Myths of Christian Marriage

Q: We have a Christian marriage—so why is it so painful? Shouldn’t being believers shield us from the problems we’re having?

A: Many Christian marriages just are not going well. Both spouses are Christians, but they can’t seem to get along. Both worship the same God, but have completely different understandings of how to live life. Sometimes they treat money differently, discipline the kids differently, worship differently, communicate differently, or even have very different religious beliefs. At other times, one spouse claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t live a Christian lifestyle.

The reality of marriage is tough. Since we’re fallen humans, we often face disappointment. Discouragement looms over us and, unless confronted and resolved, it distances us from our mates. Then we become angry with God and cry out, “Why have you allowed all of this hurt to enter my life?”

The hard truth is, your marriage will not be perfect just because you’re Christians. Beware of buying into the following myths:

Myths of Christian Marriage 

Myth #1: If I have a daily quiet time and attend church regularly, I’ll have a happy marriage.

In church you often hear that if you spend time with God every morning and study the Bible, your life and marriage will go well. The truth is, every couple goes through tough times—even Christians. Jesus clearly states that “on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33).

Myth #2: Our marriage will be divorce-proofed if we’re both Christians.

Many Christian couples feel ashamed when they stand at the brink of divorce. They don’t think anyone will understand, so they wait to go for help until it’s too late. The truth is, being a Christian doesn’t guarantee you won’t feel like getting divorced. The key to a strong, divorce-proofed marriage is the hard work of living out what you believe and upholding the virtues of Christlikeness—especially during the difficult times.

Myth #3: Scripture can be a simple guide for our marriage.

Scripture can be a valuable guide for daily living—as long as you don’t misinterpret what it says. Scripture teaches that God intends for man and wife to be one unit, working together for the good of the whole. That means using your giftedness. Together you make better decisions than you do individually.

Myth #4: We need to keep our marital problems to ourselves.

You may imagine that everyone else has a happy and put-together marriage, so you don’t confess or share your problems with anyone who can help. But the truth is, God created us as social beings to live in community where we can help each other. By keeping quiet, you hinder the healing that could have come from sharing with these other people who may have faced what you’re facing. This type of sharing needs to come in ways that are not hurtful to each other and to people who can truly help.

Myth #5: Christian couples don’t fight.

Many Christian couples think that “peace-making” means not fighting, so they deny any negative feelings. They let things build until they explode over something trivial. It’s okay to fight. In the Bible it says, “‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). We challenge you and your mate to bring up whatever has been bothering you within twenty-four hours. You’ll be amazed how your mate may respond. Just saying, “I feel angry,” will defuse feelings. Humble yourself enough to apologize and put things behind you.

Myth #6: I need to pray for God to change my spouse.

Many people spend much time in prayer begging God to change their spouses. They think that they’d be happy if only their spouses were different. Therefore, many couples find that as much as they pray, they don’t see any significant change in their spouses. The truth is: God wants to change you first.

Myth #7: The husband should be stronger in his faith than the wife.

We each grow toward Christ in our own way and time. Many wives become critical of their husbands’ lack of spiritual leadership, which causes them to push and their husbands to retreat. Remember: You are not responsible for your mate’s spiritual life. Step aside and let God work—that’s when your mate will feel God calling him or her to get serious about his relationship with Christ. It takes time, but only God can make a husband the strong loving leader that the wife always wanted.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Unlock Your Husband's Heart

A man’s heart is a precious and private thing. A man is less likely than a woman to bare his soul or communicate every thought. His heart is often locked up and protected.

As his wife, you hold the key to your husband’s heart. You are the one person who knows his deepest needs, the quiet things of his soul, his search and struggle for significance, his strengths, and the weaknesses he can hide from others but not from you.

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Make no mistake: You have significant influence in his life. A great deal of a man’s personal success and right choices can be traced back to the woman who whispers affirmation and encouragement in his ear at night. Here are ways you can love your husband:

Honor him and his world. Most men would admit that deep inside still lives a boy and his dreams. Wives, close your eyes for a moment and envision your husband as an energetic, bright-eyed ten-year-old shooting baskets—totally in love with life! His future at that point was all promise. He had great dreams and plans, perhaps to be a basketball star, a global adventurer, or president of the United States. Now think about your husband as he is today. Has he quit dreaming? If so, when did it happen, and why? Men need their wives to dream with them, to envision the possibilities, and to walk courageously into change. A man longs for the freedom to fully be who he is, assured that his wife will stand beside him through it all.

Avoid sabotage. You would never intentionally harm your husband, but you can inadvertently sabotage him without realizing it. How? By misusing power. Do you have any idea how influential you are in your husband’s life? It’s your voice that whispers into his ear at night. Your beliefs, behaviors, and decisions have as great an impact on him as most other forces. He listens to you and trusts your advice and counsel—whether it seems like it or not. This incredible influence carries with it great responsibility.

