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How to Be Happily Married in a World of Unhappy Marriages
My husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary last week. A decade-and-a-half seems like a drop in a bucket when I think about my grandparents, who were married for sixty years before my grandpa passed away, or my parents, who’ve been married for forty years.
But I don’t want to minimize the weight of God’s grace in my life as evidenced in my marriage. I don’t want to make light of more than five thousand days that my husband and I have survived, thrived, fallen, and risen again.
As I reflect on my marriage, I’m delighted and grateful that I’m not just married. I’m happily married.
And while about half of marriages don’t end in divorce, I’m pretty sure that a good many of those still-married people wouldn’t consider themselves happy in their marriages.
How has it been different for me and my husband? How have we been happy during these years? I could probably list dozens of lessons we’ve learned together by God’s grace, but here are the top ten that come to mind. I pray that they’re a blessing to your marriage.
How to Be Happily Married
1.)Choose to forgive and keep on forgiving. Forgiveness is a choice, and remembering how lavishly I’ve been granted grace and forgiveness by God moves me toward granting lavish grace and forgiveness to my husband (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness isn’t forgetting; but it is choosing to not remember wrongdoing or hold it against the offender.
2.)Adjust my expectations. He won’t be perfect. And neither will I. He won’t be young forever. I won’t either. He won’t always do the right thing or say the right things in the right way. And I sure won’t either. I don’t compare him to the latest Hollywood or Harlequin representation of masculinity. And I don’t compare him to my pastor or my dad or my friend’s husband or even my own ideals of what a Christian husband should be. I do my best to look to God and His Word as the standard for my marriage.
3.)Be each other’s biggest cheerleader. I’ve supported my husband through cancer, unemployment, and re-employment. He’s my biggest cheerleader in church ministry, in motherhood, and in writing. I can’t speak for his perspective, but when he encourages me in those endeavors that are important to me, it warms my heart toward him.
4.)Yield to each other. If my husband feels more strongly than I do about a topic we’re discussing, I let him make the decision. If I feel more strongly, he yields to me. It’s not always an easy choice to make, but I’ve learned that I’d rather be happy than be right every single time.
5.)Give each other the benefit of the doubt. When he says something that could be taken negatively, do I choose to assume the best and overlook an offense? It helps to remind myself often that we’re all just people, and to remember that my husband has my best interests at heart.
6.)Put ourselves in each others’ shoes. Empathy is so important in marriage. Just because something isn’t important to me doesn’t mean it’s not important to him. And just because I’m worn out and frazzled by dinnertime doesn’t mean he doesn’t have needs that are just as valid. When I’m feeling frustrated or grumpy towards my husband, it’s often because I’m simply focusing on my own point of view, and not seeing things from his perspective.
7.)Believe I’m the lucky one. From my experience, each half of a happy couple feels like they got the better end of the deal. I don’t let myself believe any lie that I deserve a better husband; instead, I regularly affirm to him that his presence in my life is a gift from God that I don’t deserve.
8.)Purpose to stay on the same team. There are many issues that can divide husband and wife. Schedules. Parenting. Jobs. Money. Ministry. Friendships. Extended family. But at the end of the day, the covenant I made before God with my husband trumps every single one. Deciding to stay on his team is always the best choice.
9.)Guard my heart. There are countless enemies in our culture and even in my own heart that undermine marriage. I strive to be sensitive to those things that seek to turn my heart against my husband, and eliminate them from my life.
10.)Seek holiness, and happiness will come. If I had to state just one secret to being happily married, this would be it. Don’t believe the lie that the purpose of marriage is to make you happy. According to the Bible, the purpose of marriage is to portray the stunningly beautiful relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-23), and to establish a home which produces godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). Both of these have holiness at their core, and happiness as a byproduct. We do well not to confuse the two.