Confession: I am a more attractive wife at work. (My husband does not share my workplace.)
When clients see me, I smell good. I wear makeup. I am patient. I pick up the phone with pleasantries and aptly-timed laughs.
I like myself more at work. I am even-keeled, wise, optimistic. I am thoughtful in my contributions. I accomplish projects with healthy teamwork.
Snapped at just the right moment, work gives me a high-five image of myself.
Work can be a (somewhat artificial) haven of feeling effective and successful and admired. It’s something we might not feel one iota at home—the location of the disappointed spouse, mouthy teenager, and running toilet.
In fact, coworkers generally clean up after themselves. Though not without exception, we treat each other with dignity and class.
In Present over Perfect, author Shauna Niequist reflects,
It’s easier to show up and be a hit for an hour than it is to get down on the floor with your kids when you’re so tired … It’s easier to be charming on a conference call than it is to traverse the distance between you and your spouse, the distance you created.
Turns out my kids don’t pay much of a salary. And if there were a performance review at home? Let’s just say there’d be some glaring weaknesses.
But whether Jesus leads me through the laundry room (well, once we make a path) or the board room, there’s one Boss, one critical task (doing the work of Him who sent me, as per John 4:34).
Some jobs may be a lot harder. A lot less appreciated. A lot less sexy.
But Jesus didn’t actually call me to be impressive or get drunk on my own performance. He asked me instead to go anywhere, do anything (see Matthew 16:24-25).
And it starts in my own backyard.
The good stuff: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Action points: In what environment do you feel like the most winsome version of yourself? How might that environment prevent you from seeing the more negative version of yourself? In what ways might you be more dedicated professionally than you are in your home?
When my husband and I got married, we had already been living together for more than a year. (I know, I know … I talk a little more about that in the link below).
We had been sharing one couch, one kitchen, and one comforter for a while. Yet we had very specific ideas of what qualified as his, mine, and ours.
The TV? His, because his parents gave it to us.
The washing machine? Ours. We split the cost when we moved in.
The dog? Mine. He followed me around the house.
Our time? We had established an unspoken, unintentional pattern: You do your thing, I’ll do mine. See you at the end of the day and on date night.
And that worked. Until it didn’t.
As a wife, being my husband’s “girlfriend” no longer cut it. We were married; I wanted more. It made me insecure in our relationship to have to schedule time with my husband. Yet in my lack of verbal clarity, he was only confused about my anger.
After all, it made sense to him. We are as different as night and day. From our temperaments to our hobbies. So what was the big deal?
Till death do us part was the big deal, Buddy. How can you part what isn’t fully joined?
It took us a heart-to-heart convo and a little trial and error to realize marriage is best navigated together.
No, that doesn’t mean spending every waking moment glued to each other’s side. But it does mean being conscious of how your use of time might impact your spouse. For us, it looked like me learning how to bait a hook and cast a line. And him double checking with me before making weekend plans.
Do we still enjoy time apart? Of course. But not at the expense of the other’s sense of security.
Living together before saying “I do” affected more than our living quarters.
The good stuff: “Have you not read … ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? … What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6
Action points: Look at how you spent your time over the last week (or month). Does your schedule reflect that you value “us” time or “me” time? Humbly ask your spouse if your schedule makes them feel like a priority.
By Laura Way
A friend and I were just laughing over how quickly kids can form unhealthy habits. You buy them a cake pop one time during their sibling’s practice, and suddenly every time their sibling practices, It’s time for a cake pop!
Even as an adult, I could get into the swing of eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner a lot faster than I can sync up my life with rhythms of exercise.
Unhealthy habits in marriage can be a bit like that, too.
Unhealthy habits like not looking our spouse in the eye when we talk to them (we can stop multitasking for them, yes?). Or grinding our gears all day about the dishes left on the coffee table (and assuming they did that to make our lives harder). Maybe even interrupting our spouse or speaking negatively about them with others.
When we open the door to a less than helpful behavior, it’s easier to repeat again later.
At our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, one of the biggest takeaways is that the natural drift in marriage is toward isolation. And if the drift toward isolation is natural, our unhealthy habits lead us there even faster. Connection and intimacy don’t happen by accident, it takes intentionality.
Have you noticed any bad habits in your marriage? Check out these unhealthy habits to avoid.
The Good Stuff: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Action Points: Pick one (just one for today!) of the 16 habits listed in the article above (or one of your own) and resolve today to to replace it with a healthier one.
“You’re not going to believe the deal I found today, Babe!” I bounded in the door.
My exuberance drew a less-than-enthusiastic response from my spouse.
“We talked about this.”
I’d done it again. But wanting my family to be excited because I saved my family money by spending is normal, right?!
Did I just say that?
The popular myth: Managing money is about figuring out what to do and then doing it.
But is it that simple? We usually miss a crucial factor: the heart driving it all. Proverbs cautions us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (4:23 NIV).
One way of pursuing a shared budget is to move past the belief that just knowing the right things about money guarantees we will do the right things with money.