Love him unconditionally. Every one of us longs to be loved with no strings attached. Do you love your husband for who he is—right now, with all his imperfections? Or do you watch his every move with a critical eye? You can measure your love for your husband by comparing it to the standard described in 1 Corinthians 13. Are you patient and kind, or are rude and demanding of your own way? Do you keep records of your husband’s wrongs? Do you continue bringing up what was dealt with long ago? If you do not love your husband for all he is, you are leaving him vulnerable and your marriage unguarded.

Understand your differences. Yes, men and women are different. One of the most reckless things a woman can do is insist that her husband want what she wants, feel as she feels, behave as she behaves, think as she thinks. Likewise, I don’t know a woman who would want her husband to insist that she want, feel, behave, and think the way he does. Respect the gender differences by encouraging him to be all the man God created him to be!

Honor his friendships. Can you remember some of the guys your husband hung around with when you first met? Is he still in touch with them? Does he have a group of male friends? Your husband needs like-minded Christian men to reinforce his character qualities. He needs to be around guys who want to follow Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. Give him space to connect with other men who will sharpen him as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Be his complement, his “helpmate.” Your very uniqueness can offer your husband qualities that fully complete him as no one else can! You can complete your husband and guard his heart by working with him, not against him. How? If your husband is struggling in an area, pray for him. Talk to him if he is open to that. Listen to what he is saying and not saying. And then let God work in his heart.

Commit yourself to him and to God. A wife may feel that she made a commitment once and for all to her husband on her wedding day. And in a way, she did. But recommitment needs to happen each day. Similarly, your lifetime commitment to God should be renewed daily as you seek to follow Christ moment by moment. Without a doubt, the most lasting gift you can give your husband is your rock-solid faith in Jesus Christ. Live your life with God as your first love. When you experience God’s unconditional love, he fills you to overflowing. And your husband benefits from the overflow of your dependence on Christ.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Set Up Guardrails to Protect Your Marriage

David and Joseph. Two prominent Bible characters. Both were godly men who faced sexual temptation. One yielded and paid a dear price for it. The other ran from temptation and was rewarded by God, even though he was falsely accused of sexual assault by the spurned temptress. We are talking, of course, about King David’s affair with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) and Joseph’s temptation at the hands of Potiphar’s wife (see Genesis 39).

The contrast between how these two men responded to sexual temptation is striking.  King David spied Bathsheba bathing. Instead of curbing his misdirected sexual desire, he sought the woman out, took her to bed, got her pregnant, and eventually murdered her husband in an attempt to cover his sin. Their child died as part of God’s judgment.

If anything, Joseph’s temptation was even more intense than David’s. Joseph wasn’t searching the rooftops looking for trouble as David was. Joseph was going about his business as Potiphar’s trusted servant when his boss’s wife threw herself at him and invited him to her bed. What pressure! Yet Joseph did not hesitate or waver. He ran from temptation, even though he ended up in prison on a trumped-up charge.

One of the most subtle and potentially destructive threats to your marriage comes in the form of sexual temptation. We use the word subtle because it is rare to hear of someone like Joseph being overtly and purposely seduced by a person other than his or her spouse. The enemy of your heart and home doesn’t really need a gaping opening like that to ignite temptation. All he needs is a moment of unguarded fascination or attraction, a second glance at an attractive person, a sharing of marital problems with a “concerned friend,” or a few unbridled thoughts about “what if?” Like a cancer, small impure thoughts can grow into a disease that will threaten the life of your marriage.

How can you respond like Joseph instead of David in the face of sexual temptation? Guarding love sets guardrails into place long before the temptation hits. Like the guardrails on a steep, winding mountain road, these relational guardrails will protect you from plunging over the edge.

Let’s look at four important guardrails against the dangers of sexual temptation:

A strong relationship with the Father. A vital, growing relationship with God is your strongest guardrail. He knows how you are wired emotionally and sexually. The closer you stay to him, the greater will be your access to his wisdom and counsel for resisting sexual temptation.

A cautious relationship with people of the opposite sex. We’re not suggesting that you cut off all contact with the opposite sex. We’re talking about being cautious and alert to temptation and maintaining a margin of physical and emotional distance that will help you resist those temptations.

An open relationship with other Christians. You need a small group of trusted friends to encourage you to remain pure, to edify you when you are struggling, and to help restore you if you step over the line in some way.

A fulfilling relationship with your spouse. When you are emotionally or sexually thirsty, quench your thirst with your own spouse. When you are fully satisfied in your relationship with your spouse, neither of you will need to look elsewhere for gratification.

*Our book, Guard Your Heart, can help equip you and your spouse with the tools to protect your marriage. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Can We Turn Things Around?

Are the problems in your marriage tearing you and your spouse apart? Is there anything that can be done to turn things around when you feel at the end of your rope? Yes!

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Believe it or not, there is a way not only to survive trials but also to grow even stronger in the process. How can you make sure that you and your spouse have what it takes to get through these storms? Here are five vital keys to building a fortress of love that will protect your marriage.

Connect and Stay Connected

Your ability to endure together in the hard times is directly proportional to the depth of your partnership in good times. Two hearts must link up to grow strong together. If you want to stay glued together in difficulties, you have to apply the cement of partnership now. Before you go your separate ways each day, give each other a heartfelt, “I love you.” Stay connected by calling each other during the day. Do what it takes to feel connected and present for each other even when you’re apart.

Make Your Relationship a Safe Place

Is your relationship a safe place where both of you can run from the troubles of life? Your spouse needs to know now that your loving arms will always be a shelter in the midst of a trial or tragedy. He or she will sense that assurance only if you practice empathy and comfort now.

Keep Communicating

It’s difficult to communicate during tough times. Even the smallest of trials can drive a wedge between a husband and wife. And if small conflicts can divide you, think how much more some of the devastating blows of life can push you apart. Trials are a threat to communication because they isolate you in your own thoughts. Trials have a way of forcing even the most communicative people inward.

Rest in the Truth That God Has a Purpose for Trials

If it were up to us, we would choose to navigate through life with as few problems as possible. God doesn’t see things our way, however. He has allowed trials in our lives to teach us to persevere.

Great marriages are often forged through difficult trials. Whatever you may be facing in your marriage right now, let the words of James 1:2-4 be both instruction and comfort: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Decide to Tackle Trouble Together—Wherever It Takes You

We have found that our love for each other is glorious in the good times—the vacations on the beach, the memory-making experiences with the kids, the times of deep intimacy together with Jesus Christ. It’s easy to love in the good times. But when our marriage comes under intense testing, we still have in our possession what really matters: A love that won’t quit. No matter where our trials take us, we have each other.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Bring Back the FUN!

Q: Our marriage is—well—boring. How can we bring back the fun?

A: On your wedding day, you were flooded with joy over your spouse and you gladly proclaimed your undying commitment to each other in front of family and friends. It was a moment when all the emotion of King Solomon’s love poem came fully alive: “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

But maintaining the I’m-rejoicing-over-you attitude isn’t automatic once your relationship has logged some miles and picked up a few dents and dings. It’s even worse if you carry around lots of unresolved disappointments. Where did the magic go?  Is there any way to get the magic back? We’re glad you asked! Read on . . .

1.  Put Each Other at the Top of the List

Move each other to the top of your to-do lists, just below your love for Jesus. You must make spending time together a priority, just as you did when you were first dating. We are amazed at how many people buy into the idea that “quality time” with their spouse and children is sufficient. Quality time is a myth. You need hundreds of hours of quantity time before you can enjoy real quality time.

Let your body language demonstrate that your spouse is your priority. Make eye contact. Give undivided attention. When you walk together, hold hands.

Instead of evaluating your daily success by how many tasks you check off your to-do list, ask whether they are the right tasks, those that properly balance God time, personal time, and family time. Your attention to the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with God will give you access to the only power source that will ultimately satisfy, allowing you to properly honor your family.

2.  Confess to Each Other

Unresolved offenses block all kinds of intimacy—emotional, physical, and spiritual. We know this from our own experience and from talking to countless couples whose love has grown cold. Trying to get close while those hurts remain is like trying to hurdle a hundred-foot wall. It won’t happen.

When you sense a wall between you and your spouse, something is very wrong. Husbands, why not take the lead to address the pain and restore intimacy? Become responsible for the tone of the relationship and get your marriage back on course, especially if you are guilty of contributing to the pain.

3.  Get to Know Each Other Again

Most men tell us that they were far more successful at connecting with their wives before marriage or before children. And many women report to us that as family responsibilities and challenges mount, they lose track of their husband’s most heartfelt needs. Recapturing the joy in your relationship requires that you get to know your spouse all over again.

Try some of your old favorites again. What are some of the things you and your spouse did when you first met and married? You know the things we mean: hobbies, sports, shopping, cheap dates, even parking beside the lake. Your spouse’s interests don’t have to be your favorite things to do, but you can take turns participating in each other’s favorites. Honoring your spouse means sacrificing some of your own agenda to please each other.

4. Rethink Your Thinking

You probably know someone who is always negative, who always sees the dark side of everything. Whether the subject is work, church, or spouse, that person notices flaws and failures everywhere.

What tapes are you playing over and over in your mind about your spouse? Can you change the way you think about your spouse? Absolutely. We believe it is possible to learn to fall in love again; you only have to do two things:

  1. Be willing to fall in love with your spouse again.

  2. Control your thoughts. Change the focus of your thinking to the qualities that caused you to fall in love with your spouse in the first place.

Ask God to refresh your love for your spouse. Even if you currently complain to yourself about your spouse a hundred times a day, even if you genuinely feel your marriage has gone bad, even if many days you don’t feel in love anymore, you can change. God can still help you develop a celebrating love.

5.  Rekindle Romance and Physical Intimacy

Sex is part of this, but even more important is making sure your spouse feels cherished. Even more important is the need for just plain fun time. Decide with each other what “fun time” looks like for the two of you. Then plan it. Sit down with your calendar and be serious about setting time for not being so serious. Agree that during fun time, you will be relaxed and upbeat with one another. This is not compatible with dealing with issues. Agree to solve conflicts before or after fun time.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!