What Makes a Marriage Work?


The Marriage License by Norman Rockwell June 11, 1955 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post

There are no secrets to a happy marriage. God has given principles that when followed, we are blessed. But because we all sin and must all submit to God and to each other, marriages don’t always end up heavenly.

Marriage Started with God creating woman to be a helpmeet for man.
That premise is essential to making a marriage work.
Man was created to do something.
Men need to work. (Remember Adam was given a job—to name the animals.)
Men's self-worth is tied to what they do.
They are challenged by their work. They thrive doing it.
They would probably live at their job, if it weren’t for women.

Woman was made to be his helpmeet. That doesn’t mean she does his job. That means she helps him as he does what he should. She helps him keep his focus.

Which leads to the second point.
Marriage has a place.
It is not an afterthought, or an accident that Titus 2:5 tells women to be “workers at home.”
My husband has told me multiple times when I’m not home (which is rare) and he is, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He “wanders aimlessly.” He has plenty to do but can’t focus.
We anchor our men to home.
What keeps him coming home is YOU.

If we aren’t home, they drift.
If you complain, cling, demand, whine and nag about how much time he works (doing what he needs to do), then he will find reasons not to come home. Why come home to a nag?
Often that tempts your husband by some woman at work who listens and treats him special.
Create a haven where your husband wants to come home.

Some people assume, just because they’re both Christians, all will be well.
It’s like assuming your house will stay clean after living in it for 30 years without cleaning it.
The Christian life is a walk. And you must take each step, one at a time, but united with your husband to grow together.
So just staying at home will not bring him home.

We all know nice people who have divorced.
What happened?
They forgot why they married.
They allowed other things to draw them away from what was once the only thing they wanted.

Which leads to the next point.
Marriage has a purpose.
We live in a world where we can “Try It and See If We Like It”—Get 30 Day-Free-Trial—Have It Now, Pay Later.
Somehow, we’ve also attributed that attitude to marriage. If we don’t like who we chose, we can trade him in for a better model.
We have forsaken the commitment “till death do us part.”
That’s a long time with someone imperfect!
We can find out a lot of dirt on someone until he dies.
Nobody has a perfect husband. Some are nasty, mean, selfish and inconsiderate.
Nor did we leave our sin nature at the altar when we said, “I do.”
Yet God says, “’I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16).
When we don’t consider divorce as an option, we must work together to change, or accept what hell on earth we’ve married or created.
Marriage takes work.
From both people.

Which brings us to the first purpose of marriage.
Marriage represents what Christ did for the Church.
When men marry, they think (erroneously) they’ve “won” their princess. That’s one challenge they can check off their list and move on to the next challenge.
But the act of winning their princess, continues through their entire lifetime as they learn to love their queen.

When the Bible speaks of “living with your wife in an understanding way” that doesn’t mean a man will understand his wife, but he will strive, not to conquer her, but to know her. And because she is ever changing (sometimes daily), what he learns about her today, may not be who she is tomorrow.
As my husband tells me, “it’s a challenge every day that I love.”
Men are to love their wives. They are to show the world by how they love their wives what Christ did for the Church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. . .” Ephesians 5:26-28.
The world should look at a married Christian couple and say, “I want that.”

How does the woman act as the Bride of Christ?
Debi Pearl in Created To Be His Help Meet shares stories about wives who changed how they treated their husbands and saved their marriages.
Sometimes the husband didn’t change. He remained that awful jerk that caused their marriage problems. But the woman obeyed God, regardless of what her husband did, and she was blessed and her marriage was saved.
They became the helpmeet God wanted them to be.
Keep Your Husband King
He must be your number one priority.

The balance of being a mom and a wife, especially when children are small and demanding is difficult. We often get caught up in “being the mom” and forget why we got married. It’s not for the children, although they are great. It’s for your husband.

When children become teenagers, many couples, because they are busy with “life,” do not realize they’ve drifted apart. The wife thrives in their children’s activities; the husband works over-time or his job takes him away more nights than not.

When the children are gone, don’t become that “doting” mother who doesn’t let her children go, because she doesn’t know the man she sleeps with.

Other wives, after the children leave, fill their time with an outside job. Her husband may have been waiting for her undivided attention. Now the job takes the place of the children, and he’s still at the bottom of her list.

No man would deny his wife her “dream” career, but he may resent his wife’s divided heart. She no longer serves him exclusively; her job sucks her time, energy and life. She has nothing left for her husband.

Especially when your time is stretched, make him your priority.
If you treat your husband like a king, he will treat you like a queen.

