7 Powerful Ways to Protect Your Marriage From Divorce
By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
Twenty years ago, on a windy day in the fall, beneath live oak trees, tucked away in a tiny gazebo laced with whimsical flowers and a scent of honeysuckle, two lovebirds lovingly looked into each other's eyes and said, "I do." Together, they took a solemn oath to be faithful and devoted to one another from that day forward.
Little did they know that those simple yet very powerful declarations would be tested. Time and time again. Together they would face sickness and health. They would be blessed with wealth and suffer financial burdens. And they would discover that "for better or worse" would be far more than words, but actions to be lived out.
Yes, we were (and are) that couple. Like many, we said those vows with good intentions and maybe even a little nonchalantly because, as a once young (and naïve) couple, we felt that we could face anything together. That our love would be different. That our "worse" would make us stronger, and we would prevail! And while that may sound sweet, we were quickly humbled. We weren't prepared or ready to protect our marriage when challenges came our way. So, instead of banding together, it often caused us to drift apart.
Then God began to do work in both of our hearts. On the very same day, while my hubby was working downtown and I was sitting around a teacher's lounge for lunch, we both heard about a class that was being offered at our church for newlyweds. We came home excited to share the news, only to find out we were both told the same information. That was it! We had to go. And I am so grateful we did.
We not only learned how to love one another better and place God at the center of our marriage, but we found some incredible mentors that helped us learn how to fight for our marriage and protect it!
It's been over twenty years since those sweet newlywed days, and now we face different and new challenges. Our "for better or worse" is currently wrapped in raising teens without going crazy and finding time to connect while going in two different directions at warp speed.
We often have to submit to one another or sacrifice in order to make this marriage work, but it is so worth it. We remind each other often that we wouldn't (and couldn't) do this crazy life with anyone else. We remain mindful that our relationship is precious and worth protecting. It is the only relationship where we stand before God and say "I do," promising to be faithful. Faithful to God and loyal to each other. And we honor to keep that promise!
Yet, we live in a culture contradictory to that. Marriage has become self-centered and lifeless. We've adopted phrases that kill God's design for marriage and dismantle its purity. It's quite heartbreaking. As believers, we must stand firm in our faith and love our spouse with all we've got while fighting to protect it. Because if we don't, the world's ways will sneak in and do everything it can to destroy it. We mustn't let it!
So, here's how you and your sweet spouse can stand firm in your faith and protect your sacred union.
1. Pray Together
The enemy loves to attack faithful couples. We must realize this upfront. However, the greatest source of combat we have as believers is found in putting our hands together in prayer. When a couple earnestly seeks God with heartfelt prayers, the deceiver isn't allowed to put a wedge between them.
Praying together is as easy as joining hands, taking turns, and lifting your hearts. If this is a new or foreign concept, try these simple ways to get started.
-Open up a conversation about how God is moving in your life, then pray for God's guidance and direction.
-Start with a husband/wife devotional or Bible Study, then end with prayer.
-Start a prayer list or requests and pray over those together.
2. Establish Boundaries
Boundaries have been set since the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15-17). However, while it can give off mixed signals to its underlying meaning, boundaries are not to keep people out or to place strict restrictions on others but rather to foster healthy measures to help relationships grow.
If we want to protect our marriage, we have to keep the foxes out of the vineyard, so to speak (Solomon 2:15). It's all those "little" sins that we seem to cling to or sweep under the rug to save face or pretend will go away if we hide it. Creating boundaries as a couple addresses these issues head-on and allows couples to face them together.
Three boundaries to put in place in your marriage now:
- Be transparent and vulnerable with your struggles.
- Remain sexually pure to your spouse; this includes imagery and thoughts.
- Show respect in words and actions.
3. Conversation Is Key
We live in a time when we are more connected than ever but also more lonely than ever. Using our devices has a lot to do with that, which is why we must set the screens down, look each other in the eye, and make time for face-to-face conversations.
It's in those conversations where we let our guard down and share about our day, the highs and lows, and the trials and successes that grow us closer. When we take time to listen and share, we build trust, and our marriages must stand firm on that foundation.
4. Guard Your Hearts
There is a lot of information at our fingertips. It streams in at an unsurmountable rate and is constant. It's distracting and alarming. If we want to protect our marriage, we must be mindful of what we place in front of our eyes (and ears) because all that feeds our hearts.
Start by paying close attention to the shows you watch, books you read, and places you get your news. If it brings about a frenzy of worry or causes you to go down negative or even sinful trails of thought, pause and pray. Communicate with your spouse and hold one another accountable. Seek support from a mentor couple or counselor if needed.
5. Dream Big
It's fun to dream! It's also fun to reminisce about those first few years of marriage or the long days of raising babies and tiny tots. Now that we are in the throes of raising teens, we enjoy looking back, but we especially like looking forward. We'll sit and talk about where we see ourselves in five, ten, or even twenty years. Some of my favorite conversations are of us dreaming about our future together.
When was the last time you dreamed with your spouse? Open up that dialogue and see where it takes you. Is there something God is laying on both of your hearts? Do you both feel strongly about a certain way of life or plan? Listen to one another and then encourage one another to live that dream out with a mission and purpose!
6. Mighty Mentors
The truth is that married couples need other married couples, especially those wiser. The Bible encourages us to build fellowship with other believers as it holds us accountable and encourages us to be the husbands and wives God calls us to be. But there is something truly special about a slightly older couple. They have been there, done that, so to speak, and can offer their counsel and support.
We were not meant to do this life alone, and as Proverbs 27:17 states, "iron sharpens iron." The effect that mentors have on our lives is invaluable. They not only smooth out our rough edges but can draw us closer to our Father. Strive to find mentors and even be a mentor for another younger couple; it will bless your marriage in so many ways!
7. See the Best in One Another
We received some of the best sage advice from an elderly couple at our church. They had been married for 30-plus years, and we were young. It was well before we had little ones running underfoot. This couple visited our Sunday Bible study class, and we hit it off with them from the start. So, we flat out asked them what made their marriage work and how they remained so deeply in love because it was obvious. I remember them both chuckling at the question, then almost in unison answering with this, "Choose to see the best in one another."
Well, that sounds easy enough, I thought. Then I realized that it's easier said than done. Over the years, I have often wanted to view my dear husband differently or paint him in a dark light when I'm angry or upset. But then I fall back on these words.
What are the best qualities of your spouse? Place your thoughts on those things and remind them of those traits often. Choose to see the best in your spouse and love them all the more for it!