How Christians Can Have a Peaceful Marriage
The Blessing of Marriage
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received was from a pastor. He had been married thirty years, counseled hundreds of couples in marriage counseling, held marriage conferences, and was just a pillar of wisdom. He confidently announced that he knew the one way to never have trouble in your marriage. In all his years as a pastor and counselor, he had learned this secret, and it was written in the Bible. I was very curious and skeptical, but alas it was true. It was written in 1 Corinthians 7:8, and I can guarantee that if you follow this one piece of advice, you will never have marriage trouble, for it says, "It is good for them to stay unmarried."
When I received this advice, I had been married fourteen years, and it was too late, yet I maintain it is the best advice I have heard. I say this because it implies an even greater truth: If you are married, there will be trouble. There will be disagreements, there will be disappointments, and there will be hurt feelings. When two people live in a joined space and are so intimately connected, conflict is bound to arise.
This does not mean that marriage cannot be a huge blessing. In fact, it is just that! People who are married live longer. There must be a reason for that! So how can we make it feel like a blessing? I cannot guarantee it always will, but following these ten truths from the Bible will help.
How long have you been married?
Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.— Psalm 141:3
Don't Say Everything That Crosses Your Mind
Did you know, just because something enters your mind, it does not have to come out of your mouth? Seriously, I know it is a novel idea, but we actually don't have to always speak our mind. If we hate our husband's shirt, we don't have to tell him. If we notice our wife is putting on weight, we don't have to point this out. In fact, by guarding our mouth, we actually are keeping peace in our marriage.
That's not to say, you can't tell your spouse these things. There is a time and place to point out the things that really irritate you about your spouse. If you feel you need to discuss something with them, by all means, talk to them about it, but choose your words well, and use wisdom in your timing.
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.— Proverbs 15:28
When You Are Angry, Pause Before You Speak
Just as we need to guard our tongue when we share unpleasantness with our spouse, this is doubly important when we are angry. The best way to hurt your spouse is by letting your tongue loose in a fight.
Just as I pointed out earlier, if you are married, there will be strife. There will be disagreements. There will be fighting on occasion. We are human. Yet it is in these moments that we need to guard our mouth even more tightly. Once words leave your lips, you can not take them back. No matter if you feel them strongly or they were a fleeting thought, your spouse will remember those words forever and reflect on them when they are feeling low and insecure. If you are feeling angry, it is best to weigh your words much more heavily before speaking them. Pause before defending yourself.
Love...keeps no record of when it has been wronged— 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5
Don't Bring Up Past Baggage
That brings us to our next point. The easiest thing to shout out when you are angry is the past hurts and neglects you feel from your spouse. These have no place in your current argument. First of all, God calls us to forgive each other. If we truly have forgiven one another, then these past hurts should no longer be used as ammunition towards our spouse. If you feel the need to bring up these hurts, then maybe it is your own heart that you need to examine. Have you truly forgiven them for hurting you?
It is so easy to lose track of what you are really fighting about if you point out ways the other person has hurt you. It is also a very easy way to make them feel helpless and attacked. Neither of these consequences is helpful in finding peace within your marriage.
He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.— Proverbs 18:13
The best way to end a fight and to avoid a fight is often found by the simple act of listening. So often we are so quick to respond, we forget to actually listen. So not only does God call us to be slow to speak, he calls us to listen to the other person. Often we fight, more because we don't understand the other person's point of view and less due to the fact that we disagree with them. So if you are having a hard time guarding your tongue, take a timeout, and ask the other person why they feel that way. Then listen. You may find that you guys are actually on the same page, but are viewing something from two very different angles.
Another reason to listen, and I mean truly listen, not just hear, is that they are more willing to listen to what we have to say when we are willing to truly understand where they are coming from. They are more open, because they don't feel like they are being dismissed, defensive, and yet do feel validated. They got off their chest what's been on their mind and are willing to let you speak.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.— Proverbs 15:1
There are going to be times in a marriage where we do need to say things to our spouse that is not pleasant to hear. Maybe we have noticed that they are coming home and zoning out in front of the TV rather than spend time with the kids or they are often choosing their friends over their family. These are not comfortable conversations to have and often lead to anger and defensive attitudes.
It is in these moments that we need to be especially careful how we word our frustrations. Approach them with humility, sincerity, and calmness. Your words may not be received well, but they are much more apt to listen even if it appears they didn't get it when you spoke. Don't get frustrated if they only get angry, because if you are kind and gentle, the words may have been heard better than you think.
...Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry,— Ephesians 4:26
Don't Go to Bed Angry
Even if we choose to be gentle and kind in our actions and our words, that does not mean all anger is distilled. We cannot control how the other person feels, but we are in charge of our own thoughts and actions. It is so important that we do our best to resolve any anger issues with our spouses as quickly as possible.
I believe there is a reason God said don't let the sun go down on our anger. It's not just because we need to resolve our anger quickly, but nighttime, as we lay in bed, is our time we let our brains replay hurtful moments. If you find yourself replaying the day's events in your head and it causes you not to get sleep, then you need to decide to let it go and forgive.
...Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.— Luke 6:37
Forgive Quickly, Forgive Often, Forgive Fully
Yes, forgive. I know I have already stated this one a few times before, but it's because, above all else, the most important thing we can do in our marriage is to forgive. Forgive them for having a lazy day and not cleaning up the house, forgive them for shouting at you when it wasn't your fault in the first place, forgive them for denting the closet door when they threw that shoe in frustration, forgive them quickly, forgive them often, and forgive them fully.
