One Crucial Ingredient for a Quality Marriage

pascal_dagnan-bouveret_-_blessing_of_the_young_couple_before_marriageIf you tried to come up with factors that contribute to a quality, lasting marriage, what would your list look like?

No doubt many people would list things like good communication skills or the willingness to compromise. They might also list things like the need for spouses to possess similar interests and values and compatible personalities. And then there is the question of whether or not they work well together managing their lives, home, family, etc.

I agree that these things are important—in fact, it’s a real blessing if a marriage relationship exhibits any of these traits. But as valuable as each of them is, I’m convinced there are a handful of things that are even more important and foundational in building a quality marriage. And I want to expand briefly on one of those things here:

It’s crucial that a husband and wife agree on what a marriage should be.

Let me unpack that statement with a few points:

1. If we don’t have a solid understanding of what a good marriage is, it will be much more difficult to work toward one of our own.

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is—what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used.” And so if we want to have a good marriage, we need to know what the institution is designed for in the first place. If we’re squared away on that point, we’ll have a much better idea of what a good marriage might look like, and how we might go about encouraging the same. But if we have a wrong idea of what marriage is at the outset, both our efforts and expectations will be pointed in the wrong direction.

2. This means that the question of who gets to define what a marriage should be is incredibly important.

As you might have noticed, not everyone agrees on what marriage is all about. At the end of the day, then, who gets to make the call? You might be glad to find out that I don’t think it should be your spouse (or prospective spouse). You might be less glad to find out that I don’t think it should be you either. That’s because I don’t think any of us are qualified for the job. Not only are we finite and so limited in our perspective, but we’re fallen: our sin tends to bend and twist everything we do, and not for the better.

But God doesn’t have those problems. And not only so, but he actually created each one of us, which means he knows what we were made for and, consequently, what will make us genuinely happy. He also designed—I used that word intentionally above—the institution of marriage, which means that he knows exactly how it can and can’t contribute to that purpose and happiness.

Agreeing to let God to define marriage puts us in much more competent hands than our own. And it also prevents us from moving the goalposts: changing what we think our marriage should be in light of our shifting circumstances, desires, moods, etc. Quite apart from the fact that this will often confuse or even hurt our spouse, how we can we be sure that our new idea is any better or worse than the one we held previously?

3. Consequently, the Bible will need to be our authority on marriage.

If we’re going to find out what God thinks about marriage, we’ll need to pay close attention to what he’s authoritatively revealed in his word. That will help us get beyond what we think God thinks about marriage to what he’s actually said.

A case in point: both spouses might agree that loving each other is an essential part of marriage. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a more widely defined word in our culture than “love.” But what does it mean according to God for us to love one another? In fact, what he’s communicated in the Bible is considerably different than the commonly held views of many people.

4. We’ll need a community that encourages us to remain committed to God’s design for marriage.

Even if we’re committed at the outset to letting God define what our marriage is supposed to be, it can be tough to stick with that commitment as we attempt to live it out. And so, like every other area of our Christian life, we’ll need God’s grace working through people walking alongside of us. We need their positive examples to follow. We’ll need their wise counsel for the difficulties we find in our marriage. We’ll need their encouragement to continue in the right direction. And we’ll need them to appropriately challenge us when we stray off that path. I would even go so far as to say this: one of the single greatest predictors for successfully navigating serious marriage difficulties is whether or not a couple is willing to tackle those challenges in the context of Christian community, i.e., whether both spouses will seek out and listen to mature Christian voices: friends, fellow small group members, pastors and other leaders/teachers, counselors, etc.

4 Comments

  1. Lisa Eaton said:

    Great timing, Nathan Tiemeyer! Mike and I are celebrating twent-five years TODAY and I couldn’t agree more with your blog! I will be sharing and tagging!

  2. Robert Ashbaugh said:

    Not all of us are celebrating. Some are mourning the loss of their 23 years together. So how do you get someone you’re waiting on to come to the table ?
    Reading a bunch of nice words on a blog about how we ought to appropriately challenge one another when we get off course is nice, but having someone from the community actually get involved is something I have not seen, though I’ve been searching, asking, and praying.
    Jesus said – “Knock, and it will be opened for you”.
    Behold, I stand at the door, and once again, I knock.

  3. Nancy Fedorchak said:

    Robert. A Stephen Minister might help. Contact Dan Steska

  4. Robert said:

    ok, thanks for your suggestion. I have talked with Dan. I think it’s a lot like what Keith Simon talked about in his blog dated October 20 – for those who don’t have PTSD, they just don’t get it.

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