Because it’s actually supposed to be amazing.

I have a great marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging or anything. It’s just that one day I realized, this marriage gig rocks! When it comes to relationships, this is the greatest thing ever!  That was a happy day.

Now you may not be that happy for me. You may be thinking to yourself, “You got lucky, pal.”  You may be right to a point, but I assure you my amazing marriage is no accident. After 32 years of marriage, and over 25 years of pastoral ministry, I am here to say that any marriage can be better.  In fact, I believe most marriages can be amazing.

Now I know a lot of married couples. I have talked to hundreds, maybe thousands of married couples. Many of them were going through hard times when we met or at some point during our friendship.  Very few of those wonderful but hurting people had actually stopped loving each other. In fact, I have seen several couples divorce who stilled loved each other very much. That is probably hard to believe but it’s true.  In fact, I contend that love is often not the problem at all.  Often the problem is in the “how”. How do you love your spouse? If you think about it, it makes sense. Love that is expressed in a way that your partner cannot receive causes more pain for both of you

Would you like a better marriage?  Would you like to one day achieve amazing? These are a few simple “commandments”.  I did drop the “THOU SHALT” because – well – those didn’t go so well the first time, so why employ them again? (Romans 7:11)

Learn Each Other.

You will never know everything there is to know about anything. You will never fully know any human being and most definitely not your spouse.  I can hear you protesting but hold that derogatory comment for a moment. Have you ever said of someone that you knew well, “I never thought they were capable of something like that?”  Have you ever thought to yourself, “I never thought I would do such a thing?”

My point? (So glad you asked.) WE DON’T EVEN KNOW OURSELVES! I will forego my usual rant about why that is, and use the Bible to state my case. It seems the great Apostle Paul did not fully trust his own comprehension of himself.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

People, in general, aren’t known for their self-awareness.  (Proverbs 21:2; Jeremiah 17:9) So let’s begin there.  The day you begin to humbly accept that you may not be the person you think you are is a tragic and wonderful day.  Know that it takes two emotionally healthy individuals to have a good marriage. Then begin working on the one you already know best, yourself. So

Learn Yourself.

Know Thyself.  The famous declaration from Greek philosophy serves us well today. The business of actually knowing one’s self is a serious business indeed. It can seem an insurmountable challenge to a society drowning in distraction. Yet, it is possible. It requires a currency most in our culture disastrously lack, focus.   

So, get to know YOU. Make friends with yourself. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Consider the actions those ideas and emotions inevitably became. Ask yourself, “Why?”  Then wait for the clarity that comes with focus and patience.

There are many wonderful books and conferences available to you. They will help you explore the motivations of male and female hearts.  I have found great value in the works of John and Stasi Eldredge. Wild at Heart and Captivating have given me so much understanding. There is so much available to assist your journey. Yes, It takes time and courage. But, you will be so glad you began. You will be stronger for your journey. And, you will know God so much better because of it.  So, yes, it is worth it and it is very important to your marriage.

Alas – yes, “alas” IS all the Shakespeare I know – there are typically two people in any given marriage. So, there is more happening in your marriage than you. So

Learn Your Spouse.

My wife is my favorite subject.  I love her story. I know where she has been and what she has endured. There have been so many tragic assaults upon her heart, yet she has overcome. She is one of my heroes.  After 32 years you would think there is nothing else to discover, I should now be the expert. But any expert will tell you, experts don’t know everything there is to know. An Expert is someone who knows enough to learn from the things they discover. And each year, I discover more about this captivating wonder that is my beloved wife.

1 Peter 3:1, 6-7 (Passion) And now let me speak to the wives. Be devoted to your own husbands… 6 For example, our “mother,” Sarah, devoted herself to her husband, Abraham, and even called him “master.” And you have become her daughters when you do what is right without fear and intimidation. 7 Husbands, you in turn must treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are co-heirs with you of the “divine grace of life,” so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

One of the ways we tend to hinder our marriages is that we stop learning about ourselves and our spouse.  When we come to think that we know all that is needed, we lose the wonder of discovery.  It is this wonder that makes marriage amazing, so get “back to school” on your person. Learn each other and then you will better…

Help Each Other

We all need help in life. No one is a lone ranger. Now, I need a lot of help. If it weren’t for my girl, I’m not sure I could function very well at all. I know I would not be very happy. Too often, we leave our best friend hanging. For example, rather than help your husband remember an anniversary, you might choose to test him to see if he can remember on his own.  Why not skip the fight and help the guy out? We fellas have a number of unspoken expectations too, it’s not just a female problem. We need to help each other.

Help your spouse understand your needs.

