Tomorrow, my husband and I will celebrate six years of marriage. This day six years ago, I was busy hanging tulle from the ceiling, putting ornaments on the largest tree I’ve ever seen, spreading sparkly snowflakes literally everywhere, and other crazy ideas my bride-mind had created. At the time, the wedding seemed like such a huge part of marriage—everything must be perfect to start our marriage off right. While I did love our wedding day, I realize now it was just a very small part of our marriage journey.
I am in no way a seasoned marriage expert, but, as of tomorrow, I will have six years of experience, and I want to share a few encouragements of how God has grown me in my love both for Him and for my husband these past six years.
1. Give your spouse the same grace you received.
While this list is in no particular order, this lesson is one that has been hardest for God to teach me. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, it is easy for me to load unrealistic expectations not only on myself but also on my husband. God’s grace is a precious truth that I cling to every day as my flesh attempts to condemn me for my many imperfections. Yet when I greet my husband at the end of the day, I am so stingy with that same grace.
When I would get impatient or resentful to my husband for a mistake, I would ask myself, “How would I want to be treated if I had made the exact same mistake?” That simple thought helps me remember that I am an imperfect woman married to an imperfect man, both clinging to the grace and mercy of Christ every day. Show your spouse the same “grace upon grace” you have received from God.
2. Confess your sins to your husband.
As I mentioned before, I struggle with perfectionism and admitting my failures. Often when I commit a sin against my husband, I want to pretend that it never happened, that I never made a mistake. In my sinful heart, I think that by admitting I am imperfect, Joseph will love me less. But my husband has shown me grace and mercy time and time again as I have had to say the words “I’m sorry” (often for repeat offenses).
Not only do I share with Joseph my sins against him, I also tell him my hidden sins, my sins against others, and my sins that are only against God. I have found while I enter these times of confession in shame, I always leave refreshed by the grace of God. As Joseph has prayed for me and encouraged me, I am freed to walk in obedience. When you open up your heart to your spouse, they can help you walk in the Spirit.
3. Let older, wiser couples speak into your marriage.
It’s not always easy to share what’s going on in my heart and mind to others. In fact, it’s way easier for me to post it on a blog than it is for me to say it with my mouth. Yet our marriages grow best when they are grown in community. We have learned the benefit of sharing our marital struggles with older Christian couples who can speak truth into our marriage.
I can so clearly picture in my mind dining room tables and living room couches where we sat, sometimes together and sometimes separately, being led by wise husbands and wives. I am so grateful for the legacy that they have left in our marriage, and I pray that we can continue that legacy to couples younger than us. Remember that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but a sign of growth.
4. Pray together.
This is one area where I feel like we do well, but we could also do so much better. Some of the sweetest moments in our marriage occurred during a trial when Joseph and I clung to each other in prayer. So often in those times, when I couldn’t find the words to pray, Joseph would pray over me to our Father. And it’s not only in difficult times that we pray. Regular prayer reorients our hearts together to our common purpose—to glorify God in our lives and in our marriage.
This doesn’t have to be done in a highly structured way, just take a few moments before you both fall asleep to bring your requests and praises from the day to God with one another. Or maybe you can choose to quickly pray after breakfast before you start the day. Make it a daily rhythm of your marriage.
5. Celebrate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
My husband and I are very different. We come from different family backgrounds, have different hobbies and interests, and have pursued very different careers. Yet sometimes, I forget those differences and expect my husband to act and think like me. When he doesn’t do what I think he should have done, I get frustrated and wish he would just be more like me. As I have grown in my role as a wife, I have had to fight that lie over and over again. Yes, I need to I remember that I have strengths that make up for Joseph’s weaknesses, but he also has strengths that overcome my weaknesses.
My life would be very stressful and boring if I were married to someone just like myself. By encouraging Joseph in his strengths, I remember that there is beauty and unity in diversity. Even in the diverse ways Joseph and I respond to situations, God is showing multiple facets of His character. Thank your spouse today for the strengths that they provide to your relationship.
6. Your relationship with God will affect your relationship with your spouse.
When I look back on the most difficult seasons of our marriage, I also see a time of drought in my relationship with God. Before I have communication and intimacy issues with my husband, I often have communication and intimacy problems with God. My relationship with God determines how I am relating to my husband.
While 1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful chapter about love that is often read at weddings, it is first and foremost a description of the love that God has for his people. God is patient and kind. He is not arrogant or rude. He does not keep a record of wrong. I cannot love my husband this way unless I am abiding in the love of God. When you are facing trials in your marriage, return to the Creator of marriage, God himself. Return to your Bridegroom, Christ Jesus, and let his love flow into you so that you can love your spouse.
Again, I don’t claim to be a marriage expert, but I hope that these few truths that God is teaching me can encourage you in your marriage as you portray to the world the love of Christ for his bride, the Church.