The ABC’s of a Healthy & Happy Marriage

Perfect for couples needing encouragement, and singles who need to know what to expect when the happy day occurs. This list will equip you with some tricks and tips that you can apply in relationships toward your own “Happily Ever After”… Here is to a love that lasts!

A. ALWAYS clear up an offense before bed.

Make the commitment that you will stay up until sun up if it means resolving issues before you go to sleep. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Eph 4:26

B. BE careful what you say…

Your words to your spouse carry great subconscious and conscious weight. Whatever you find yourself saying or insinuating will come back to you. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

C. CHOOSE to love your spouse.

God created that man or woman for you, and if you are ever going to be evenly yoked you must realize that LOVING them is the first step, just the way they are. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

In all your getting, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

D. DETERMINE to better yourself personally, and grow in your understanding of God’s Word and understanding of the purpose and plans God has for your life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11

E. EXPECT to be together forever!

Accept the fact that you are married and going to be with your spouse FOREVER, no going back. Every couple has struggles. Every couple will go through things, because in life we go through things regardless of marital status. Sickness, health, death, birth, stress, joy, sorrow, love, hate… you as a single person will go through all of this, if you have found a mate, YOU ARE BLESSED! “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18

F. FORGIVE yourself for being harsh, and forgive your spouse for responding harshly.

“You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.” The best way to win your spouse to your cause is to treat your spouse fairly, and to be patient in your pursuit of your livelong dream or vision. “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:4

G. GET DREAMING – Most of the time husband and wife teams are at odds with each other, it’s because they have nothing left to work toward.

The kids are grown and their work is on autopilot… what now? It is time for you and your spouse to get on the same page about your dreams, and see what you two can do together! A store, a bed and breakfast, a travel agency? Go in business together, you’ll do GREAT! “I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19

H. HELP each other, God wasn’t kidding when He created woman to be man’s helper.

God made women for men, and He did it with a divine purpose and a Master plan! Marriages work best when you set your mind to help your husband, and as a husband you recognize your wife is there to HELP you get your job done. This means in PARTNERSHIP. Does your wife nag? That is her administration skills being put into place. Does your wife direct you were to go? That is your wife aiding you to your destination. For God’s sake men LET YOUR WIFE HELP you, it was why Eve was created – isn’t it good enough for you? Wives, don’t get crazy now – being bossy and being in partnership are TWO different things. Partners help, employees are dictated to. Treat each other as “helpers” NOT employees. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

I. IGNORE people around you who tell you it can’t be done and that happily married “isn’t” possible.

 These people are negative dream stealers and are NOT going to ensure your marital happiness. Sometimes being alone (apart from in-laws, sisters, brothers, friends) is the BEST way a couple can cope with their problems. Dig deep in the Word, go to a Word filled church and begin finding mentors who have been married longer and in the faith greater than you have been. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

J. JUST DO IT!

Nike wasn’t kidding when they put into the minds of every potential aspiring athlete the axiom to Just Do it! They went at their ad campaign as vigorously as their own motto suggests. To this day, Nike is known best by their logo and their famous mantra.

As married individuals, we too must JUST DO IT! We must DECIDE that being on the same team with our spouse is more important to us than having a plethora of friends. You must decide today, if you are going to operate successful relationships in your life, it will involve the understanding that you do not have to be right all the time. Let your spouse participate in your relationship by offering suggestions, ideas, dreams and visions of their own… discuss your dreams with them, and commit to getting them done! “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5:21

K. KICK complacency to the CURB!

Complacency has NO place in the Kingdom of God, and it has NO place in relationships either. People who stop growing personally become like paperweights. Other than keeping things from “blowing away”, they are of no use. Waking daily in routine, going to work daily in routine, coming home daily in routine, eating, sleeping, TV watching… etc. Is NOT growing.

Groundhog Day is the name of a movie, and should not be the aspired to lifestyle. Give your life a chance! Do something new TODAY! Visit a new store, walk a new path, read a new book. We are all creatures of habit, and it is time to create a NEW habit… a positive habit of daily exploration and embracing. There is no better way to kill a marriage off and kill it off quick, than to watch a spouse do nothing but sit idly by. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” Col 3:23

L. LOVE Christ FIRST.

Surprisingly enough, most “Christians” do not do this. They think that they understand “love”, they “love” their spouses, they “love” their jobs, they “love” their cars, and they “love” their kids. However without the true agape love of Christ in their lives, they CANNOT LOVE AT ALL. Infatuate yes, like yes, desire and lust after yes-yes-yes… but LOVE NO. The Bible says that “GOD IS LOVE”, which means that when you put GOD first place in your life… AND ONLY THEN… will you ever know love and then be able to give love to others.