What’s your real “treasure” beneath the big find? What does it do for you inside? What are your heart’s true reasons for overspending, or even saving?
Establishing a budget begins with listening. Come clean with one another and honestly assess where you may need help to cling less tightly.
Turns out my “great find” had a hidden treasure after all: Popping open a life-giving, critical conversation to tackle my fear of death by budget.
Listen to the pros offer strategies to keep money conflicts out of your home in “Money and Marriage” on FamilyLife This Week.
The Good Stuff: As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)
Action Points: Separately, make a list of two or three areas where you tend to overspend. If you’re more of a saver, jot down where might you be prone to overreact and clamp down—and why. Talk and start tracking what you spend with the goal of pursuing what can become a shared budget.
Said no one ever.
When my husband and I first married, my parents’ house was still flooded with the chaos and hormones of my teenage siblings.
Having recently crossed the Jordan to adulthood, we watched my parents navigate. I imagine they quarterbacked with a similar level of wisdom I possess for my own teens these days (i.e., We’re all winging it and calling a whole lot of audibles).
But my husband pointed out, “I like the way they expect your sister to be in a process and not have it all together.”
He was right. My parents believe in God’s long game.
Recently, I remembered my husband’s words.
He’d frustrated me in the same old ways, patterns we’ve known and refined for 20 years. I knew forgiveness would come, but change always feels slow with my own junk or his.
I prayed angry prayers that might have resembled slamming, throwing. But there was that tap on the shoulder: Let both of you be in process.
God’s time-space architecture is way out of my league. I see my marriage in present or past tense. God saw our eternity before one of our days came to be (Psalm 139:16). https://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/psalms/139-16.html
But I would prefer to pull up to God’s drive-thru: “I would like spousal/personal change, please!” Then steer to the next window and gratefully open my arms to answered prayer and a packet of ketchup. I’m lovin’ it!
And although God absolutely traffics in miracles, they tend to be less of the lightning-bolt variety. They’re more often everyday miracles of dying to ourselves. Of learning holiness.
Whatever “process” you’re muscling through, sweating and bleeding—there’s One who has His own skin in your game. Whose version of success isn’t just for now, but forever.
The Good Stuff: Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
Action Points: In what area of behavior do you wrestle with believing God’s “long game” for your spouse? What questions does your heart ask in the middle of the waiting—and how might God want you to give Him those cares (Psalm 55:22)?
By Bruce Goff
Getting your snot sucked out is terrifying.
But for little ones, nose blowing can be tricky. So my wife uses this snot-sucker thing on our girls.
She drew a face on the contraption and pretends, “It’s Mr. Snot Sucker, here to suck out your snot!”
It works. It’s momming to the max. And I’m impressed.
One night, after Mr. Snot Sucker saved the day, I had a crazy thought.
I should tell her how impressed I am.
So I did.
She seemed genuinely pleased to hear the compliment. Then we had a heart-connecting chat, as one may encounter after mucus extraction.
Kissing me goodnight, she said, “I love you so much.” She even texted the next day thanking me for wonderful conversation.
It was out of the ordinary, because normally I’m really good at picking out minor flaws and bringing them to my wife’s attention. It’s constructive feedback, I tell myself. She’ll thank me later, I imagine.
Unfortunately, instead of helping, the barrage of micro-critiques tears her down—one little pelt at a time.
But you know what I’m really bad at?
Picking out something worth praising and bringing it to my wife’s attention.
It’s not for lack of things to praise. It’s my sin nature causing a gross mess in the depths of my soul. It’s wanting my wife’s conformity to every tiny detail of my expectations, instead of loving her as my gift from God.
Philippians 4:8 says, “… if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Is my wife perfect? No.
Is there room in marriage for gracious constructive criticism? Yes.
But that night was kind of a breakthrough.
It’s good to know God is still sanctifying me (Philippians 1:6 NIV). He’s taking the gross stuff out. It can be terrifying, but He’s good.
This problem isn’t unique to husbands. Click here to read how Ann Wilson realized she went from being her husband’s “biggest cheerleader to his biggest critic.”
The good stuff: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
Action points: Try to think of one thing to compliment your spouse on today that you’ve never voiced before, and tell him or her. Ask God to help you make it a regular part of your marriage.
By Sherri Oehme
When my husband and I married, I couldn’t think of one person who disliked him.
But after a move and a new job, he began coming home talking about Jim, who never missed an opportunity to criticize the fresh ideas of anyone younger and less experienced.
My man was getting upset, and I was too. It wasn’t long before Jim and I became enemies—and I hadn’t even met the man!
Galatians 6:1-3 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens,” but also to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted,” because “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
That’s a command followed by a warning: Help your brother, but be careful that you don’t fall into sin as a result. This is a good lesson for anyone, but it was one I especially needed to learn.
When my other half hurts, my first reaction is to enter into battle with whomever hurled the stone—even if it’s his grandmother. (Yes, I called out his grandmother early in our marriage.)
However, Paul also warned the Galatians about gratifying the desires of the flesh, including fits of anger (5:16-17, 20-21). So what’s a wife to do?
