How to Have a Successful, Godly Marriage
A few months ago I attended Spark Marriage conference hosted by Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. I’m not married, but I went anyway. Read about why I made that decision here –> I Went to a Marriage Conference & I’m Single
I love going to personal growth or educational events. Most of the time I attend events around self-improvement such as Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within. I always do a write-up of what I learned so I decided to share my learnings from the marriage conference with you! Here’s what you need to know if you want to have a successful, Godly marriage:
Die to Self Consistently
It’s natural to think that getting married is for you. You think about the good things it will bring to your life. You think about the void it will fill. You think about the fun you’ll have. But marriage isn’t for you. If we really want to go there marriage isn’t for your spouse either. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs of LoveandRespect.com said that, “marriage is God’s institution. We reflect God’s image in marriage.”
But we’re not going to go there here. (Visit hopefaithandprayer.com to read more of my faith-based content).
If you approach your marriage or any relationship from the standpoint of what you will get out of it you are setting yourself up to fail. If you only care about receiving what you need and pay no mind to giving your partner what they need it won’t work out. Think about the relationships that you’ve had that didn’t work out. If you were the party that ended things you’d likely say some variation of, “my needs weren’t getting met.” Both people need their needs to be met. That’s why they’re called “needs.”
You have to consistently die to yourself and your self-centered desires in order to give your partner what they need. It is critical to know and be willing to consistently met your spouse’s needs. Some people are really good about this in the beginning. They put their best foot forward and make a great impression. Then when the fear of losing out on the relationship or the excitement of something new wears off they stop meeting their partner’s needs.
You can’t do this. You have to meant your spouse’s needs until the day one of you dies. It’s not like having kids where your job is to raise them until their 18 and send them off into the world. Your husband or wife’s needs become your responsibility (in part) the day you get married and they never stop being your responsibility until death.
Dr. Eggerich said that men need respect and women need love. Of course we have multiple needs and the roles may be reversed but the primary, overarching need we have is love for women and respect for men. Sometimes we don’t want to give our partner the love or respect because they don’t deserve it. They’re not meeting our needs. They’re not being the person we need them to be. Your partner may not deserve love or respect, but they need it.
You die to yourself when you give your partner what they need even when they don’t deserve it.
“Without love she reacts without respect. Without respect he reacts without love.” – Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Ask yourself, “How can I respect my husband?” or “How can I love my wife?”
Jimmy Evans, host of Marriage Today said the number one cause of divorce is disappointment. We spend so much time on our weddings and not enough time on our marriages. Marriage requires sacrifice and if you’re not ready to make sacrifices (die to self consistently) and work hard you’re not ready to be married.
“Marriage is brutal on selfish people. If you want to be selfish stay single.” – Jimmy Evans
Know Why You Fight
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott spoke about fighting. They say that perception is the cause of many fights. It’s not what’s actually happening. It’s how what’s happening is perceived. There’s two main perceptions that lead to fights:
- Being critical
Often times men will feel threatened while women feel neglected. When a woman feels neglected she could instigate a fight and the same with men. If you understand what triggers the feeling of being threatened or neglected you can adjust your behaviors to not trigger your spouse and vice versa. When you’re feeling threatened or neglected you can also address the real issue and avoid a fight. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m feeling neglected right now.”
You have to also know how you fight. Some people shut down. Some people want to hash it out right then and there. Some people yell and curse. Some people don’t. If you misinterpret your spouse’s intentions or feelings because of their fighting style it can make things a lot worse.
This isn’t to say simply accept your partner’s arguing for what it is. I believe you should have love and respect for people even in your anger. “I was just mad” doesn’t fly with me when a clear line has been crossed. Your spouse should respect you at all times. They shouldn’t call you out your name or curse at you. They might curse but it should never be directed toward you as in, “you act like a @#$%ing @#$%@!”
This is to say that you don’t have to derive meaning into your spouse’s behavior during a fight simply because it doesn’t match yours. For example, if your husband leaves the house that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s apathetic and doesn’t care what you’re saying. It may mean he needs time to reflect and gather his thoughts. Having a conversation about fighting styles can be helpful in preventing the method of fighting from becoming a whole other fight.
Know You are Allies
From my personal experience men can be extremely prideful. I’ve had many relationships end because of pride. He shuts down. I refuse to open him back up again. “He’s a grown man. He can’t have an honest conversation to move past this hurdle? I don’t have time for this. I have my own needs (to feel loved).”
