Be faithful in marriage. Exodus 20:14 (CEV)
I love this commandment in the Contemporary English Version because marriage is more than maintaining conjugal fidelity. I’ve experienced what it’s like to have an unfaithful spouse. The fact that he had sexual intercourse with another woman while we were married hurt me deeply and affected how I saw myself as a woman for a long time. But he was unfaithful in so many other ways that hurt just as much.
Marriage, as God intended it to be, is more than the joining of two people’s lives. God never intended for us to “go it alone” in marriage. We are meant to be joined to each other and then to our Heavenly Father. It’s the only way for a married couple to become one.
When we were engaged, Kelly and I received a wonderful book, Toward a Growing Marriage by Gary Chapman. The reason I love this book is because it is written for singles who want to find the person they’re supposed to marry, couples who are dating and moving toward marriage, as well as for those who are already married and want to deepen their relationship with each other and God. This is how Gary Chapman views the marriage relationship:
Notice how the husband and wife become closer as they individually become closer to God. This, folks, is the key to my parents’ marriage of nearly fifty-two years and my own marriage of nearly twenty-five years. It’s how Kelly and I survived debilitating chronic pain, loss of a career, infertility, financial hardships, and leukemia. Without our close relationship to God as a couple, our marriage would have folded like a cheap suit.
Another book that I highly recommend is The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. This forty-day Bible study, on which the movie Fireproof was based, can be done alone or in conjunction with your spouse. Kelly and I decided to read this book for Lent 2010. (I suggest that if you want to do this Bible study book, each of you needs your own copy because there is some private journaling for each person to do.)
I am not a marriage counselor or a pastor. All I have is one short, bad marriage behind me and my long-term, quarter-century relationship with Kelly on which to base the four suggestions I’m going to share with you. So, bear that in mind when you read them. It takes much effort to have a successful marriage with complete fidelity. After much prayer, these are the beliefs that Kelly and I share about why our marriage works so well:
- Marriage takes three. We were both Christians when we fell in love. We have always attended church together We study the Bible and pray together. The times that we’re the closest as a couple are the times that we are closest to God. There’s a reason Paul recorded this verse in 2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (NKJV) I used the NKJV because of the term “unequally yoked.” Farmers use this term when they speak of hitching a team of horses, mules, or oxen together. If the animals aren’t matched in size or temperament, the farmer will have trouble getting them to work together as a team. The same thing happens when non-Christians and Christians marry. It’s not like you can act autonomously in marriage. If you do, then it’s not much of a marriage. If you don’t, then you’re going to have trouble agreeing on some really important subjects that might eventually become deal breakers in the success of your relationship. My Granny Mae and Granddaddy Raeford were married for many years before he became a Christian. It was by the grace of God and by the fervent prayers of my grandmother that he accepted Jesus as his Savior and made a relationship with Him a priority. I’m not saying marriage to a non-Christian is impossible but it does make it harder than it has to be.
- Never part on angry terms. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to bed at night or headed off to work in the morning, it’s just never a good idea to leave each other with anger in your heart. I wish I could say that this has always been how I’ve conducted myself during our marriage, but it hasn’t. And to be perfectly honest, I am a grudge-holder. Kelly Rosser has one of the most gentle spirits I’ve ever encountered. He despises conflict. I, on the other hand, am stubborn — less so now than fifteen years ago. I realized how much this hurt Kelly when our children were little. If we had a disagreement, the kids would get upset and beg me to “love Daddy again.” It devastated me to hear that. So, I’ve learned to assess my fault quickly and apologize for hurtful words or actions. I also learned not to argue in front of the children. Soon enough, they would have to deal with adult subjects so I would hold my tongue. I found that later on when we could speak our minds openly, the angry words and actions were not as likely to surface. Now, we rarely have a cross word, which is not to say that we don’t disagree; just that we choose our battles carefully and battling is just not how we want to spend our time.
- Don’t talk badly about your spouse to other people. You may be angry now and then maybe not so much at a later time. Once you’ve said something unkind about the person to which you’re married, it’s hard to take those words back. Instead, spend your time building up your spouse. Thank your husband for taking off the garbage, even if it is his job to do it. Wash the dishes for your wife after a particularly tasty meal. (I’ll take dish-washing and vacuuming done by my husband over flowers or chocolates any day. But flowers once in a while aren’t too shabby either!) Choose to brag on your spouse instead. My father says you can get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. The same applies to dealing with people. We all like to feel appreciated. If your spouse feels loved and appreciated by you, then there will never be a reason for him/her to look to someone else.
- Say “I love you” often and in different ways. It’s been a custom of our marriage to never part from one another or end a conversation on the phone without saying “I love you.” Someone once commented that Kelly and I sure say it a lot. “Is it necessary?” she asked. Yes, it’s necessary for two reasons: we really feel that way about one another (and there’s no such thing as telling a person you love them too many times) and you just never know when it’s going to be the last time you get to say it. And it doesn’t always have to be expressed verbally. For Christmas 2008, Kelly bought me tickets to see Barry Manilow in concert. I love Barry. Kelly doesn’t. But he loves me and we went to the concert together. The next year I returned the favor when we got tickets to see Robert Earl Keen. When you love someone, you should never mind showing it and showing it often. We still kiss. We still hold hands. We still go on dates. Someone once called us “lucky;” we say we’re “blessed.”
Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together. Matthew19:6 (CEV)
“How Can I Keep From Singing: Faithful Friend” http://wp.me/p22liv-1F
“Is Your Marriage Troubled?” http://womenofhiskingdomministries.com/2012/03/06/is-your-marriage-troubled/