The wise preacher declared, “Two are better than one because … if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes. 4:9–10). That Scripture shouts the value of mutual support or accountability in marriage.
Here are some areas where Barbara and I have learned to practice accountability in our marriage:
1. Spiritual health. Every marriage—every life—must involve daily communication with and dependence on God in order to remain on track. Most of us are prone to laziness or distraction when it comes to taking care of our spiritual needs.
A loving spouse, who has your permission to encourage you in your devotion to Christ, can help by asking open-ended questions: “What has God been teaching you lately?” and “What are you praying about these days?” If the answer to both is, “Nothing!” it’s definitely time to slow down and spend time with God. A husband and wife praying together on a daily basis will have an accountability mechanism already in place.
2. Emotional and sexual fidelity. This is a potentially sensitive but critical area in any marriage. The way in which the issues of temptations and moral struggles are handled will chart the course for every married couple.
Neither spouse can risk opening the door to inappropriate intimacy with someone of the opposite sex. In a Bible study group I once led, Barbara sensed that one of the men was acting a bit too friendly toward her. At first she thought she might be imagining it, but after more of the weekly sessions, she knew the man had an interest in her.
Although she was embarrassed and not sure how I might respond, she confided her suspicions and discomfort to me. When I responded with kindness, I saw relief spread across her face. This unsettling secret quickly lost its negative power as we discussed her feelings openly.
Looking back on that incident, we saw that it was a test for both of us regarding accountability. Fortunately, both of us did the right thing—she shared and I did not get angry—and the incident strengthened our commitment and helped us see the value of open communication and mutual accountability.
3. Schedules. We try to help each other make good decisions by monitoring each other’s workload and schedules. Making good decisions means saying yes to some things and no to others. And saying no can be easier when you can honestly add, “We have decided that I don’t have time to do this.”
4. Money and values. Nothing creates the need for accountability more than the checkbook. Early in our marriage, it was a fork in the road as to what each of us felt was important. I recall some early accountability tests. Would I listen to her? Would I really consider her advice? Would she trust me with a final decision? These were all natural opportunities to practice godly, caring accountability to each other.
5. Parenting practice. When Barbara and I had our first child, we began the lifelong process of being accountable to each other for our performance as parents. Early on we interacted and sharpened each other on our parenting styles. We all tend to draw on the parenting techniques modeled for us by our parents. When Barbara and I noticed the good or bad tendencies, we could either encourage or help each other improve.
Secrets are primary tools in dividing couples. Accountability between husband and wife is a superb way to keep them from messing with your marriage.
This article was adapted by permission from Starting Your Marriage Right, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.