10 Tips for a Healthy Marriage

Nearly everyone that gets married, goes in wanting to be happy and stay married for the rest of their lives.  So what happens along the way to cause people to end up hating each other or frustrated to the point of divorce?  Why does verbal, physical and emotional abuse happen so often in marriages that started out with so much hope?

Most people that end up getting married, don’t put much work in on the front end.  They may date for a while and many people are now pretending to be married, thinking that is a good way to prepare for marriage.  Unfortunately the results have been dismal.  Couples that live together have a much greater chance of divorce than those that do not.  Couples that do not go through some pre-marital mentoring or counseling have a much higher chance of not making it.  So for people that are thinking about getting married, go get some help in preparing for this lifelong commitment.  Why wouldn’t you get some training for the biggest relationship commitment you will ever make.

For those that are already married and maybe did not put a lot of work in at the beginning, it’s not too late.  Marriages can be improved dramatically with some work and a different perspective.  Here are some tips or thoughts on how to build a happy marriage:

  1. Change your expectations to desires – Marriage is not so much about you, but about serving and loving your spouse well.  If you are looking at your husband or wife to meet all your needs and make you happy, you are heading toward failure and disappoint.  No human being can meet all our needs and make us happy.  Only God can do that.  Many times we put too high of expectations on our spouse and then are upset when they don’t live up to that.  Instead of expecting certain behavior, change your mindset to desiring certain behavior.  When you see it happen it is more meaningful.  That shift in thinking can change your marriage.
  2. Learn to love well – To love well, a person must understand what speaks love to their spouse.  If you do not understand what is meaningful and special to your spouse, you can be doing the wrong things and actually be hurting your marriage.  Gary Chapman wrote a book called the “Five Love Languages”.  He describes 5 ways of communicating love to another person.  Those languages are; Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Gifts and Quality Time.  Everyone has one or two of those that are more meaningful than others.  Find out what your spouses language is and what yours is and then sit down and talk about it with your spouse.
  3. Focus on growing yourself, not changing your spouse – The more you try to change your spouse the worse it usually gets.  The only thing you have control over is yourself.  When you focus on problems or the shortcomings of your spouse, you are no longer working on your own issues or growing closer to God.  Seek out a mentor or someone that can help you work on your own issues.
  4. Deepen your relationship with God – To have a happy marriage, it will take more than what you have on your own.  When you develop your relationship with God, He gives you strength, courage and wisdom you can’t get on your own.  When you grow spiritually, you grow relationally with others as well.
  5. Bring God into your Marriage – Spiritual intimacy in a marriage relationship is one of the biggest keys to happiness and contentment in marriage.  Making God central in your marriage builds a solid foundation.  Praying together, going to church together, going to small group together, reading the Bible & devotions together and having spiritual conversations together will build that intimacy.  If your spouse is not where you are at spiritually, don’t force this on them.  Instead pray silently for them regularly and demonstrate your faith by loving them well and serving them as best you can.
  6. Build Emotional Intimacy – This is all about being best friends.  Connecting with each other through meaningful conversations, doing fun things together and just hanging out.  This usually happens through the dating process, but often slows down after the marriage.  Start dating again and work at becoming friends again.
  7. Prioritize Physical Intimacy – This area of marriage often get neglected as life gets busy.  Children, work, family functions and children’s activities can keep married people from having enough physical intimacy.  Take time to plan for this if needed.  God designed sex for marriage for a reason.  It was meant to increase closeness and intimacy.  It is a way of serving each other and surrendering yourself to the other person.  Physical intimacy is much better when the emotional and spiritual intimacy are doing well.
  8. Always believe the best about your spouse – When you always think the best about your spouse instead of assuming the worse, you are more likely to be happily married.  Trust is essential in marriage.  Honesty and openness in marriage leads the way to trust.  Connecting emotionally, spiritually and physically helps to deepen trust and belief in your spouse.  When your first response is to believe the best instead of assume the worse, it leads to a better line of thinking.  Less suspicion and more trust.  When trust is broken though, boundaries need to be put into place in order to re-establish trust.
  9. Listen  – Most people are really poor listeners.  When it comes to marriage it can get even worse.  If you will simply work at becoming a better listener, your marriage will begin to improve.  Listening takes more than just paying attention.  It means to actually try to understand what is being said and being able to repeat it back.  It means you follow through on what is discussed.  In other words listening needs to be active, letting your spouse know you are truly interested and want to understand and then acting on what you hear.  First trying to understand before being understood leads to good listening.
  10. Think Team – Your on the same team not on opposite sides.  Team mates need to communicate well with each other and work together through whatever problems come your way.  Problem solving becomes a joint effort instead of one sided.  To function as a team you need to know your role and understand how you best contribute to the success of the marriage.  The approach should always be we not me.