You see receiving Christ is receiving an overflowing reservoir of love, just like a bubbling well pours over the edge of the wall, so Christ’s love pours out our hearts and into the lives of others. We can ONLY love our spouses unconditionally, if we have a personal relationship with Christ and can draw from that well.” We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

M. MAN UP.

As a wife, there is nothing more attractive than a husband who knows his place in God’s Kingdom and chooses to walk in his authority. In today’s society, there tends to be apathy upon men, a desire to trade in their covenant promised dominion for the security of women who will mother them and make all their decisions for them.

If you are a husband who deeply desires to have your wife join you in your dreams or visions, you must lead her in your vision. Explain to her how things are going to change- but for the better. Then begin making tough calls and standing by them. Your wife will respond favorably as long as all the changes and corrections to your behavior are done based on the Word of God and in love. “Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale?” Jeremiah 30:6

N. NO NEGATIVITY.

In his amazing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie devotes an entire chapter to the “Three C’s” and admonishes us in relationships to NEVER Criticize, Condemn, or Complain. Can you imagine living this way? Jesus did! Think of the woman caught in the act of adultery… what did Jesus say? “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Jesus also reminds us that having a critical spirit is like a man or woman who witnesses situations with a log in their eye, whatever issue you have in your life will be magnified and projected onto those who you are in relationship with. If you live life by the three c’s in your own self-image, always criticizing yourself, you will be instinctively critical of others. For example, if you are cluttered in your drawers or purse… chances are you see your spouse as a slob. Your personal view will always rub off onto others. Practice living a life FREE of negativity, for yourself AND your spouse. Better to not say anything at all, than to say something negative. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

O. Offer your assistance.

How many times has your spouse carried in the groceries while you sat on the couch? I think it would be pretty unrealistic to say “never”. Husbands, your wife WILL do all the work if you let her, but you must not let her. Wives, your husband will work himself to death if you let him – make sure to ask what your spouse needs regularly and offer a hand as often as possible.

Offer to help or offer your assistance. Let them choose between help or no help. Don’t just assume “she/he’s got this”. This can be as simple as offering your spouse a glass of water, when it is yourself that needs one. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

P. Put the Children #3.

Here is the order in which we choose to live by: God # 1, Spouse #2, Children #3, Job #4, Business (or extra income earning potential) #5. Every couple with children must recognize that kids are going to grow and leave the home. As you put God first place in your life, your spouse should be #2. What does this mean? This means decisions should be first prayed on and submitted to God agreed upon by mommy and daddy, and then explained to the children. It also means mommy and daddy make time to go on date nights together (just the two of them), and that the kids KNOW that daddy and mommy love each other the MOST.

If you ask our kids today “Who does daddy love BEST?” they will all say “MOMMY!” Children need to recognize that there is a God-given order and NO it is not Daddy, Mommy, and Eldest child. It is God > Daddy & Mommy > Kiddos. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:7-9

Q. QUIT comparing yourself to others

Are you renting a house while your neighbors are buying? Are your friends making more money than you? Did you decide to have children instead of a career like your brother or sister? How does that make you feel? I hope it makes you feel SMART.

I hope it makes you feel smart because you are the only one who it maters to. I see too many husbands and wives carry around condemnation from self imposed guilt regarding their successes compared to others. At the end of the day, when you are standing at the judgement throne – God won’t care anything about what you “did” in this life (Jesus is the only one whose works really mattered) He is going to look directly into your heart and if your heart is troubled because of what you “didn’t” have compared to the Joneses – you will have missed out on the precious God given gift of life.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

R. Rally the Troops

Got kids? Will travel! One of the very best things a parent (husband/wife team) can do for their marriage is to always speak positively to the children about their mother or father and SHOW this positively through action. NEVER forget to advocate for your home team! Daddy is doing HIS BEST and mommy is too! Take your children on road trips with you, sales calls (mom and kiddos can play in the car, honest), or maybe even to lunch meetings. Why not bring the family and have them sit in another section of the restaurant or go next door? If you cannot be in a “family business” together, try treating your family as your #1 business, and you will be on the same page in NO time. Vacation time is time well spent!

S. Set the DATE

Every couple needs to continuously DATE each other. The reality is that the children are going to grow up and move out, and if you don’t continue pursuing each other, when the kids are gone you will be strangers. Dating mommy and daddy alone can be hard, (and expensive) but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Try trading sitting services with a neighbor to keep the cost down. If you have a child who is quiet and sits and colors during dinner know that THIS IS NOT A DATE. You need to be free to give flirtatious eyes, talk about those bedtime moments, and most importantly RELAX. Also, it is important to realize that KIDS NEED TIME away from parents too! Kids need to learn how to be equitable around other adults and even the teenage babysitters can be a fun break from the norm for most tots and kids. So when’s the next date night? Movie night, dinner, or pizza? ENJOY! (Once a week is preferred but once a month REQUIRED!)

