I heard a nugget of truth several years back during an interview with a couple who had been married over fifty years. The interviewer asked the husband what the secret was to a happy marriage. His answer was so simple and so profound that it embedded firmly in my memory bank and I will share it with you.
Amazon and the internet are chock full of articles, podcasts, and videos that provide answers to that question. Authors and videographers from every stripe and background have an opinion – secular, Christian, New Age and everything in between.
A Google search on “keys successful marriage” reveals these titles on the first page of results:
- 8 Essentials for a Successful Marriage
- 15 Key Secrets To A Successful Marriage
- 3 Keys to My Successful Marriage
- 7 Love Keys To a Successful Marriage
- 5 Secrets of a Successful Marriage
So, how many keys are there? Had I clicked to page two, who knows what other numbers pop up? I’ve deliberately not published the hyperlinks because I have no clue if any are helpful. I suspect they contain factual and useful elements regardless of the spiritual leanings of the authors. All truth originates with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and each writer can specifically embrace or accidentally wander into what the Word of God declares.
In our counseling center, we see many clients (in-office and online) who are struggling with marriage issues. That is why they are looking for help.
My approach to helping people is to try to help them simplify complex issues. Get behind the presenting issues and discern the real roots of problems. There can be other concerns and facets, but I contend that most marriage issues stem from one primary source: selfishness.
If you are dealing with two selfish partners, the situation is usually chaotic, and the Lord needs to work a miracle to bring restoration. With one selfish partner, the union often limps along in survival mode, with one giving and the other taking. They seek counseling when the giver has reached the bottom of their barrel of what they have to offer.
The ideal situation, for any marriage, is when both partners choose to live unselfish lifestyles with each other and focus on meeting their partner’s needs in addition to their own. That’s one (of many) simple prescriptions in scripture: Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (He gave himself up (served) it) while wives are to submit (serve) their husbands (Eph 5:22-23, Eph 5:28, Eph 5:33).
If you’ve read this far, you’re curious enough to find out what the husband’s answer that I mentioned in the first paragraph. Here it is:
“Marry someone who is a better person than you and do whatever it takes to keep them happy.”
How’s that? Was it worth the wait? That phrase is the essence of unselfishness, don’t you think?
When I first heard this man’s response, I did not make a conscious effort to memorize it. The answer resonated with my spirit and stayed with me over the years. As a Christian husband with more than forty years logged with my fantastic wife, I knew that he had distilled many truths down to one nugget.
I have no idea whether he was a believer or not. There was no biblical reference or preaching involved. God’s principles work in every situation and I know many unsaved couples who have healthy and thriving marriages because they live this truth out day by day.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make your spouse happy (we’re not talking about weird, illicit or illegal stuff, right!)? You can begin to make that change in your relationship regardless of where your spouse is spiritually. Gain encouragement from 1 Peter 3:1. While it mentions wives specifically, I have seen husbands and wives receiving Jesus because of the behaviors (not words) of their partner.
If you are stuck in a difficult marriage, I am not presenting a quick fix remedy, nor encouraging staying in an abusive situation.
If you need help, get it. If your partner doesn’t submit to counseling as a couple, do it for yourself. God wants marriages whole, healthy and restored. He can show you how to cooperate with Him and walk in peace and victory as you make the journey.
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