I have about four deep-dive topics I’m eager to get to, but this post (originally published on Unveiled Wife but edited and updated) is a good foundation to lay first. A marriage is comprised of two people, husband and wife, and while neither can or will be perfect, it’s important that each strive to become an emotionally healthy person.
Many spouses read marriage blogs with the hope of finding that key to a happy, healthy marriage. What can we do differently, better, more intentionally to save our marriage, heal our marriage, strengthen our marriage, or improve our marriage?
For a number of years, my own marriage was in the pit—a black hole of frustration and despair. I asked myself Are we going to make it? more often than I care to think about now. Was I neglecting our marriage?
The Definition of Insanity
Actually, during that time I read marriage books, attended marriage classes, listened to marriage sermons, and even went to couples’ counseling. I wholeheartedly believed I was pursuing every avenue to fix our flailing relationship.
Yet it continued to flail.
So what was the key? What finally helped us dig out of the pit? What brought us to where we are today—into a healthy, happy marriage?
While those resources had some great advice to offer, I hadn’t laid the right foundation. Oftentimes, I thought I just needed to keep doing All The Things, only more frequently, more intensely, more determinedly. I could have saved myself some heartache by asking: But are these the right things to do?
You’ve likely heard this definition of insanity: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” (By the way, it wasn’t Albert Einstein who said that; more on the quote’s origin here.)
My former pastor used to say it this way: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” Any coach can attest to this: You won’t get a better bat swing by practicing a bad swing or a better swim stroke by practicing a bad stroke. Anyone trying to lose weight would agree: being faithful to a diet is great, but if that diet is bacon and donuts, it ain’t gonna yield the outcome you want. And even if you’re on a great diet of protein and veggies, if you also drink beer by the keg, your belly will not go away.
It’s kinda the same with marriage. It definitely helps to add good things to the mix, but you should check the base ingredients and make sure you’re starting with the right stuff.
So what’s the right stuff? Keep reading.
The Right Stuff
Rather than merely following all that marriage advice or praying more (which was mostly “Lord, change my husband” back then), I began to recognize my own lack of personal, spiritual, and emotional health.
I spent quite a bit of those troubled years struggling with depression, frustrated with my life choices, using God’s Word as a tool for blaming others instead of doing the hard work of living like Christ. I wanted things to change, but I hadn’t truly focused on the transformation God needed to make in me.Healthy Marriages Start with Healthy People: "I wanted things to change, but I hadn’t truly focused on the transformation God needed to make in me." @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Why did I expect to have a healthy, happy marriage when at least one of us wasn’t a healthy, happy person?
To be sure, we had relational issues to work through, but I had to start with myself—who I was as a wife and who I was in relationship with God.
The Change Begins With Me
I worked on getting myself healthy, sought ways to increase my contentment and joy, and focused on living out godly principles each day with my husband—such principles as love, generosity, patience, kindness—regardless of my mood or his actions. I chose to bring a healthier, happy individual to the marriage, which placed us on a far better footing to work on us.
If you’re emotionally or spiritually unhealthy or unhappy, perhaps it’s time to tackle your own obstacles. Rather than trying to make marriage fill your empty tank, grow toward loving your spouse from the overflow of your heart.
Healthy marriages start with healthy people.
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;Psalm 68:3
may they be happy and joyful.
Also see Chris Taylor’s excellent post on this: Work on Yourself (Even if Your Husband Is the Problem) – Honeycomb & Spice.
Want Help Getting Emotionally Healthy?
Check out Faithful Counseling (podcast affiliate link), a service I’ve used myself.
Get matched to a licensed, Christian counselor.
7 thoughts on “Healthy Marriages Start with Healthy People”
Yum … bacon and donuts. Well, not the donuts as my wife and I have eliminated sugar from our diet. Beer too, but wine is still in so it is all good. Grin.
OK, now for the serious part of my response. First of all, I don’t read marriage articles or books to save my marriage. I have a wonderful bride of over 30 years. We both realize our marriage is two imperfect people with a perfect God trying to make a life together. That means there will be ups and down, we will disappoint each other at times, yet we will reach highs as well as lows. I read marriage articles that focus on scripture, in context and not looking to promote a personal agenda, because I want my marriage to always be improving, realizing it will never be perfect.
One of the primary pieces of information I have learned from books on marriage (online articles obviously weren’t a thing early in our marriage) was not to go complaining about one’s spouse to other people. Most people, unless they are a true friend and bold in their convictions, will agree with you that your spouse should never do such and such, encouraging your discontent. The other thing I learned early on is that I am responsible for myself, not my wife. I fully agree with scripture when Paul states a wife is to submit to her husband (it really doesn’t matter if I agree with any part of scripture, it doesn’t make it less true). However, it is not a command to me. I am not told to make my wife submit, I am told to love my wife as Christ loves the church, something that is impossible to actually do, but I hope I have come closer to this goal as I have matured. Therefore, your advice in this article is outstanding. While one can encourage their spouse to change, it is not up to them. Trying to force change will only bring frustration. From my experience, looking at myself and examining where I need to change (it is not typically “if” I need to change) tends to encourage my wife to change in ways that also improves our marriage. Yes, there have been issues that have had to be directly addressed, but these have been far and few. Most of the time it is simply complacency; getting too busy with other things to prioritize our marriage, letting kids become a priority instead of each other, military deployment taking over every thought rather than giving each other the support needed, etc. When my focus is not on what my wife can do better but is instead on how am I doing as a husband, how am I doing in my walk with Christ, and how am I doing in handling life, I find I can give her the support she needs to also be more emotionally healthy, which then makes our marriage more healthy.
You can’t see it, but I’m applauding this comment. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
As a music major, I was taught that “Practice is playing perfectly.” This goes along with your point – we can’t keep doing what isn’t working and expect improvement. We just get better at doing the wrong thing. My music adage doesn’t imply that you must play perfectly every time, or that you should be able to do it perfectly right away. But the goal is to move closer and closer to the correct way. If I play a passage incorrectly 10 times everyday, then I’m going to get really good at playing it incorrectly. I must move toward playing it correctly more and more each time until an incorrect instance is an unusual blip in my playing. And, as usual, all of this is easier said than done. Playing haphazardly is so very easy, and I like easy, as most of us do. When my daughter was young and practicing a hard passage on her violin, I would sometimes stand a few feet in front of her and every time she played it correctly, I would toss an M&M or a Skittle into her mouth. You do what you gotta do, sometimes, to make the right choices.
My encouragement to all of us … grab a bag of M&Ms or whatever we consider a reward and each time we make a healthy choice, reward ourselves. Thanks for the reminder, J.
Great word picture there! Love that. And I recall my wonderful flute teacher (I played in high school) noting that if a musical phrase or song’s measure was difficult for you, that’s where you have to focus more attention to work out the kinks and get it right. So true in marriage as well, right? But she also would tell me that if I got frustrated doing that, to play through the parts I’d mastered and loved to remind myself of the beauty of the music as a whole.
(Hey, maybe we need a post here on what musical mastery can teach us about marriage mastery… ☺)
My marriage is on the rocks and sinking slowly… my first reaction was anger and resentment at both God and my husband for having failed me… that didn’t help. My second reaction was to sink into a depression and feel helpless at my inability to change my husband… that’s not working. I decided to now focus on what I can change… myself. Thank you for confirming that I am on the right track with that. I should’ve started there years ago because my own unhealthy state is a major contributor to where we are. I’m encouraged.
Saying a prayer for you and your marriage!
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