Respect is key to being that helpmeet
Many of us expect our husbands to love us even when we are ugly. And they do. And they should.
But we don’t play fair when our husbands don’t deserve our respect or haven’t earned it, so we won’t give it to them.
We don’t respect our husbands because they deserve it.
It’s not a conditional request. It’s a position they hold that requires it.
My mom was an example of a woman who gave respect to my dad, even though he didn’t deserve it. He treated her like dirt. He did not protect or provide for her, let alone cherish her. Yet Mom didn’t have that hard look of someone who fought God and lost. God has rewarded her for her respect.

You can’t do this on your own.
But the great thing is, you don’t have to.
God wants your marriage to succeed. And God has given you the instruction to do it.
Bringing your hurts and dreams to the foot of the cross will help you submit to what your husband wants from you.
Submission takes God’s help.
Submission to an imperfect man takes more of God’s help.
Submission is needed to fulfill another purpose of marriage.

Marriage gives the framework for us to “fill the earth.”
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
We don’t just marry to have a “fun partner” so you won’t be lonely.
God gave marriage to fill the earth.
When you or your husband control “when” or even “if” that time is right, you have left the third cord, God, out of the counsel.
This will lead to problems because it disobeys God.
God brought the two together to be one flesh.

Intimacy in the bedroom reflects all other areas of married life: if a couple fights over money or priorities, or if love and respect isn’t there, then intimacy will be forced, mechanical, and definitely not bring you together in soul and spirit.
This is a far cry from Ephesians 5:31 where God says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
Intimacy unites the couple to be one in more ways than just body. It is soul, and spirit.

[That is why divorce is so devastating. You are vulnerable with your husband. You trust him with everything, and now that security is destroyed—Like ripping apart a woven garment, the threads are so interwoven with each other, the entire material must be destroyed to separate the threads.]

Marriage is for service
We didn’t get married just because we loved each other and couldn’t live without one another, although that is true.
We married because we wanted to serve God together.
The picture of the couple staring into each other’s eyes show how many couples start their lives together, romantic and precious.
But I like the picture of the couple who are staring off in the distance together. They’re not just living for each other. They seek to obey God. They strive to live together doing God’s work.
By serving God together, they stay grounded with God. The man is doing what God called him to do. The woman is helping.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
God is that third cord. His cord won’t let us be broken.

When we married, we committed with God and each other to work together with God to do what He wanted for us.
That means, what my husband does is also best for me.
So when he was deployed twice, he would remind me it was good for me and the boys, because it was given by God. That helped me accept his long time he was gone. I don’t like it, but I can accept it. I can be content where God places me. And contentment does bring joy, even in sad times.

How do you deal with long separations?
Maybe your husband is gone—a lot. You feel like you’ve raised the kids by yourself. Now the kids are gone. You are alone. And lonely.
Your loneliness when he’s gone may not go away, but the time he returns will be more precious.
All women have lonely times.
We are not “complete” in ourselves. Those lonely times should drive us to God.

No man can fill that void that God made for Himself. He wants to make us complete.
When we demand or expect a man to meets all our needs, we are asking him to be God.
Every man will fail.

That is not what a man is meant to do.
My husband with full-time work, army drill, and being a church leader requires a lot of time away from me. Especially when the boys need decisions and advise from a man’s view. It is frustrating. It is lonely. It is hard.
He evaluates every year whether he should stay in the army. He asks me. I don’t like the time the army takes away, but I know he needs it. He often speaks to someone about God. He has a ministry there. I share in his ministry by praying that soldiers know God better because of his witness. He makes a difference.

Which leads to the final point.
Marriage Makes Us Complete
God has given marriage to make us complete.
Just as Ephesians 5:26-28 describes the need for a man to love his wife, it also tells the husband to make his wife complete.

My husband prays daily, asking God how he should love me as Christ loved the church. It is one prayer that he implores God for the answer. He receives his answer by how I have responded with respect.
It’s not a formula or a list or a box to check. Because each day, I need something different.
That keeps him before God asking. That keeps me looking to God to accept his love. We look up first.
My husband’s prayer is to present me to God “complete.”

Marriage is a perfecting process.
Two imperfect people must submit to each other under God to do together what one could not.
Paul says, “This mystery is great” (Ephesians 5:32).
Although he’s referring back to how Christ loves and completes the church, God does bring a mystery to the couple who follows His will.
He makes two people one.
How does He bring two to serve as one, accomplishing more than what two people could do alone?
I’d say, “That’s a mystery!”
We reflect to a lost world, what God wants to do for His Church.
God makes us one—united, complete, whole and not alone.
What makes a marriage work?
One simple word—God.

*Couple disclaimers:
1-Marriage takes two. If one is not willing to look to God and change, only so much can be done. Men are to be the leaders. Much hinges on their obedience. But God does bless your obedience as his wife.
2-Marriage is a complex subject, involving two broken people. I don’t mean to simplify it into a list to check off and assure success. Life and definitely people aren’t like that.
3-There are exceptions to the “no divorce policy” especially when physical abuse is involved. 

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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