The Key to a Great Marriage

As a marriage counselor it is my privilege to help people realize the marriage they desire and that God intends for them to have. For the past few weeks I have been preparing for a marriage seminar I will be presenting this coming weekend. I am excited for the opportunity that this format will offer for people to find new ways to experience God’s design for their marriage. As I have been prayerfully readying myself I can’t seem to help but consider the question; What is the single most important key to a great marriage?

There are many keys obviously, enough to resemble the overfull ring hanging from the belt loop of my high school janitor. But if I had to pick just one…which would it be? I understand the importance of Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”. It is incredibly important that we show love and respect in the ways we are commanded to here in this verse. It is true, especially in times of conflict that women need to know they are loved by their husbands. Likewise, it is also in these very times that a man is acutely aware of his need to be respected by his wife. I believe that these primary needs required for a marriage to be seen as in good standing have been given them by God to reflect the needs He has for those very same things. God is quite clear that we must love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also makes no bones about the fact that we must respect Him to the point of having no other gods before Him. He requires our unconditional love and respect, and so gives to us the need for the same…unconditionally. A clear understanding of this is key…but is it THE key?

Another key that quickly comes to mind is considering each other’s thoughts. Proverbs makes it quite clear that if we want to succeed, we must consider each other’s thoughts. Furthermore, we must understand that our spouse’s thoughts are equivalent in value and importance to our own. We have trouble with this I get it…we all have a tendency to believe our thoughts to be correct and best, but God’s word seems to differ. It appears that the intent of God is that complete thought on a given matter is not possible without considering the thoughts of our spouse. In fact, no decision…unless failure is the desired outcome…should ever be made without the input of the one He has given to us. Proverbs 31:10,11 read “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. When this was written, men made all the decisions for a home and for that reason it was stated in this direction, but in our current culture where decisions are made by both husband and wife, I think the reverse reading of the scripture would not be inappropriate. I believe the overall understanding God wants us to have is that He desires we consider the thoughts and ideas of the spouse He gifted us with so that together we can make decisions that are more complete, and bear a closer resemblance to wisdom. Although highly important to good communication, is it THE key?

For THE KEY to a great marriage I would have to look to Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectionate to one another…in honor giving preference to one another.” One version puts it this way, “Outdo each other at putting the other first”. Preferring one another in my humble opinion is THE KEY to a great marriage. When we practice putting our spouses needs above our own we shift our marriage into overdrive, you know, the gear where we are able to cruise with the greatest efficiency. Undoubtedly, preferring one another is not promoted by our society. Everything the world puts in front of us says that preferring someone else above yourself will get you run over, make you unhappy and will leave you with unmet needs of your own. Worldly wisdom at its finest, but terribly, terribly incorrect. Marriage is a spiritual experience; therefore, spiritual principles apply. When we prefer one another in marriage we remove from our spouse the compulsion to try to get their own needs met, and they become free to focus on our needs. The fact that their needs are being given higher priority than our own spurs them to reciprocate. So, preferring does not get you run over, it ensures you will not be run over. It does not make one unhappy in increases their joy. It does not leave one with unmet needs it sees to it that the needs they have are met over and over again.

Perhaps most important, preferring one another follows exactly the example of Christ toward His bride, the church.  Husbands are told specifically to follow this example. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her. And written to wives; the verse before…just as the church prefers Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything. Christ left Heaven where I imagine He had need of nothing. There He reigned supreme along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He had no need to come to earth, He did it because WE had need of Him to come. He preferred His bride and met her need when He had no personal obligation to do so. The example then is that He made Himself lower so He could elevate us, (His bride) higher…the ultimate in preferring another.

So then if we are to be good “Christ followers” as husbands and wives, THE KEY is to prefer one another in LOVE. Paul reminds us what that should look like in 1 Corinthians 13. It means we must prefer one another even if we don’t feel it is being reciprocated. We do it as an act of kindness, we don’t pat ourselves on the back when we prefer one another, and we don’t become prideful because we are doing what we ought. We mustn’t prefer our spouse just so that we will be preferred in return, and we can’t keep a scoresheet of who has done it first most often. If we are going to use THE KEY to a great marriage correctly, we must simply do it in response to the fact that Christ did it for us.

So now, holding THE KEY to your great marriage…Go be awesome!