Marriage is the relationship that began our family – and it is the priority relationship in that family.  The health of the marriage relationship affects every aspect of family life.  But how to have a good and strong marriage?  Well, that is a big question – but today I’m sharing some of the things outlined in Romans 12 that will really help to strengthen your relationships.

Once you became married, you became a family – joined together for better or worse. Children added to that family, and established different relationships in your family. Suddenly you were not only woman and wife, you were now woman, wife and mother. 

It is easy to focus on the relationship that requires the most effort. Obviously, our children are the most demanding, especially on our time and especially when they are young but we need to be very intentional to maintain that first relationship.

 I am reminded of something that I used to say to my children when they came to me grumbling, whining or complaining. I offered sympathy or empathy (depending on what was appropriate) so I am not being unfeeling but I then posed the question – So what are you going to do about it? This puts the problem fair and square in their court and they have to do the right thing themselves. 

This is my challenge – Yes, I hear you, those marriage issues are frustrating and hard, but what are you going to do about it? What is the right thing for you to do?

Let me just insert here – I’m talking to women who have generally healthy relationships.  These keys, or practices won’t fix an abusive situation.  If you aren’t safe – phsycially or emotionally, then you need to get help.  But even in healthy relationships we have struggles – it is these struggles that I’m talking about today.

 

Looking at the Bible

Often when we look at improving our marriage we look for keys that are unique to the marriage relationship – we search the Bible for verses that talk about marriage. But the bottom line is that marriage is simply a relationship with another person;  true, we spend a lot of time, in fact our whole life, with this other person which opens all sorts of challenges, conflicts and concerns (not to mention blessings, laughter and memories). 

The Bible is full of advice and principles for good relationships. So often we ignore these foundational principles in search of unique how-to’s specifically for marriage. 

These Biblical principles can be applied to any relationship; they can be taught to our children helping them develop relationships (both inside the family and outside), they can be applied to our girlfriend relationships, relationships within the church, but today I’m thinking about our responses and reactions to our husband – In terms of Biblical relationship advice – the marriage relationship isn’t so very different!

I’ve been reading Romans 12:9-18 and each verse has a key for us – full of good, practical advice! I am using the Amplified Bible as it is very descriptive and helps me see things in a new light.

 

Think on Good Things

v. 9 Let your love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil (loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness), but hold fast to that which is good.

 This is a good one to start with – it would be easy for us to focus on all the wickedness that we see in our husbands but the Word doesn’t stop there – the next bit says, hold fast to that which is good. We married our man for some reason – hold fast to that which is good.

 There is a story about a woman who wrote a list on the eve of her wedding of the 10 things she was going to forgive her husband for – whenever he did something annoying she reminded herself “that is on the list!” and promptly forgave and forgot! She never allowed herself to dwell on those negative things.  A wise woman!!

 

Love and Honour Him

v.10 Love one another with brotherly affection (as members of one family) giving precedence and showing honour to one another.

This verse ooses manners – do we use our manners towards our husband? When we relate to people with our manners we put them first, we do so out of respect of another person. When we show our manners we put our best foot forward – this should be an everyday occurrence not just for special visitors! Manners guide our actions and yet because of the closeness of our marriage relationship manners are often forgotten.

  • Please, thank you,
  • Excuse me, you go first,
  • I’m sorry,
  • May I help you?

These are the types of expressions that should be on our lips all the time.

Pray for Him

v 12. Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer.

Some of the issues that our husband puts us through are pure suffering and tribulation (well, it feels like it at the time!) But God is honest and real with us here – He doesn’t expect us to be able to get through hard things by ourselves – He warns us we need to pray – constantly! The answer for us is in that opening phrase to this verse – exult in hope. Not in the hope that our husband will change, but in the hope that God is with us.

 

Be Hospitable

v.13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people (sharing in the necessities of the saints); pursue the practice of hospitality.

I want you to reflect on the last time you showed hospitality to one of your friends – did you sit and have a cuppa, laugh together, did you prepare a special meal? I know we prepare meals for our husband (and kids), day in and day out. Hospitality isn’t about the food though it is about the heart. Is your heart a giving, blessing, lavishing heart or is it a practical, lets get this meal over heart. If we are to practice hospitality in our home, and in our marriage relationship in particular, we may need a heart adjustment.  Instead of being stingy with our time and efforts – we need to arrange our time, and energies to be able to give so that we can meet the needs of those in our house – starting with our husband.   

I think we have an instinctive reaction to this idea because we have this 1950’s Housewife picture in mind – where we have no identity except for doing everything for the man.  That is not where I’m coming from – but if we can be kind, generous, available, (words of hospitality) to our friends why not to our husband?

 

Be Kind

v. 14 Bless those who persecute you (those who hurt you); bless and do not curse them.

How quickly our tongue can lash out when we are hurt or disappointed. Can we rise above this and then say something kind? It is really hard sometimes!  How can we bless when someone (our husband)  is giving us a hard time?

  • We need to close our mouth (and pray) 
  • We can forgive
  • We can do nice things with our hands – show love

One of the hardest things to get our head around is that forgiving doesn’t remove the fact that they did something that has to be addressed – it really just adjusts our attitude so that we can be in a frame of mind to heal and move forward as you discuss the issue.  Forgivness does not mean to ignore the issue.  

 

Connect with his day

v.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice (sharing other’s joy) and weep with those who weep (sharing other’s grief)

It is easy, especially at the end of the day to give lip service to caring about our husband’s day. We listen but could we actually repeat what was said in 15 minutes time? If we are to show real empathy and concern we need to set aside time and listen with our ears and our heart. To be ready to rejoice, or weep, will show that we truly care. This may mean holding back our own news, good or bad, in order to support, love and bless the other person – our husband. We know what it is like to be in a conversation where we want to share something and the person we are telling hijacks our conversation with their own woes. Let us not do this to our husbands. Let’s listen with a ready heart.

This is a good example of where marriage is not 50-50 as many claim – it is 100-100. It isn’t a matter of you listening to him for 50% of the time and him listening to you. We need to give ourselves to our husband, to care and hear his heart 100% of the time. 

Even as I write this I feel but-but-but bubbling up in my heart.  Yes, there is a but.  If husbands were listening in to this – the same words can be said to them.  Remember this is relationship tips, it goes both ways.  But like I said to my kids – what are you going to do about it?  We can only be responsible for ourselves.  If your relationship is not reciprocated in love, availability, honour, care etc – then you need to talk about it and get help.  But in t hose relationships that are heealthy – where there is 100 – 100 – then we need to be able to sit and connect with his day.

 

Be accepting

v.16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive) but readily adjust yourself to (people) and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.

Adjust yourself – that is an interesting phrase.  It sounds like we need to change ourselves to make room for the other person.  And that is a bit on the dangerous side of relationships where we lose a sense of who we are.  But I don’t read this verse like that.  I think it means change your attitude so you can accept the other person.    Accept their quirks, opinions, annoying habits and so forth.  Living with another person needs us to just accept them for who they are.  The alternative is to try and change them – and that is just arrogant to think that the way we think they should be is the way they should be!  Like this verse says – be humble.

With this idea of being humble comes the idea of accepting the other person – and maybe focusing more on the things that we need to change in our own life.

 

It is up to you!

v.18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

A marriage is a two-people thing. But here we are reminded that it is up to us … I can make an impact on the atmosphere in our home and in our relationship. As far as I can – it is up to me. Am I prepared to put in the commitment, the effort, to change myself?

I am reminded that when our children have relational issues with each other I get them to focus on their issues, not their siblings. I remind the children that they are not responsible for the other person’s actions but they are responsible for their own reactions. The same is true in our husband/wife relationship. We cannot do anything to change our husband – that is up to him. We can do a lot to change ourselves – that needs to be our focus.

 

Heart-focused Action Step

I am going to encourage you to go and read Romans 12:9-18 and let God speak to your heart.  There’s been a lot that I’ve unpacked today.  What skill do you need to work on in your marriage?  Take it to God in prayer – if He has pointed this out to you, then He will give you the wisdom and strength to do what you need to do.

 

We often hear of people going out on married dates – and wonder how it is even possible. We need to understand the principle of married dates before we chase after the practice.

Every family situation is different – so we can’t just copy what other people do. But there is a place where we focus on being a man and woman not a dad and a mum, we do need to keep our relationship alive and more than a partnership doing all the business of running a family.

Date time will help with that – if we keep our focus on the purpose not how other people do it. One way that makes date time happen when family life is young and busy is to have stay-at-home dates. Scroll through this post for my top 6 tips.

Bonus tip: The more consistent your children’s bedtime is, the easier bedtime routines are and the quicker you have the capacity to have some time together at the end of the day.

How easy it is to point the finger at our spouse and say they need to change. But as I’m sure you know, when we point the finger, 3 are pointed back at us!!

We cannot change our spouse but we can change how we respond – we can do the right thing ourselves. It doesn’t mean all will be great – marriage is two sinners, two self-focused people coming together committed to living with the other person in mind. Committed to living in a way that shows love. There will be mistakes made, there will be bad habits to break – and we need to do our part instead of pointing out what the other person needs to do!

It’s not easy. But it is what God asks of us – and the Holy Spirit is there to help you.

Which of these three relational skills would you like me to address the next time I share about a heart-focused marriage?

Please Share

Can I ask you to share this episode.  If you have a friend you talk marriage stuff over with, or family life in general – can you please forward the link to them and tell them you found it a helpful listen?  Or maybe take a screenshot and share it on Instagram.  You could tag me, @BelindaLetchford so I know you’ve found it valuable.  But either way, I appreciate you listening in.

Further Reading:

3 Little Changes that will Make a Big Difference in your Family Life:  Sometimes it is the little things that we can change in our family or parenting that will make the biggest changes or difference.

How to Develop Habits in your Life3 thoughts to help you develop healthy character-based habits in your life. 

My Husband Won’t Change – and What You Can do About it:  We can’t make our husband change but we can keep our heart right while we let him be on his own journey.

 

 

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