I recently officiated a wedding for some friends. It was a great day! Some other friends just had a baby a few days ago – likewise, one of the greatest days in their lives. But great marriage doesn’t consist solely of the big days like a wedding day and the day(s) your babies are born. Rather, it’s about “the seeds of greatness that are planted in the daily grind” (a phrase from Adam Grant) that build a great marriage.
A Great Marriage Is Built Day-by-Day
1. Grow your relationship with Christ.
The best way to grow your marriage is to work on your relationship with Jesus. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and are you abiding with Him (John 15:5)? Are you spending time in the Word?
The more you become like Christ, the better the spouse you’ll become. Even though Jesus did not marry a woman, He still epitomizes the characteristics of a godly spouse: holiness, purity, kindness, patience, love, and so much more. Every day you can take steps to become more like Christ and this will in turn help grow your marriage.
2. Talk about what you’re learning from the Lord with your spouse.
Most couples struggle in sharing what they’re learning spiritually with their spouse. It’s not a contest to know more than them, so be humble, encouraging, and helpful. I can’t think of a better topic to discuss together!
As an example, what did you learn through in your Bible study, either on your own or through your church? What have you read in a book that’s had an impact on your life? Or maybe you learned something while serving this past weekend.
3. Have fun together.
Pursue some hobbies together as a couple. What’s fun for your to do together? Is it hiking, biking, traveling, running, cooking? Kristen and I struggle in this area—our primary hobby is hanging with our kids. We don’t have any exciting hobbies as a couple. (P.S. If your hobby is cooking, I’d love to be your food tester!)
4. Be Humble.
This might be the most important one on this list. God inspired two different writers to say the same thing in two different books. In 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6, the writers say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If you want to be a humble spouse, then you will focus more on your struggles than the problems of your spouse.
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus encourages us to focus more on the log that is in our own eye than the speck of dust in our spouse’s eye. We so often focus on our spouse’s shortcomings, but Jesus reminds us to work on ourselves. All great marriages require two humble human beings. Put the needs of your spouse before your needs (Philippians 2:3-4).
5. Surrender to Christ.
Couples who do well choose every day to surrender their lives to the Lord. They ask the Lord:
- “What do you want me to see?
- Where do I need to change?
- How can I grow?”
When we surrender, we offer ourselves to the Lord and His agenda for our lives.
This is the fourth time I’ve been through the 12-week wellness group I referenced in Part 1 of this series. Each time I go through the group, I learn something new I need to work on. This time through, I’m working on my pride and my attitude. When I do poorly in a workout (meaning my time is among the slowest in the group or I do the lowest number of reps or rounds), I get angry, compare to others, and tell myself things like, “I’m worthless.” God is working on my attitude and how I view myself. I’ve had to surrender my workouts to the Lord and His agenda for me.
6. Become an expert in forgiveness.
No relationship provides more opportunities to ask for forgiveness or grant forgiveness than marriage. You get new chances to seek forgiveness from your spouse just about every day. Look up Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:32 and be reminded that we are to forgive in the same way we’ve been forgiven through Christ Jesus. Get really good at saying these two phrases: “I’m very sorry for doing ‘xyz.’ Will you please forgive me?”.
7. Serve your spouse.
My friend Matt has a rule: When his wife stands, he stands. When she sits, he sits. This means he’s always joining her in housework and doesn’t get to relax until the work is done (or until she tells him to relax).
Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If Jesus, God in the flesh, the very Son of God, did not come to be served, but to serve, then we can certainly learn from His example and serve our spouse.
Here’s a really practical example. Ask your spouse what one job they hate to do. Maybe it’s laundry, shopping, or giving the kids a bath. Now do that task for them for one week. You may hate it as well. That’s OK. This provides you with a great opportunity to serve your spouse in a really specific way.
8. Pray together throughout the day.
I struggle in this area, and so do most couples I know. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Take your spouse’s hands and talk to the Lord. Listen to the Lord. Be still and quiet. Be honest. We can pray together in person or on the phone. Prayer draws us close to the Lord and to our spouse.
When should you pray? Whenever, and without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Colossians 4:2). Pray when you wake up, throughout the day, and/or when you go to bed. You’ll move closer toward a great marriage, your spouse will be grateful, and no couple has ever regretted praying together!
9. Go on prayer walks.
This is a corollary to #8. Walk around the neighborhood and pray together. One of the godliest couples I know has done this at night for years. They get some alone time together, get some exercise, and pray together as they walk the streets of their neighborhood. You can also use this time to catch up on your day when your kids are not around.
10. Die to yourself every day.
Each day wake up and commit to putting the needs of your spouse before your own. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” There might not be a more challenging passage in all of scripture!
Sometimes I struggle with what this means on a practical basis. Ask God to show you how you can serve your spouse. You and I both probably know how. We just don’t like to do it!
BONUS: Read a marriage book together.
There are so many good marriage books out there. A few of my favorites are Cherish, by Gary Thomas, Fierce Marriage, by Ryan and Selena Frederick, and The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller. Here’s a list of our favorite marriage resources we compiled on the Watermark marriage blog.
I try to always read a marriage book to help benefit me as I lead in marriage ministry and for my own edification. I’m currently reading the book Friends, Partners, & Lovers, by Kevin A. Thompson. I’m really enjoying it so far! In February 2019, you can read my book when it comes out!
For the price of two lattes or mochas, you can invest deeply in a great marriage with a great book.
This article appeared here.