T. Take the FIRST step

In my book, Wholehearted, I write in it some tips for helping resolve arguments in marriage and in order to encourage spouses to take the first step in resolving arguments:

Five Key Phrases to Calm-Down any Fight and Regain a Confident Relationship

 1. “Can you please forgive me?”

Try using this instead of “I’m Sorry.” When you ask for someone’s forgiveness, immediately you are assuming responsibility for the offense, and it will cause the other person to have to say “Yes,” or “No.” Giving you more to talk about while you are working through your issue of contention.

2. “I understand how you feel, that would make me feel the same way too.”

Earnestly try and empathize with those that could be upset with you. Consider the “Big-Picture” of their issue. Why they are losing their patience with you? What has happened in the past that might be instigating their lack of confidence in you, is it still an issue? It might just be that they are tired, hungry, angry, or even lonely.

3. “I am sorry I disrespected you,” or “Can you please forgive me for showing you disrespect?”

Any time you mention respect to a man, you are speaking his language. Women respond to emotions like men respond to respect. As a woman, when you choose to apologize for disrespecting your husband, you are communicating to him effectively that your lack of confidence is not from his ability to perform or provide. In turn, women like be shown respect as well, you can show your wife you respect her by choosing to meet her needs, emotionally.

4. Wives, you may want to try this “Could you please help me understand where you are coming from? Is there a key issue, or bottom line that you would like me to understand?”

Even though this sounds more professional than marital, understand that when your husband is upset with you, or something you have done, he immediately will shut down and go into a work mode. He may come off icy at best, and will portray a professional demanding attitude. After all, this is how he deals with conflicts daily. Don’t be surprised if he begins to talk to you as a secretary or employee. If that happens, just try and stay as emotionally solid as possible, and play the role back to him. Because you have maintained equilibrium in the heat of an argument, your husband will learn to respect you, and feel respected at the same time.

5. Husbands, you may want to try this “Is there anything I can help you with? I understand that you are under a lot of stress right now with ‘xyz’, (try and be specific it will be more endearing and show that you have been listening) I would like to give you all of my attention until we can get this situation resolved… please show me again where and how I can help.”

If the situation has gotten beyond the ability to talk, do not be afraid to go up to your wife and give her hug, and let her cry. Most often the response when people get offended is to run away and shut off their tender mercies, but never underestimate the power of an authentic embrace. Sometimes that is all women need!

U. Understand where your spouse is coming from

How old was your spouse when their dad died? How long ago was their divorce? How many partners where they with before they married you? How young where they when you first met?

Sometimes it is too easy to have tunnel vision and forget that our spouses have had DIFFERENT life experiences than us. Even though as individuals we try really hard to overcome these issues, the baggage from the past can creep up on us and get in the way of us having happier times. Know that this has NOTHING and EVERYTHING to do with you. It has NOTHING to do with you thanks to the fact your spouse has had negative things out of your control happen to them. It has EVERYTHING to do with you thanks to the fact that your negative behavior and lack of understanding is drawing out their issues. While it is always important for one to come face to face with the past, try to be a loving spouse and not be the cause of their painful flashbacks. The Lord will bring these issues to the surface in His OWN time… you really don’t need to be the one to provoke them. Understand your spouses issues, and leave “the fixing of them” up to God alone!

V. Visualize the future

Seeing past the ends of our noses can be hard on a daily basis is hard enough!  Have you ever tried to see to the ends of your life? Do your best to imagine if you can! When we take the time to pause and visualize as a couple where we see ourselves going is long-term critical (especially if you have chosen to see divorce as a non-option).

Can you see sitting on the front porch of your house in your nineties rocking in a rocking chair and drinking a mint-iced tea with your spouse? Can you see those Great-great-grandkids running around on your property? There you and your spouse are sitting, rocking, and breathing in rhythm together. This is WHY you got married, to have someone to grow old with! I always envision holding hands as we rock in time together, looking out onto a crystal clear lake with weeping willows all around us. Jeff and I leaning our old gray heads back on one of those really tall narrow ladder rockers. All our work is done for the moment, and together we sit basking in the Glory of old age in the Lord. Every couple desires to hear at the end of their marriage, “Well done good and faithful servant”, it isn’t too late for you. Forgive, and begin to visualize a forever life TOGETHER.