These ten things are not the only things that help build a solid marriage, but they can get you started.  Marriage takes work to be successful.  A selfish person does not make a very good husband or wife.  Pride and arrogance leads to destruction.  So if your marriage is a mess or struggling along, humble yourself and get some help.  If your marriage is doing well and you have worked through some struggles, then you need to help others work on their marriages.

Falling in Love

If you fell in love with someone, you most likely will fall out of love with them at some point. If you choose to love someone you most likely will stay in love with them. Falling in love is an emotional thing, and you are blinded when you are emotional.

Usually when you fall it is because you tripped over something or didn’t see something. Falling also can be painful, but it reminds you to pay attention to the things around you.

In relationships it is vital to not let your emotions blind you into making wrong decisions. That is one reason you should never rush into a relationship. Take the time to build the relationship and develop more than an emotional or physical connection with the person.

Listen to what Jesus said about marriage – “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone…if your capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” Matthew 19:11-13

Not everyone is mature enough to have healthy relationships in their lives. Maturity has nothing to do with age in this case. It has to do with your attitude and willingness to grow.

I’ve been married for 21 years and both my wife and I have had to change and grow a lot over the years. We have had to re-invent ourselves and our marriage several times. There are constant adjustments to make in communication, conflict resolution and problem solving.

If you are married or thinking about getting married, there needs to be a moment where you choose to love the other person. Then it is a daily decision to keep loving that person no matter what. It can’t be an emotional kind of love that is superficial, it needs to be a deeper heart level commitment. If your falling for someone, you better be careful about the decisions you are making.

Loving people is not easy, especially when you are living together in marriage. There are times when you do not feel like loving because you are hurting and broken. That is why it is so vital to have a healthy active relationship with God. He is the only one that can help you love your spouse and other people like you should. The more you look to God for your ability to love the more loving you will become.

Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Marriage

As a relationship & life coach I work with couples and individuals daily. In my observations and studies there are certain characteristics of what a healthy relationship looks like. These are some of the important ones I have found in most healthy relationships.

Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Marriage:

  1. Commitment – They have a long-term perspective toward their relationship; tend to persevere when trouble comes up. View marriage as a covenant not a contract. Each one takes personal responsibility for their part in the relationship.
  2. Satisfaction – Both individuals are happy and satisfied with their relationship. This doesn’t mean there are no problems or challenges, or even periods of unhappiness. They work hard at meeting the other persons needs and speak their love language often.
  3. Communication – The way couples communicate is one of the most powerful indicators of marriage health. Being intentional about exchanging information and how they are feeling. Open and honest in their communication. Asking questions to clarify what was meant. Seeking to understand the other person and avoid misunderstandings. The words they use in communicating can bring life or death to a relationship.
  4. Effective Conflict Resolution – Ability to resolve conflict in healthy ways. Healthy couples are good at getting down to the real issues and facing them together. They view themselves as a team working together, not as the opposition. The ability to deal with conflict without criticism, contempt, or defensiveness.
  5. Lack of violence or abuse – Conflict is normal in healthy marriages, but abuse is not. Whether verbal, emotional or physical, abuse is destructive and unhealthy.
  6. Fidelity or Faithfulness – Spouses are sexually faithful to each other; keeping intimate physical and emotional relationships within the bonds of marriage. Even emotional connections to the opposite sex is considered being unfaithful & unhealthy.
  7. Intimacy & Emotional support – They are physically & emotionally intimate with each other. That means being sexually active with each other and connecting on a deeper emotional level through sharing every part of their life with each other. They feel safe with each other.
  8. Friendship – They are spending time together on a regular basis. They are intentional about doing things together and paying attention to each other. They respect each other and enjoy each others company. They like being together.
  9. Commitment to children – Not all married couples have children, or have children living with them anymore. But if children are a part of the family, the couple is committed to developing and parenting the children as a team. They regularly communicate with each other about the children and their development. They are in agreement on discipline and on helping older children. The children are not the top priority, the spouse is.
  10. Spiritual Intimacy – They share their spiritual beliefs with each other. Praying together and as a family and bringing God into the home. Healthy couples are active in church attendance, serving together and in community with other people. Couples that have Spiritual Intimacy together rarely get divorced (Less than 5%). Each one is working on their individual relationship with God on a regular basis.

There are more characteristics, but if these are missing in a marriage relationship, that marriage will struggle.

Are You Happy?

I was having a discussion with some guys on Saturday morning and this idea of happiness came up. We were talking about what makes people happy. I asked the question, “is God’s will for me to be happy?” The discussion got pretty interesting.

What do you think? The more I think about that question and the more I read the Bible the more convinced I am that it is not God’s will for us to be happy.