You are in this together, so act like it.  As you take that journey of self-discovery, you are going to discover your needs. When you do, you will realize that there are things only your husband or wife can do for you. There are needs that only they can meet. Let them know.

I need Kristi’s (my wife) help with so many things and she cannot read my mind.  A few husbands may be shocked to learn this but it is true. Many women are highly intuitive but no women are mind readers. 

So, I learned along this awesome trip we call marriage that I need to tell her what I need. She didn’t get how my brain worked for many years. Then one night we watched a marriage conference together.  In that shared experience, we found a language to help us understand each other. Now she knows there are times I need to be alone and I can tell her and she understands.

Laugh your way to a better Marriage, Mark Gungor. 

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, John Gray

So often we expect our partner to read our minds and words would have worked great. Help your spouse know what you need.

Help your spouse with their needs.

Sometimes that means waiting for them to be able to share their needs. We often don’t know what we need right away. If we ask our spouse what they need and they don’t know, we tend to move on. Instead, wait. Your spouse may need to talk a bit, or they may need to reflect awhile.  Wait for it. Then do what you can to meet it.

Kristi helps me remember things. I am very future-oriented. I know about the future, but I don’t remember the past very well. Anything longer than yesterday, I really have to work at. We have a large family and lots of memories. My amazing lady takes all the pictures and makes books about them because she loves it and because she loves me. We have often shared a wonderful evening as she regaled me with our own story.

I take care of her too.  I make sure her car is good to go. I fix broken things around the house. I remind her that she is beautiful inside and out. She forgets often and seldom believes me, but I keep at it.

Of course, in talking about needs I am talking about so much more than trips to the store or new possessions.  We all tend to inhabit a very lonely place within ourselves. Marriage is about traveling to that loneliness with our partner. It may also be waiting for them to come out of that place. Either way, this is what we signed up for when we said, “for better or worse”.

Help your spouse’s reputation. 

Affirm your spouse. Tell the world how wonderful your person is! You should be your partner’s biggest fan.  Sure, no one knows their faults like you, but it is also true that no one knows their strengths as you do. It’s easy to find dirt in a gold mine, but you enter the mine for gold, not dirt.  Your marriage is your gold mine, go looking for the gold and you will find it. Then tell everyone about the gold.

Ephesians 5:28 (NLT) In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 

My wife made a commitment long ago to never speak ill of me.  How she would say it is like this. “I talk to Micheal (me) about his strengths and I talk to God about His weaknesses.” It has made a significant difference in our marriage. I should also mention that most people live up to your impression of them.  So I recommend that you become greatly impressed with your spouse!

Enjoy Each Other

No one gets married to be alone. No one plans to be miserable either. I have never performed a wedding for a couple who did not hope for an amazing marriage. None ever walked away together saying, “Okay, let’s embrace the suck until we die.” When we marry it is for hope. We hope for companionship, help, and (keep this on the down-low) good sex. But things rarely go as planned. Here are a few things that will help.

Spend lots of time together. 

Start dating again. Before you were married, you planned and executed FUN STUFF. It was probably stuff that you both liked. Of course, the responsibilities, bills, and jobs showed up in your marriage. All kinds of other things started popping up too. And, in the case of children, well they began popping out.  Marriage can become a transfer of information for the sake of getting stuff done. There may seem to be no time for companionship, much less romance. So, do everything possible together. You should make time for dates. And, make the most of any time you get together. Grocery store runs could be fun and flirtatious. Make sure you embarrass the kids with your affection for each other. It’s important for their development and security.

Not to be preachy, but if your marriage is boring, it’s your fault. Get together and fix it.

Spend lots of time preparing for, enjoying, and satisfied with great sex.

My amazing wife has a quote she references often. “Our enemy, the Devil, loves to get us to have sex before we get married and keep us from having sex after we get married.”

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NLT) The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations,

There are so many wonderful things about physical intimacy in a marriage.  So little about it is predictable, but I will submit one idea that can help.  Physical intimacy is an expression of relational, emotional, and spiritual intimacy. If you want better sex – and you do – invest in your emotional and spiritual intimacy. That means you can be working on great sex all the time.  I hope you think that is good news. Even if you don’t, I would argue that married couples, in general, need to have more sex.  And…

Don’t forget. You got married to BE together.

You didn’t marry to pay mortgages and bills. You did not marry to be parents. One day you found your person and thought, “I am going to spend the rest of my life with you.” So do that. Be with your person. Enjoy an amazing marriage. Sure you may need to work through a bunch of stupid fights about nothing. But, when the dust settles – and it will if you let it – make sure you’re still standing with your best friend, your person, your beloved.