In marriages throughout the world, the relationship between husbands and wives has its ups and downs, smooth stretches and rough patches. That is true whether the parties involved are Christians or non-Christians. Sometimes the struggles which married couples face are trivial and temporary. Other struggles are more deep-rooted and long-lasting.
As a Christian, when the relationship between me and my spouse is facing tension and tough tests, I need to stay committed to God’s will for our marriage. Here are some Bible principles for me to keep in mind when my marriage is struggling:
I need to do my best to apply Luke 6:31 in my dealings with my spouse (“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise”).
I need to do my best to apply my part of Ephesians 5:25 (husbands, love your wives) or Titus 2:4,5 (wives, love your husbands).
I need to do my best to apply 1 Peter 3:8 (“having compassion for one another . . . be courteous”).
I need to do my best to apply 1 Corinthians 13:5a (love “does not behave rudely”).
I need to do my best to apply Ephesians 4:32 (“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you”).
All of those matters mentioned above, including the attitudes and actions which are so necessary when my marriage is struggling, are tremendously important when my marriage is not struggling, too! Do not wait until disaster has struck to start being the kind of spouse God wants you to be right now.
I need to ask some tough questions. First of all, “Why? Why is our marriage struggling?” Before we can take positive steps to build a more stable future, we must identify the reason(s) for our marital struggle. Is it a communication issue? Are busy schedules limiting our time together? Is someone looking outside the marriage for the affection and attention of a third party? Are financial matters keeping our nerves on edge all the time? Has someone been abusive in either a physical or verbal manner?
I need to ask, “How important is my marriage to me?” What kind of effort am I willing to put forth to make our relationship better (or in some cases, what am I willing to do to save it from total destruction)? I know when God joins a couple in marriage, He does not want that bond broken (Matthew 19:4-6). I know God wants my home to be a place of happiness and peace, not tension and war. Am I willing to stay committed to my spouse through this challenging time? Most of us took a vow in which we pledged to be loyal to our mate until death. Do I now regret those words, or am I still committed to them?
I need to ask, “What can I do to make things better?” Right now is the time for me to evaluate myself. Be honest about it. Am I (my attitude, words, and actions, or the absence of appropriate words and actions) the main reason our marriage is struggling? Am I at least an equal partner in causing the problems we are facing? Or, is it possible that I can say with all sincerity that I have not done anything which has jeopardized our relationship? Whatever my answer to this self- analysis is, the first key is being honest with myself and with my spouse.
If my marriage is struggling, I need to communicate with my spouse about it. This should not be to crown “a winner” and mock “a loser” in an argument, but to try and get on “the same page” in identifying what issue(s) might exist among us, to identify any unresolved matters from the past, and to speak plainly about ways in which we both can make helpful adjustments moving forward.
When my marriage is facing trials, I need to stay in communication with God. I need to do everything within my power to keep my prayers and the prayers of my mate from being hindered (1 Peter 3:7). God calls on all of His children to cast their cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). Such an appeal surely would apply to a husband-wife team that is dealing with unhappiness, tension, spitefulness, or even abusive treatment.
If my marriage is struggling, I need to study God’s word and meditate on it — in particular, study verses related to marriage and person-to- person relationships. I need to make sure that I turn to the Scriptures, not to look for something to defend myself and put down my mate, but to seek God’s guidance and wisdom (Psalm 119:105). As I learn the Lord’s instructions for my life, I need to store up His word in my heart so I do not sin against Him or my spouse (Psalm 119:11).
Do I need to adjust my schedule and activities to put more effort into my marriage and spend more time with my spouse? Do my spouse and I need to go away together for a while – just to get away from jobs, family, friends, and the stress of our daily lives to spend some relaxed time where we can look one another in the eye, refresh our love, communicate, and share our innermost thoughts and desires?
I need to ask: “In the past, when things were going better, what was different? What made us happy back then? What made us smile and laugh more? Why did we enjoy spending time together? Why were we more comfortable with each other? What can we do to try and get back to that mentality and atmosphere?”
— Roger D. Campbell