Happiness is an emotion that makes us feel good. Happiness brings a smile to our face and warms our heart. When things go our way we are happy, when things go badly we are not happy. You see this a lot in relationships. In a marriage relationship I sometimes here people say, but doesn’t God want me to be happy? I am not happy, so I should get out of this marriage and find someone that can make me happy.

Here is what I believe God’s will is for our lives – “To become more like Jesus Christ”. You see, God is more concerned about our character and what is going on in our hearts than he is with our happiness. His desire is for all of us to grow closer to Him and to be set apart to make a difference in this world. He wants us to be holy not happy.

When we pursue holiness and character we experience something much better than happiness, we experience joy. Joy is one of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit living and active in us. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes, joy is a character trait that comes from within us. It is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

If we want joy to grow inside us, we must join our lives to Jesus Christ. We must know Him, love Him, remember Him, and imitate Him. As a result, we will fulfill the purpose God has for our lives – to love God and our neighbors.

One of the purposes for marriage is to help us become more holy. This happens when we learn to submit to each other and serve each other unselfishly. When the individuals in a marriage have joy in their hearts and a closeness to Christ the marriage relationship is strengthen. A by-product is the emotion of happiness.

So if your looking for happiness, ask yourself how your heart is doing? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you looking for happiness in things or people? They will always let you down, going deeper with God never lets you down.

There is nothing wrong with being happy, it just shouldn’t be our focus. Our character and spiritual growth should be our focus.

Why We Do What We Do

Since we are starting a new series called the Marriage Experts this Sunday at NewPointe, I thought I would share a good article from Dr. Gary Chapman. Anyone that is in a marriage relationship or is hoping to be married someday needs to be aware of the relational things that keep us from having lasting healthy relationships. The more you understand about your spouse and why they do what they do the better you can respond and communicate.

Here is the Article:

In a really difficult marriage, you will never be able to address the real problems until you understand what motivates your spouse’s behavior. All of our behavior is motivated by inner needs.

One husband complained, “She thinks she is smarter than I am.” His wife’s perspective? “Any time I disagree with him, he thinks I’m trying to control him. I just want to be a part of the decision. Sure I call him names, but it’s because I want him to listen to me.” Both husband and wife are motivated by the need to be treated as a person. They want to feel that their ideas are important to the other.

If you can understand the motivation, you can address the need instead of arguing over the symptoms. It might start with, “I value your ideas, and I want us to work together as a team.”

The Need for Love
Do you understand that some of your spouse’s most negative behavior may be motivated by the need for love? Barb complains that her husband doesn’t have time for her. She often raises her voice and delivers angry lectures to him, accusing him of not caring for her. Sometimes these lectures work. Her husband Bob will sit down and talk with her.

Wouldn’t it be better if Bob understood that her primary love language is Quality Time and would make time regularly to talk with Barb. Addressing her need for love may well eliminate her negative behavior. Learning to identify the emotional need that is behind your spouse’s behavior is a major step in being a positive influence in an otherwise Desperate Marriage. Don’t curse the behavior. Address the need.

The Need for Freedom
One of our deepest emotional needs is the need for freedom. In a marriage, we want to be free to express our feelings, thoughts, and desires. We want the freedom to make choices. We often do things for each other, but we don’t want to be manipulated or forced to do things. If we feel like we are being controlled we get defensive and angry.

Freedom is never to be absolute; to be totally free is to live a life without love. Love chooses to look out for the interest of the other person. However, if we realize this need for freedom we will allow our spouse freedom to make choices. We will make requests but not demands. We will express our opinions, but give them the freedom to disagree. Love and freedom are two key elements in a healthy marriage.

The Need for Significance
If you are married to a workaholic, do you understand that one of the emotional needs that pushes the workaholic is the need for significance. Many do not realize that our real significance comes from being children of God and living out His plans for us. Thus they put all their marbles in excelling in the market place, and often neglect the home.

Perhaps his father said, “You will never amount to anything.” So, he spends a lifetime trying to prove his father wrong. If you are married to a workaholic, don’t curse his work. Praise him for his accomplishments. Tell him how proud you are of him. With more praise coming from you he will likely choose to spend more time with you. On the other hand, your condemnation pushes him to spend more time at work.

The Conflict of Recreation vs Relaxation
Many of our conflicts in marriage focus on recreation or relaxation. She complains that he spends too much time watching TV. He sees her as a nervous cat who never relaxes. She says there is too much work to be done. She does not have time to watch TV. However, if you examine her schedule, you’ll likely find her relaxing in other ways.

One of our basic physical and emotional needs is the need for recreation or relaxation. The need for rhythm, of movement between work and play was ordained by God. The old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” reflects this fundamental need. In a healthy marriage we don’t try to force our spouse to relax the way we do. Instead, we try to help each other find a balance between work and play.