.
May these 30 thoughts help bless your marriage!
If your marriage is struggling or you’d like new insights to enhance a good marriage, click on a button below for details about our marriage counseling services or attend our life-transforming Grace Life Conference: