Marriage… what a wonderful, complicated thing. First, let me say I’m not a marriage expert but I’ve survived marriage and even thrived in marriage through seasons of amazing blessings and seasons of devastation. As wonderful as marriage is, it’s not always easy. I’ve learned some lessons the hard way and other lessons were just sweet love notes from heaven.
No matter where your marriage is today, it can flourish and be an example to others with God’s help. I didn’t say perfection. It may be as simple as changing your perspective! Growing up, I always admired couples that showed affection. Couples who held hands or men who opened car doors for their wives. This became my example of a healthy marriage. It was the romantic's view on marriage. I soon learned, after becoming an adult, that the people I deemed as healthy were some of the most unhealthy. Although holding hands was and is sweet, it doesn’t sustain you.
My marriage goals change as I get older. I will share some things that may be helpful in viewing healthy marriage.
1. Treat marriage as a living organism. It must be cared for, nurtured, protected and invested in. You can starve it, ignore it, abuse it, until it is destroyed. Sometimes caring for the marriage is just being aware. Everything can get in the way of this. If you are a woman in ministry your life is filled with the needs of others. Children, events, women of the church, community commitments, etc. I understand. You are exhausted from life. I challenge you, take time for your spouse. Let him know he is important and not left overs.
2. Make sure there is more pleasure than pain. We had a counselor share this with us. It seems elementary but it was a tool we could actually use. Find what makes you LAUGH. Laughter is medicine. If you have been married any amount of time you have “remember that time” moments. What do you enjoy doing together? What memories bring you the most pleasure? My husband and I love to take a country ride and talk. When we lived close to the gulf, we loved to go deep sea fishing. We have so many fun memories and would fight to make it happen. Fight to have fun. There will be plenty of opportunity for pressure in a marriage. Do your best to fight for pleasure over pain.
3. We must remember marriage is seasonal just like life. Do you feel like your
marriage is a roller coaster? Some months there is passion and love, adventure and fun and others become a partnership of parenting that consists of arranging your schedule with your business partner. Sometimes it’s a competition, sometimes it’s a selfless act of serving. Embrace the season. A great example of this is raising children. Just went you think you can’t change another diaper, BAM, you are dropping the youngest off at preschool or becoming a counselor for a middle schooler. Before you know it you are sending the kid off to college! Proof, it doesn’t stay the same. Make the most of every season. Enjoy those seasons of fun and passion. They will come back around. Enjoy the carpool schedule; it doesn’t last long. Be a team, embrace the season and don’t wish it away. Tough seasons come and go. They don’t have to define you or your marriage. Let them strengthen you.
Tough seasons come and go. They don’t have to define you or your marriage. Let them strengthen you.
4. Remember the “2 becoming 1” agreement. You are now one. His decisions impact you and yours affect him, good or bad. You are in this covenant together. People do not take what they say in wedding vows seriously. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till DEATH! All these things will most likely happen. You vowed to stick it out. Fight through the valleys. You will have valley times when you don't “feel” in love and other that you're on cloud nine. There will be times that the goal is strictly survival! Don’t give yourself options of walking away when things get tough. Fight for the commitment. Too many people give themselves options. No matter what season you are in, stay committed to your covenant. Keep fighting! Stand firm. Don’t give up.
5. Long for a river, not a brook. After a trying season, we discovered this life-changing analogy. At first your love and marriage is new, exciting, superficial. When you see your spouse or your phone rings, you have butterflies. Surely this will never end. No one has ever made you feel like this. Fast forward 15 years… you may have the occasional butterfly but by this time you have probably had to deal with some sort of trial. This is when comparing our marriage now to then can be dangerous. The butterfly season is not bad: it’s a precious time, but it’s shallow. It hasn’t weathered the storms that bring depth. It’s fighting in the trenches that make you grow deeper. Trials bring perseverance. No one wants them and, honestly, people give up because they misinterpret them. Surely God doesn’t want me to be unhappy? This is not entirely true.
Think about raising your children, again, with that mentality. Is it more important that your children are always happy or more important that you raise them to be responsible, equipped adults? If you choose happiness alone, you raise spoiled, entitled kids who have not been molded by life lessons. We teach them to share, to study, to respect others. In the beginning these things do not make them happy but in the end they bring happiness.
We become a deep river of love and loyalty, not a shallow brook of happiness that is not sustaining.
God knows what we need. He knows what brings peace, healing, blessing and goodness. God cares more about our hearts than our happiness. He wants us whole, strong and well-rounded. This takes pruning and molding. Standing through trials brings depth. We become a deep river of love and loyalty, not a shallow brook of happiness that is not sustaining. Stop yearning for the brook! The brook always goes away. I can promise that butterflies will not stand against the storms of life. You must have depth. Yearn for the deep river of marriage.
6. Look ahead! There will be times you must stay committed to your marriage to please the Lord by keeping your covenant. As emotions surge, thoughts like, “I’m not happy", "I can’t do this anymore", or "it would be easier apart” could come in. First, understand that such thoughts are seeds from the enemy being planted. He does not want you to survive in your marriage. Your marriage is an example of Christ and the Church. The enemy is the master of counterfeiting. If he can make you believe that someone else can make you more happy, more fulfilled, and better person, he has you. Your identity comes from Jesus, not man.
Secondly, look ahead and think of your children and your life. Does walking away look blessed? Once you understand the power of marriage and what it represents, you understand the attack. Marriage influences generations. Your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are being established by your legacy. You will have to fight for it.
Once you understand the power of marriage and what it represents, you understand the attack.
Marriage is a beautiful thing. I love my husband and love my marriage. I have had to fight for my marriage in seasons. It was worth every tear, every valley. Your marriage can flourish. Cover your marriage in prayer. The weapons we use to fight for marriage are prayer and the Word of God.
Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
"A Healthy Marriage Check-Up" is ENTRY TWO in our Marriage + Ministry series. Miss the first entry? Click here to catch up!
Ashley Simmons has been married to her wonderful husband, Tim, for 18 years. They have served in ministry together since the day they were married. Tim and Ashley have 2 beautiful children, Cole 14 and Kennedy 13. Tim serves as Executive Pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Olive Branch, MS and Ashley serves on staff at the Guest Services Director. Her hobbies include "having two teenagers! It is quite time consuming." Ashley loves to write, share her story and minister to women. Before coming to Life Fellowship, Tim and Ashley traveled and spoke on the restoration of marriages. The tour was called, For Love For Life. The enemy wants to destroy the family but they have seen God turn ashes in beauty! Read more from Ashley at www.ashleylsimmons.com