Dr. Eggerichs said that men are vulnerable where women are not. According to a University of Washington study when a man has a confrontation with his wife his heart beats at 99 beats per minute. This is similar to men fighting in a war.
“Is it an act of honor or hostility when a man stonewalls? Is it an act of contempt or care when women complain?” – Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Remember that you are allies in your marriage and not enemies. You are going to fight (see point above). You will have trouble, but don’t jump ship. Too many people give up on their marriages over issues that are to be expected. You are two people with different views, experiences, upbringing and so forth. You will not blend perfectly. Everything will not work out all the time. But if you know this going in and you’re willing to overcome and die to yourself you have a good chance of making it work.
“Sailors don’t jump ship over a storm.” – Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Be a Healthy Person
Robert and Taylor Madu said that healthy people create healthy relationships. So it’s important that you are a healthy, whole person and that your partner is a healthy, whole person. You have to do the work (preferably while single) to heal the parts of your character that are unhealthy. This means if you have trust issues you need to grow in that area. If you’re extremely selfish and thoughtless you need to work on that. If you have severe insecurities that will prove problematic to you in a relationship you need work on it.
If you’re unhealthy it doesn’t matter who you’re with you’re going to bring the same problems with you. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to break up every time situations come up in your relationship only to start a new relationship with someone else. If you’re the reason why the same situations keep coming up you have to grow. Until you do you won’t have a successful, Godly marriage.
It’s been said many times before but you can’t expect a marriage to save you. It’s not going solve all your problems. You’ve got to work on solving your problems for you.
Love and Be Happy
There are three types of love.
- Love as a tingle as in falling in love
- Love as an attitude or way of thinking (The way Christians should live everyday).
- Love as an emotional need
Gary says that every child has an emotional love tank and that misbehavior often grows out of an empty love tank. This is true of adults as well. Adults have love tanks and misbehavior comes from that tank being empty. This goes back to what Dr. Eggerichs said. When our love tank is low we default to depriving our partner of love which empties their love tank. When both tanks are empty the marriage is in a fragile place.
You also have to be happy to have a successful marriage. To do this Jimmy Evans said:
- Not to take your simple life for granted. (Read my take on this –> Don’t Despise Everyday Life)
- Not to let the devil push you too fast, wear you out or tempt you to chase more.
“If you can’t be happy with Jesus and each other, you can’t be happy.” – Jimmy Evans
Be United and Choose Each Other
Lastly, if you want to have a successful, Godly marriage you have to be united. It’s not uncommon for men to choose their homeboys over their wives or for women to choose their girlfriends over their husbands. Your spouse has to come first.
You’re united as one when you are married. You have to choose each other and choose each other first. This means simple things like ending a phone call with your friend if your spouse calls or needs you. I dated a guy who would rarely answer my calls or respond to text in a timely manner. Generally, because he was on the phone with one of his homies. That always made me feel insecure and unloved. What place do I have in his life if I don’t come first? That relationship didn’t work out.
Choosing your spouse means spending quality time with them when you have free time instead of your friends. I know a couple that both had non-traditional work hours. He was a police officer. She was a nurse. It wasn’t often they’d both be off at the same time. Yet, if they did share a Friday night off he would go to the club with his friends. That caused a lot of friction in their relationship. They’re no longer to together.
You’ve got to choose your spouse and you’ve got to choose them first. You can’t have the attitude that you’ll get to them when you’re done with your friends or your job. Putting your husband first will make him feel respected. Choosing your wife first will make her feel loved.
You’re united when you put forth effort to make all major decisions together. When you do your own thing you’re not united. Don’t leave your spouse out or try to dominate over them. Leaving your spouse out of important decisions can make them feel unloved or disrespected. You deprive them of their core need (see point #1).
It also means being together physically (aka have sex). Don’t use sex against each other. Don’t neglect your intimate life. Regardless of kids, work schedules, or daily routines you have to come together physically if you want to have a successful, Godly marriage.
And of course, pray together. Pray for your marriage and each other everyday. Robert Madu said that you are graced for marriage. If you are married you have the grace to have a successful marriage. You have the grace to meet your partner’s needs. Pray for that grace that is already yours. Keep God first and your spouse second.