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4 Things Christian Marriage Requires of Us Beyond Love

SPEAKER/COACH/PODCAST HOST

I used to think all that was needed to ensure a healthy marriage was love. And then I got married and quickly realized as Don Henley and Patty Smyth sang in their 90’s hit song, “Baby, sometimes love just ain’t enough.” Love is our highest aim; it’s as the apostle Paul describes in I Corinthians 13, “the greatest of these.” So, I’m not negating the necessity for love in marriage, I’m challenging the notion that love is all you need to make a marriage thrive.

The Beatles sang “All You Need is Love,” but interestingly, Paul McCartney has been married three times, and John Lennon was married twice. Before his death, he confessed to having more than 300 affairs while married to his first wife and multiple affairs while married to his second. If these are the people Americans look to as “idols,” it’s no wonder we have a faulty understanding of how love works in marriage.

Love is foundational. It’s like flour to a cake. Your marriage rises and falls depending on how much love is present. However, just as a cake needs other essential ingredients to be palatable and sustainable, so does marriage.

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Nghia Trinh

Married Couple

1. Connection

Connection in marriage is the thread that ties two partners together. It’s what intimacy is built upon. A couple may experience physical pleasure without connection, but they will never enjoy the depth of intimacy without a genuine connection. When a person feels disconnected from his/her spouse, he/she feels lonely, unwanted, unnecessary, and used. The love is likely still present, but someone’s heart isn’t. Connection is built upon presence. To build a strong, connected marriage, each spouse has to be present emotionally and physically. This can be difficult for couples whose time together is often interrupted by military deployments, long work hours, or other travel.

But you can be in the same room with your spouse and not be present. This is why I encourage couples who want to work on their connection to take my How Connected Are You? Partner Quiz. The quiz highlights areas of weakness and gives them solutions to be more available and deepen their connection with their spouse.

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Mukesh Mohanty

Couple's Hands Holding Scrabble Letters Spelling 'Forever and Always'

2. Communication

By far, the biggest problem couples have that causes them to seek out my help is communication. Or so they think. Communication is not a problem when you are truly connected to your spouse. The bulk of my work as a marriage coach is to help couples build deeper connection. However, there are some communication best practices that every couple can improve upon. We must remember that communication is a two-way process by which one person sends information and the other person receives that information. The issue in most marriages is that spouses are often more concerned with sending information than receiving information.

Most arguments start with a disagreement, right? A couple I recently coached (let’s call them Sam and Sandy) argued profusely about seemingly everything. Sam and Sandy would show up to their marriage coaching sessions charged up and ready to go to war with each other. I had to interject several times to remind them they were playing for the same team. Sam felt Sandy overtalked him, and Sandy didn’t feel that Sam ever truly listened to her when she spoke. Sandy is an analytical learner who prizes facts and data, so she felt the need to systematically report all of her findings on Sam’s shortcomings to him. Feeling attacked by Sandy’s account of his failures, Sam often cut her off mid-sentence and refused to agree that he needed to change. It didn’t take long at all for us to realize the couple had a major listening problem.

Listening is a learned skill. Sadly, most of us were never taught how to actually listen. We listen to respond and not to understand. Therein lies the problem. When a couple learns how to communicate as both the sender and the receiver, they will notice their “communication problems” suddenly decrease. The bedrock of effective communication is respect. Only when we truly respect our spouse will we allow their words to penetrate our ears and into our hearts.

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Leah Newhouse

3. Commitment 

3. Commitment

Christian marriages are built on commitment. We stand before God and our chosen witnesses to commit to a marriage covenant: an unbreakable promise. In biblical times, covenants were essential to God’s redemptive plan to restore humanity to its divine calling. God is serious about covenant. He never breaks his promise.

  • He made a covenant with Noah to never flood the earth again (Genesis 9:11)
  • He made a covenant with Abraham to make him the father of a great nation with a permanent land (Genesis 15:18) 
  • He made a covenant with Moses and the Israelites to be God’s treasured possession of kings and priests (Exodus 19:5-6)
  • He made a covenant with David that he would always have a successor as ruler on the throne (2 Chronicles 7:18)
  • He made a covenant through Jesus —the New Covenant of eternal life for you and me (Luke 22:20)

God doesn’t break covenant. Sadly, throughout history, humans have shown that we don’t honor our commitment or hold up our end of the covenant as we should. This is mostly seen in the many Christian divorces that occur more and more each year. Without commitment, marriage is simply relegated to a temporal, conditional relationship that lasts only as long as the good feelings do.

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Happy couple kiss husband and wife

4. Calling

“Are you called to marry this person?” I ask whenever I counsel premarital couples. After their eyebrows return to their resting place, they usually stammer, “Uh, yes. I think so.” You think so? Marriage is a commitment, but it is also a calling. Not everyone is called to be married. I’m sure your mind is filling up with examples from your extended family who fit the bill.

In their book and premarital program Called Together, Steve and Mary Prokopchak explain that premarital counseling “helps to build a couple’s faith, or it will reveal to the couple that they are, in fact, not called together.” More Christians need to stop asking if their future spouse is “the one for me” and start asking if their future spouse is “the one I am called to be with.” When you know that the Lord has called you together with your spouse, arguments, different values, and even tragedies won’t tear you apart. This is why marriage must be a communal decision. Far too many lovestruck twenty-somethings (and fifty-somethings, for that matter) marry without seeking honest input from their family, pastors, and friends. When you’re called to marry a person, your faith community will know it, too.

Now we’re cooking. We have our essential ingredients blended together to make a beautiful marriage: connection, communication, commitment, and calling. Colossians 3:14 sums it up like this, And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.
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