We’ve all seen that couple that we’re a little envious of. They look so happy and in love. It can show itself differently but it exudes joy, peace and comfort with each other. It’s not the newlywed doe-eyed innocence of the not yet but the steady perseverance of the already type love. The love that’s been through it and only gotten stronger. And no matter how great our marriage, I think we all aspire to a better one- a one that’s got a little less conflict and a little more encouragement.
God began the marriage relationship between one man and one woman in the Garden of Eden when in Genesis 2:24 He said that “man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (ESV) No other earthly relationship is described in this way. The relationship with a spouse is usually the closest relationship one has in life. It is where we should let our guard down and really be ourselves. Our relationship with our spouse is often where we are most comfortable to share our deepest heart, and where sin is most revealed. While not all marriages attain to this level, I believe it is what God intended.
So if the relationship with your spouse is intended to be close, sometimes it’s enlightening to ask how you’re doing in that relationship. How are you treating the person that’s closest to you? Are you kind and growing in love or is your spouse the one you sin most against? We can become blind to things we do with those we’re closest to and it’s helpful to pull back the veil and look to see where we need to confess sin and move forward in repentance. Here are some questions to ponder and pray about:
1. Are you growing in love toward your spouse?
We will never be perfect in loving our spouses and we can only love when the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to save and sanctify us. As He does, though, we should see how we are increasingly walking in love toward those around us, especially our spouses. Most of us know that 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter. Lots of us had it read at our weddings. So how does it describe love? Are you acting that way toward your spouse? Are you patient with them even when they sin against you in the same ways over and over? Are you kind even when they’re unkind to you? Are you kind in your thoughts toward them? Do you envy them? Are these areas increasing?
2. Are you helping carry their burdens? Do you rejoice when they rejoice?
Another part of love is rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Nothing brings you closer to someone than sharing their deepest emotions. It brings unity and solidarity to a relationship. Are you trying to understand your spouse’s joys and burdens? Do you weep when they weep or do you judge their emotional responses? Do you listen to understand or do you listen to fix the problem? Do you offer solutions in times of sorrow or do you offer a safe place to show vulnerability? Do you rejoice with your spouse? When they’re excited about something do you share in their joy or point out things that could be better? Do you listen as they talk with joy or do you tune out? If you don’t share in your spouse’s emotions, they will learn not to share those emotions with you.
3. Do you let anger infuse your interactions with your spouse?
Anger is harmful to a relationship. A good question to ask about anger is why you are getting angry. Almost always, it’s not for good reasons that are focused on the good of others or the glory of God, but we get angry for selfish reasons. Our needs and desires are not being met and it’s frustrating so we get angry. This can be an aggressive anger that shouts and demands or a passive anger that avoids and silences. How often do you get angry toward your spouse? Do you harbor that anger and let it grow or do you talk about it with your spouse and try to work through it? Do you confront your spouse about their anger? Are you patient or quick to anger? If this is a struggle, ask God to give you insight into the cause of your anger and ask for self-control so that anger becomes less of a pattern for you.
4. Are you working hard or being lazy?
Taking out the garbage, yard work, finances, dishes, laundry and cooking- I bet when you hear each of those things you know who in your house is supposed to do them. It’s helpful to evaluate the strengths of each spouse and let them do the things they’re good at. But are the responsibilities split evenly in your relationship? Do each of you have the same amount of fun time at the end of the day? If one spouse is always working harder to carry more of the responsibilities, resentment can grow. We should have a heart to serve our spouse, not to take advantage of them, so it’s good to re-evaluate periodically to see if things have gotten out of balance.
5. Do you listen and ask questions to know your spouse better?
Part of being married is sharing life and caring for our spouse. Are you doing that in the way you engage in conversation with them? Do you have a consistent time in your day when you engage with your spouse to listen about their day? Do you always talk first and most? Do you listen and give your full attention when your spouse is talking or are you constantly looking at your phone and allowing for interruptions? Do you let your kids to interrupt your time? Communication with your spouse should be a top priority for your time at home.
6. Are you an encouragement to your spouse or are you always finding fault?
Sometimes I feel like encouragement in the world is as rare and valuable as a priceless jewel. It shouldn’t be that way in our churches or our homes. Are you encouraging toward your spouse? Do you leave encouraging notes for them? When was the last time you told them something you love about them or something they do well? Do you thank your spouse for the mundane things they do well and consistently? Are you more ready to point out something they did wrong or something they did well? Encouragement is a great motivator and energizer. Why wouldn’t we be doing that for the person we should love the most (besides God)?
As we ask these questions, we need to remember it is fully the grace of God that changes and sanctifies us. It’s a gift from His Spirit when spouses display His glory in a healthy and attractive marriage. Spend some time asking God to open your eyes to areas of sin toward your spouse. Pray that He will make you more aware of ways you can love your spouse well. Ask Him to grow you in the areas you are weak in and to give you patience where your spouse may fall short. May we all grow in grace and love toward our spouses.