Your Marriage Needs These Four Things
After years of marriage, my husband and I are just as committed to staying married forever as we were when we said our vows. We have had struggles to face as a couple, our share of fights and disagreements, and times when we haven’t been very connected as a couple. Yet despite these things, we are still in love and determined to keep our marriage strong. I believe that our success is based on four keys to marriage that I’ve recognized: compatibility, commitment, communication, and Christ.
All relationships have varying levels of compatibility, commitment, communication, and Christ, whether those aspects are completely absent or fully present. A great marriage can happen even when one of these areas is weak, usually because another area is strong enough to compensate. I firmly believe that even if all of the other areas are weak, a marriage can still succeed if Christ is strongly present—which happens when he’s invited in and given control.
When a marriage has all four, even better! It will be unstoppable and unsinkable.
Let’s take a deeper look at the four keys to marriage.
Compatibility is about agreement and alignment. It means agreeing on fundamental beliefs, especially faith. It is Biblically supported to say that Christians should marry other Christians, and for good reason. Two people who hold conflicting beliefs about important matters such as God, the purpose of life, and eternity will always have a rift between them that can’t be crossed. It limits not only the level of intimacy that a marriage can achieve, but the strength of the team that the marriage represents. It causes great pressure for either individual to change their beliefs, potentially for the wrong reasons, or to lose one’s faith altogether. Compatibility on a faith level is vital for a strong marriage. While no two people are at the exact same place in their spiritual walks, I feel it’s wise to at least be in the same time zone, spiritually speaking.
Compatibility is also about sharing other similar beliefs and interests. It isn’t important to agree on everything or be exactly alike—differences make life interesting and help us grow. I do feel that it’s important to agree on any topics which are extremely important to either person, or at least agree to respect the other person’s views as valid and be willing to moderate your own views, and vice versa. It’s also important to share a handful of meaningful interests, if only because spending time together and doing what you enjoy should be, well, enjoyable! Similar beliefs and interests bond and unite, and that’s important for a strong relationship.
Yet another important aspect of compatibility is simply getting along. Every couple fights, and that’s okay—what matters is that fighting isn’t the main activity. Even more important is a couple’s ability to resolve conflicts in a healthy way, which is both an aspect of compatibility and communication. This is a skill that can be learned and developed over time, if it’s not something that comes naturally.
Lastly, a compatible couple is one that can work well together. One of the things that I think makes Cory and I a strong couple is that we are an excellent team. We work well together in life, and because of that we are able to support each other and navigate through difficult seasons without falling apart.
Communication is about understanding. It’s about seeing each other, and being seen. It means being able to broach difficult topics with your significant other, clearly explain how you feel, listen carefully to what they have to say, and generally be on the same page. It means expressing feelings instead of holding them in. It means sharing the details of your life with your spouse. It means caring about what your spouse has to say and listening attentively.
Conflict resolution is a form of communication that is extremely important in a marriage. Conflict is bound to happen, and being able to resolve it in a way that is respectful to both people is invaluable. Sweeping conflicts under the rug, having explosive arguments, or insisting on always being right are all unhealthy for a marriage. Conflict resolution is the antidote. Since conflict resolution skills don’t come naturally for most people, this is something that needs to be intentionally learned and applied.
Commitment is about choosing. Commitment is in part a decision. You decide to stay married forever, and you do. But commitment is also action. It takes a lot of energy to turn that decision into reality. It means hard work instead of complacency, choosing to love somebody even when you don’t feel like it, and consciously rejecting thoughts about what shade of green the grass might be on the other side. Commitment in marriage means that you both agree that marriage is permanent, that you accept that it won’t always be easy, and that you are willing to put in effort to make the relationship work. Above all, commitment means that you choose to love your spouse, even when your relationship isn’t as thrilling or new as it once was. A marriage can and should have passion and a deep, growing love—frequently, these are things that must be chosen and pursued as well.
Christ is about selflessness, and He is our source. I truly believe that even if you don’t have the best compatibility, or communication skills, or a strong mutual commitment, Jesus can be the ingredient who makes it work anyway. Having Jesus in a marriage means following his example by putting each other first and giving grace to each other and yourself. Selflessness and grace can overcome a lot of problems within a marriage.
Having Christ in your marriage also, and most importantly, means that you rely on God’s strength to do what you could not do in your own power. If I relied on my own power and just tried really hard, it still would not be enough because deep down I’m a selfish human. Yet as a new creation in Christ, I know that God sees me as so much more. He sees me as perfect, and he gives me power to pursue holiness in every area of my life, including my marriage. Will I mess up sometimes? Yes. Will my marriage stay strong anyway? Yes. This boat won’t sink because Jesus is in it with us.
Over the years, I haven’t always given God as much credit as he deserves—and he deserves all of it—so I’ll just say this now. Jesus is the most important ingredient in my marriage. He is the reason we are together, and the reason that we always will be.
These keys to marriage are areas in which every couple has room to grow. And when Christ is in a marriage, he provides the tools, motivation, and strength to do just that. Marriage matters to God. Let’s have the best marriages that we can, with Him at the center.