Forgiving them is not just for them, it is for you too. If you choose to hold on to anger, they may still get a good nights sleep next to you (which probably makes you angrier), but you are the one replaying it in your head all night long. Forgiveness gives you peace.
...Serve one another humbly in love.— Galatians 5:13
Serve Them Unselfishly
This is probably the hardest for us to do aside from forgiveness. We often feel that we should not have to carry the bulk of the responsibility in the home. We don't want to be the only one cleaning the house especially when both have been at work all day. Yet, God has called us to serve one another.
In Philippians 2:3, He actually states that we should think of others above ourselves. Ouch! Speak of a hard command. Too often we worry so much about what the other person is not doing, we forget to reflect on what we could be doing to help them.
The goal of a marriage is to work as one. Sometimes that means in one season of life you will have to do the bulk of the work. Do not let bitterness take root, but choose to serve them with humility and love.
…do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.— Luke 6:35
Stop Holding Them to Unrealistic Expectations
This goes along with serving one another humbly with love. We need to make sure our actions towards our spouses are not conditional. If we clean the house, hoping they will come home and be appreciative, that's having unrealistic expectations. Yes, it would be nice, but should not be expected. If we take the kids for the night, so our spouse can go have fun with friends, we should not expect that they will come home and reward us for our selfless act. We should do these things out of love for our better half.
It is true that the more we do for our loved ones, the more they will want to do for us, but if we do this with that as our goal, we have missed God's point of true service towards others.
Kiss me again and again, your love is sweeter than wine— Song of Solomon 1:2
Yes, there are going to be fights, and yes there are going to be feelings of being taken advantage of, but don't let these things cause us to lose our physical affection for one another. Give a hug to your spouse every day, whether they deserve it or not. If they like their back rubbed, rub their back. If they like to cuddle, cuddle. But above all else, do not withhold physical intimacy from your spouse unless there is a legitimate reason to do so, such as for medical reasons. Nothing hurts a spouse more when they feel unloved by their spouse physically.
True love is hard, yet that is what we are expected to show the world and especially our spouses. I am not talking about the fun emotion you get when things are easy. That part of love is easy. I am talking about the day-in/day-out love that we have to choose to act towards our loved one. Love is not just a feeling, but an action that we choose to do. This action may not always correspond with the feeling, and yet still should be shown regardless. Having a peaceful marriage is tough because it often means letting go of our own pride and putting our spouse above ourselves, but when we are doing marriage right, it is so rewarding.
Questions & Answers
What if one spouse is cheating on them with another woman? Could one still overlook it and continue loving him?
Unfortunately, this is not something that can be answered with a definitive answer. I believe there is a different answer for each couple in each circumstance. I do not fault a woman or man in the same circumstance for whatever decision they choose.
Are they willing to break it off with the other person? Can they be trusted not to cheat again? Are you dealing with an addiction that needs treatment? Do you need to go to marriage counseling for healing? Are they willing to go with you?
I am not going to say if you answer one way or the other with the above questions that you should choose a certain outcome. I just believe the answers to those questions should help guide you to the right outcome for your circumstance.
One thing that caught my attention is the way you worded the question; it was a red flag to me. You asked, "Could one still overlook it?" The fast answer is no, nor do I believe should they overlook it. Cheating needs to be taken seriously and addressed. Yes, you can choose to forgive, but do not choose to overlook. There is a big difference between the two.
I also believe that you can choose to leave and still choose to love the person. When you have strong feelings for someone, like love, you cannot just switch it off. Usually, what happens is that you replace love with hate. A strong emotion replaces another strong emotion. Do not let that happen. Do not become bitter and angry. Yes, be angry for a little while, but don't stay there otherwise, you will become bitter.
How do I eliminate my temper in my marriage?
Through lots and lots of practice. Every person is going to have to learn how to calm themselves down. More importantly, you need to learn when your anger is just and when it is irrational.
The best thing for me to not to show my temper is to keep quiet. I don't open my mouth. The moment I open my mouth when I feel that I have lost my temper is when things go bad. If I remain quiet, I usually can get it under control. Then when I feel calm enough, I can talk more rationally.
A lot of the reason people have trouble calming their temper is that of the self-talk they do to themselves. Are you telling yourself every transgression your spouse had done since before you were married or are you reminding yourself that you do love them and this is just a small thing in the grand scheme of a marriage? Are you telling yourself how right you are or how wrong they are, or are you telling yourself how you may have contributed to the problem, or better yet, how you could have helped alleviate the problem in the future?
Too often we spend so much time focusing on the problem; we overemphasize the magnitude of the problem at that moment. We lose sight of the big picture. By learning how to talk to yourself that will help eliminate your temper from flaring.
How do I make peace with my spouse after a fight?
As simple as this sounds, you need to apologize. Don't say "I am sorry, but...," because that is not an apology. It's like saying "I was justified in what I did." It is ok to explain what they did, but you need to word it carefully. For instance, "When you did this, it made me feel..., but I should not have reacted in that way. For that I am sorry." It is amazing how much a sincere apology can calm things. Often things do not calm down because of the way a person apologizes. If they still seem upset, then repeat the apology calmly, and gently ask, "Could I please have your forgiveness?"
What should I do if my spouse continues using the same words to hurt me? I keep forgiving him for it, over and over again.
Although I do not know the specifics, this sounds like emotional abuse. You have forgiven him for past aggressions, but unfortunately, he has not stopped. I would encourage you to talk with him about the effect those words have on you. If you are unable to do this or he is unwilling to listen to you, you may want to consider marriage counseling. The counselor may be able to help you guys communicate better so that way you can work on getting through some of these challenges.
© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz