I was recently chatting with a fellow marriage blogger, the marvelous Sheila Gregoire, and talking about my own marriage story — how my relationship went from terrible to terrific. I’ve written before about what made the difference in my own marriage. The summary version is I stopped merely seeking changes from my husband and praying for God’s intervention, and instead prioritized living out God’s Word day-by-day.
Did I do it perfectly? Of course not. I still struggle in many areas. But through the years, I’ve learned how important is to attend to three actions that all begin with the letter G. So here are 3 G-words to improve your own marriage.
Grace. Your husband isn’t perfect, and he will not meet all of your expectations or desires. For years, I piled up the slights, the neglect, etc. I felt my husband heaped upon me, and then asked him to change and prayed God would make him. Couldn’t my husband see how much I needed his help, his reassurance, his romance? Why instead did I get his clutter, his frustration, his avoidance?
Strange isn’t it? How I wanted grace from my husband, but I wasn’t offering grace to him?
I’ve learned the beauty of giving your mate the benefit of the doubt. If your husband has an annoying habit, it likely isn’t personal; he’d forget things or leave his stuff out or fail to match the kids’ clothes whether you were there or not. He may not handle your stressful day well because he had a stressful day of his own. He may not want to hang out with you if you’re always nagging the poor man. Thinking about how I treated my husband when we were at our worst, I wouldn’t have wanted to be with me either.
When I turned my heart to giving him grace, a weight fell off my own heart, and I began to see my husband in a different light. He was struggling like I was and needed my love and reassurance. I no longer saw all his failings, but his effort and care for me. We receive so much grace from our Heavenly Father, can we give a little grace to our spouse?
Generosity. I love the mission that Paul and Lori Byerly, Generous Husband and Generous Wife, have made of bringing this concept to the forefront. All too often in our Christian walk, we ask how much we must do. And in our marriages, we ask what minimum actions will get us what we want from our spouse. But the attitude God calls us to is generosity.
In my own marriage, I was stingy in certain ways. I didn’t want to pick up extra slack around the house for fear of being taken for granted or treated like a doormat. I didn’t offer help when his hands were full, because he hadn’t done everything I wanted that last time when my hands were full. I didn’t have sex with my husband on those days I stored up anger about something he’d done (whether or not he knew it).
Ah, but the wondrous rewards of going the extra mile! (Matthew 5:41-42). When I shifted in my marriage to looking for ways to show love, I discovered the joy of serving, I took personal pride in being my hubby’s helpmate, and his appreciation of me increased. I was no longer doing only what I had to do, but demonstrating that he was important enough for me to be generous with my time, my efforts, myself. That generosity even spilled into the bedroom, where I became freer with letting him see and touch me and with touching and pleasuring him.
Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We tend to focus on that first sentence, the promise that if we give it good, we’ll get good back. But look at the measure we’re supposed to use in how we treat others: “pressed down, shaken together, running over” — such that’s it pouring out over the sides. Now that’s generosity. Do we use that measure in our marriages?
Growth. You’ve got three choices in marriage: Your relationship is getting worse, stagnating, or getting better. Now believe me, I understand the desire to just hang in there at times — to batten the hatches, hunker down, and ride the storm. I’ve had those moments in my marriage. But sometimes we people of faith settle for staying in our marriage, when we should be striving for building our marriage.
We should expect to steadily grow toward better understanding of one another, deeper intimacy, and maturing of our faith and relationship. Indeed, growth is one of the benefits of being married (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17).
You will likely have ups and downs in your marriage, but if one were to track the whole of the marriage, there should be discernible growth. Maybe your years would be a timeline like this:
Despite years of struggle, I can definitely say that we are more mature, more intimate, more satisfied in our marriage now than we were when we began. We have sought and experienced growth. And it’s been well-worth our effort.
I wouldn’t be on this blog chatting it up about marriage if I hadn’t learned a thing or two about making one work. And really applying these biblical principles of grace, generosity, and growth can make a big difference in a flailing or stagnant marriage. Or even improve a good one.
What guiding biblical principles have helped your marriage improve?