If you have been married for more than a week, you have probably realized that marriage is hard work. My husband, George, and I candidly tell engaged couples to expect both the greatest blessings and the most challenging, character-shaping moments of their lives. I share the following tips learned from our low seasons of trials and tears to the peaks of passion and victory and everything in between. I encourage you to embrace whatever season you are in, knowing that God is at work to produce something beautiful, even when you feel like you are in the fire. What is going to come out as you persevere will be like gold!
1. Make forgiveness a reflex.
Your spouse is human. No one is more aware of their weaknesses than you are. It is also probably safe to say there is no one who has more opportunity to be offended by your spouse than you do. Therefore, it is important to frequently examine your heart and take inventory of any offense that has settled there. When we hold on to offense, we position ourselves as the judge, and that role needs to be handed over to God! Forgiveness releases the bitter poison that may have landed and allows room for healing and peace to flood your heart. Take a moment right now to allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and highlight any resident offenses. As He reveals them to you, speak out your forgiveness for each one. For example, “I choose to forgive my husband (or wife) for the way they communicated with me and for how that made me feel,” or “I choose to forgive my spouse for making the wrong choice and for the way that affected me.” Remember that forgiveness isn’t a feeling, but rather a powerful choice you get to make.
2. Listen for understanding, not for rebuttal.
How often do you think about what you are going to say when it is your turn instead of listening intently to your spouse while they are talking? I know I have been guilty of this! We need to move from “listening to respond” to “listening to understand.” We all have a deep need and desire to be known and understood. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your husband or wife. Listen well and repeat back what you have identified is going on in their hearts. Be willing to ask hard questions for which you might rather not know the answer, such as “Have I done or said something that hurt you?” Learn how to sincerely say you are sorry. Be a student of your spouse’s heart. When you make understanding your goal, that person you love will find you to be a safe place and your marriage will grow stronger.
3. Be a window, not a wall.
If you are like George or me, you are wired completely differently than your spouse. You and your spouse may think, process, and communicate completely differently than one another. With this in mind, know that your spouse most likely will not naturally have an idea of what is going on inside your heart and mind. Your job is to open up and invite them into the deep places of your soul. It takes time to grow in being vulnerable, but it is worth the practice. Be sure to use non-accusing language when sharing how you are feeling. Instead, let your spouse know how you felt as a result of what happened. Avoid finger pointing statements like “You are so addicted to your phone I can’t even have an uninterrupted conversation with you.” You could say, “When you check your texts as I am talking to you, it makes me feel like what I have to say isn’t important to you. I really value when I have your full attention.” Your words are powerful, so choose them wisely and bravely share what is tucked deep down inside your heart.
4. Keep your spouse’s heart full.
Certain seasons we go through can make it challenging to keep marriage at the top of our priority list, and sometimes the busyness of life causes us to diminish our attention to the one we said yes to. But ensuring that our spouse consistently feels loved and cared for is critical to the health of our marriages. Do you know what makes him or her feel loved most? Is it your uplifting words or thoughtful gifts? Is it when you help with chores or when you do fun activities together? If you aren’t sure, ask. Sometimes our primary love language is completely different than our spouse’s. (Mine is!) That means what you think is the best expression of love might not be received as profoundly as you would expect. So study up and pour in. Find at least one way to say “I love you” in their language every day. Bring their cup to overflowing and you will see how your intentionality contributes to bring life and health to your marriage. Love well!
5. Pray for their destiny.
As the one with the greatest vantage point on your spouse’s life, you see it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. An inspiring teacher of mine once said, “What you focus on is what you empower.” This is true with those we love. You can spend your time mulling over how you feel your husband or wife needs to change or you can do something effective in the Spirit through partnering with who God has made them to be. You have the privilege of potentially being your spouse’s greatest asset if you take hold of your invitation to cover them in intercession. So release some powerful prayers that decree destiny over their life!
God, I bless my husband (or wife) and I thank You that he (she) is moving toward all that You have created him (her) for. You cause him (her) to excel and to overcome. Where he (she) is weak, You are strong. Thank You for giving him (her) strength and vision and heavenly perspective in every area of his (her) life. I thank You that You are causing him (her) to come into alignment with Your perfect will so that he (she) will fulfill all that You have destined him (her) to be. Amen.
About the Author
Sarah and her husband, George, began their journey of marriage and ministry simultaneously in 2006. They first started a neighborhood outreach in Toledo, Ohio, which led to planting and co-pastoring CityLight Church. Sarah is also the founder of an inner healing and deliverance ministry called the Transformation Center. In addition to seeing lives healed, Sarah loves to spend time in God’s presence, share inspiration from His heart, and pour into her two daughters, Selah and Anna.