1. Respect is shown through actions, not just words.
I remember reading through Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs when I was engaged. The book made sense, and was pretty straight forward. Every problem and solution scenario the author mentioned I thought was a no brainer. Respect was a natural thing picked up along with manners as one grew up, right? Surely, it can’t be that hard to respect others, rather yet, your husband, right?
Yet, when I got married, there was a recurring theme, my actions were not translating into the idea of respect I had conjured up. It took a lot of trial and error to understand that respect looks different in marriage than with any other relationship. As a matter of fact, the famous passage of Ephesians 5: 22-33 about marriage takes the idea of respect a bit further and calls for submission. Submission is a conscious effort of putting my ego aside and honoring the man who loves me. And that is not something you magically wake up one day being able to do, rather by practicing loving sacrifice over and over again. Saying “I respect you” won’t hold any meaning unless it’s shown and felt through genuine actions.
2. Love is sacrifice.
The word ‘‘love” is often tossed around casually, but when St. Paul mentions it as a command to the husband it is equated with loving to the point of death. The way Christ declared His love for the church by paying the ultimate price: exchanging His life for hers. Undoubtedly, we’d all take a bullet for a spouse (or any loved one), but if you ask me, that’s not the hard part. It’s dying to your own desires and constantly putting someone else before you. It’s selflessness at the core that's hard.
Selflessness is loving when you’re not receiving respect, and respecting without feeling loved. It’s showing up even when you feel like your partner isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. Marriage isn’t 50/50, its 100/100 (see myth # 1 in this earlier article https://www.liliesandthorns.com/post/5-myths-about-marriage ). There’s nothing easy about emptying yourself daily for a spouse, but it’s in that refinement that we become closer to the Christ-like Christian we are meant to be.
Practice submitting to one another as we’re commanded: “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)
3. Be intentional with quality time.
In Choosing Marriage, a book in which Debra Fileta reveals statistics gathered from 1,000 single people regarding how much time they think married people spend communicating, vs. the actual data gathered from 1,000 married people.
Singles thought married people spend 7 hours a week in quality communication. Can you guess what the married people said? Less than 30 minutes a week! Shocking, right?!
30 minutes is certainly not enough, neither is it the goal. It's so important to spend quality time with your spouse. Time where you're not figuring out logistics, managing the house, or parenting. Time where you're investing in growing your marital relationship. It’s easy in the dating stage to be spellbound and infatuated with your partner, but somewhere along the way busyness and redundancy can make the relationship feel a bit mundane. It takes a proactive effort to make sure you’re not drifting apart, but keeping a healthy and strong connection (especially when there are kids in the picture who demand most of your time).
4. Know your game plan.
My husband and I recently took a trip (trying to practice #3 above), and once we arrived at our destination we were bombarded with a slew of people trying to sell us transportation to our hotel. You’d think we were deer caught in headlights, trying to figure out if we wanted a taxi, rent a car or explore the local bus system. I wanted one thing, Abouna wanted another, and the people trying to sell their accommodations were just confused as we were. Frustrated and tired, we finally arrived at our destination much later than we would have liked.
I know this seems like a silly example, but having a game plan and knowing what page we’re on goes for just about everything else in life: when and how to spend quality time, parenting our kids, and intertwining our hectic lives, just to name a few.
Have a game plan and know which direction you want to head in. Help each other get there. It's not me vs. you, but us vs. all the trails this fallen world has lined up for us.
We both have a common goal, it’s simple and straightforward: lead ourselves and our family to the kingdom. Always reminding ourselves along the way that we’re on the same team.
5. Don’t be afraid of the unknown.
There are so many changes that come with marriage. New beginnings, new locations, new roles and so much more. Sometimes it’s more natural to be scared of what’s to come, a new job, a new baby, or a new medical diagnosis. But fear has no place in love (1 John 4:18). You’re now on the same team, you’re bracing for all the unknowns, knowing that God is already on the other side waiting for you to cross over and surrender all fear to Him.
When God created Eve for Adam, and told him it wasn’t good for him to be alone, he provided a helper comparable to him. It’s in our spouse that we find an unmatched human helper for all the hurdles we go through. Encourage one another and help each other reach your ultimate goal.
6. Build your village.
When talking about building a village one assumes it for the purpose of raising kids. But it doesn’t just start there, it starts way before kids are in the picture. Having a great support system is crucial. Just as it’s important to make time for one another, it’s also necessary to make time for your friends and family. These are the people that will be there for your greatest milestones, and stand by you in your hardest times.
Your village supports your goals, uplifts you when you aren’t motivated, nurtures your hobbies and curiosities. You are multifaceted and your life is composed of many aspects that your village is there to be a part of.
Life isn’t just all about you and your spouse, but a whole village that rallies behind you.
7. Pursue God and everything else will fall into place.
Yes, I know this sounds cliche, but if you forget everything else you read above, just remember this very crucial point. This doesn’t mean there won’t be hardships, you can definitely expect that, but if God is the glue that holds your relationship together, then nothing can break that. Build your house on the immovable rock, not the shifting sand. Truly make Him your foundation and keep His commands close to you and nothing will phase you or shake your marriage. Learn to forgive and love like He does. Allow Him to be the life giver that He is in your home and watch how he blesses you.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)