W. Waiting is BEST

Waiting is waiting for a reason… to display character. A pregnant mother has 9 months in order to display to her family and the world what kind of mother she is going to be. A potential father has 9 months to show to his wife how he will act as a new father. There is a period before you are hired, there is a period of waiting before you graduate, there is a period of waiting designed to abstain from sex before you wed… all in display of character.

A future wife can tell how her husband will treat her and her children all by watching if he is able to restrain and self-discipline himself in regards to premarital sex. If he has no restraint for God’s Laws against fornication- than what will he display as a husband? If your future wife cannot wait to spend your monies, how will she be as a wife? If your future wife has no respect for her body – what kind of mother will she be?

Waiting is character building, and a testament to others. Is your future spouse worth waiting for? The same goes for married folks, are you willing to wait for promotion? Or have you made promotion a priority? I once heard a fellow say, “You can tell the size of a man best- by the size of the thing that makes that man mad.”

X. X-RAY your circumstances

There is a scripture that says, “A curse causeless shall not come” (Proverbs 26:2) in other words, negative things that happen in relationships (most always) are a result of something initially said or done that consequently ended up causing a negative reaction. What was done initially to cause the rift in your relationship? If you can’t think of anything, ASK your spouse. If it is EVERYTHING, well then take a deep breath and ask your spouse if they can forgive you and what it is that you can do to make it up to them. What is their love language, gifts? Words of affirmation?  Acts of service? Quality time? Physical touch? Knowing how to speak love to your spouse upon x-raying the cause of your out-of-sync-ness, and then “making the loss up to them” through genuine acts of repentance, will get you and your spouse back on track in a heartbeat! (Resource is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman)

Y. YELL from the rooftops!

EVERYTHING you do toward and for your spouse should SCREAM how much you love them! Think about it, if you and your spouse both made the best decisions that you KNOW would bless your spouse above yourself, where would your relationship be? For example, let’s say you want a black car… she wants a white car. What do you do? Well, when you both are loving on each other with exuberance from the roof tops- you SHOULD be at a stalemate in the dealership, until one of you says “Baby, I will love you regardless of color of car, if white would make you happy then I am happy!” If the two of you are so lovely that you can’t decide what to do, them by all means flip a coin or something! But LOVE each other in your expenditures, love each other in your decisions, love each other in your travels! Where does your spouse want to go? What does your spouse love to do? Arrange date days around each other’s interests and every date will be an exciting one! No one said there was anything wrong with going to the ballet one night, and a boxing match the other. You are two different people who are capable of loving each other just the way you are… just make sure you do it and LOVE with your WHOLE heart!

Z. Zealously LOVE God

Lastly, I think it is very important to emphatically emphasize we are to love God FIRST.

Every marriage is “fixable” Christ has proven that when he said with God all things are possible. However, no marriage is fixable without FIRST loving God. Anytime you need to withdraw love from God’s spiritual account, He is there. Anytime you need to count on God for support, He is there. Anytime you need to put the breaks on in your relationship and seek advice, He is there.

God is THE BEST marriage counselor around! He and His Word will ALWAYS be there for you, your entire family, and all of your relationships! If there is a problem that you can’t seem to shake: adultery, pornography, lust, lasciviousness, alcoholism, debt, drugs, miscarriage, abuse, neglect… all of these things and then some can be turned toward Christ for FULL and complete healing.

What is required? YOU.

You turning your life over to the King of Kings and surrendering your will to the Lord who wrote out the manual for life instruction in both deed and print (the Holy Bible), and not being afraid of loss. There is ONLY gain for those who surrender to Christ. Begin to put His Word deep inside your heart, and watch what a man or woman in service to the Master can do.

Those around you will see your light burning bright and either RUN for the hills (for fear of changing themselves) OR they will be drawn to you and fall at the feet of the Master themselves. (Even those who run from righteousness shall eventually turn to the Lord with time, scripture says “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:10-11) Zealous love and pure faith comes with a price, giving God ALL control. This is THE BEST WAY to ensure that you and your spouse will get onto the same page… PERIOD.

Jessica and her husband Jeff have been married for 23 years and have 7 children. The children’s ages rage between 2-22 years old. As a college student, Jessica spent her time studying Psychology and as she began her family began the study of Theology with a desire to marry both faith and psychology – the heart and the mind into harmony. Jessica and Jeff discussed getting married on their first date (the second day they met) and were married three months later. Their marriage is a testament to the saving work of Christ as both are children of divorced (and happily remarried) parents. You can follow Jessica on instagram @jessicabuilds as well as her hashtag #jessicabuildsahome for a more intimate portrayal of the Heilman family as they go through life.

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