Feed him kind and loving words. Affirm him and encourage him. Then pray with him.
We’re not meant to carry our spouse’s stress and frustrations alone. We’re to help them carry it to Jesus.
The Good Stuff: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Action Points: Make time daily for your spouse to talk about the life-load they are carrying. If they are carrying a weight of stress and frustration, offer to help by praying with them. Then together, carry those frustrations to the cross and thank Jesus for exchanging your heavy burdens for His lighter one.
By Lisa Lakey
If you heard me speak, you’d gather pretty quickly I’m from the South. I breathe with a drawl.
One of the things we’re known for down here, other than the humidity, is our knack for back-anded phrases. Like, bless her heart.
But another one’s popping up on t-shirts lately: Imma pray for you.
It’s typically said with sugar-coated snark, meaning, “Oh, you struggle with that sin? Not me. But I’ll pray for you.” The praying rarely happens, y’all.
I’ve been guilty of saying this a time or two (OK, maybe more). But the person I’ve used this phrase on the most? My husband.
And I’ve had to humbly apologize time and time again.
My spouse should never have to feel coming to me with weakness will be met with harsh, holier-than-thou judgment. There is zero room in marriage for that.
We all need someone to hold us accountable, but not without forgiveness, kindness, and patience. These things make all the difference in married life—both in the receiving and giving.
And second, shouldn’t “Imma pray for you” be replaced with “Imma pray with you”? When my husband comes to me to confess a weakness, a fear, a struggle (whether deep or superficial), I want my first response to be, “How can I pray with you?”
Or even, “Is it OK if I pray with you? You don’t have to say anything.”
Rarely can I fix what’s bothering my spouse. But I can most definitely reach out to the Father on his behalf. And I can ask God to bless his heart (no snark intended).
The Good Stuff: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
Action Points: Pick one day a week to ask your spouse, “How can I be praying for you right now?” Not only will you be better equipped to pray for them, but you will give them an invitation to share their heart’s burdens with you.
During the five-plus years my family lived in Africa, my kids hated getting fevers. Because with every fever, we tested for malaria.
Pricking their little finger pads the size of a pencil eraser, I’d squeeze out a single ruby drop on a stick that looked like a pregnancy test. You can imagine how fun it is to wrangle a sick toddler for that vampiric delight.
But there was a man who came on a short-term trip during our tenure. He developed the symptoms, but failed to test and treat.
His grieving family retrieved his body at the airport.
Malaria is a parasite, see. It consumes the blood of the infected.
I tell you this because I’m afraid emotional affairs can be similarly swift and fatal—partially because we aren’t honest about them with ourselves. With God. Jeremiah warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9).
It’s just friendship, We might think. It’s been so long since anyone even noticed me. It was so nice just to talk and be seen, heard, understood.
(Did I mention malaria, too, can bring delusions?)
Bring those thoughts to the Test: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
And don’t neglect treatment. (See today’s action points.) Keep yourself from rationalizing the danger of opening your heart to someone who isn’t your spouse.
The Good Stuff: My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. … For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. (Proverbs 6:20,23-24)
By Tracy Lane
Ever feel like you have no time left for romance?
I feel ya.
But perhaps we’re defining romantic and sexy encounters all wrong.
Maybe cooking dinner together naked in a candle-lit kitchen isn’t on the menu this week. But it’s likely you still have a lot of regular romance going on.
If romance is all roses and bubble baths, it starts feeling like something you’ll never achieve. But romance is doing something special or unexpected for someone you love, even though you don’t have to.
Sometimes just looking for ways to help or be kind to each other is far more romantic and sexy than you realize. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon (consider this your reminder!), spark some simple, everyday romance.
Romance doesn’t have to be hard or even well planned. All it takes is a thoughtful, intentional moment in your regular day.
Looking for more ideas? Read “25 Valentine’s Day Ideas for Couples.”
The good stuff: If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Action points: Be intentional about small acts of romance and kindness. Looking over this list, choose one (or two) you can implement today. Then pick something for tomorrow, too.
When my husband and I married, we designated yours truly CFO. Every month, my heart accelerated as I reconciled our poverty-line income with a pile of receipts. I despised worrying over every expenditure, playing the killjoy if my husband wanted to catch a movie.
Years and some guidance later, my husband—and his aptitude for financial planning—took the helm, rescuing me from a heart attack at 30.
When he’s working on our finances, I fall in love a little more.
Resolving tension around money wasn’t actually about how much money we had (or didn’t). Like time or sex, money amplified our marriage dynamics.
How “one flesh” (Matthew 19:5) are your finances? Here are five tips for when money threatens to separate you.
Define your individual money personalities (like saver vs. spender). “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Money conflict = different treasures (maybe independence, security, approval, comfort, power, control). Working as a team keeps healthy desires from swelling into idols.
You likely share common values: to be out of debt, save for something valuable, find financial freedom, or manage God’s money well.
Make a list of your three biggest money issues; set a time to chat. Come with a prayerful, problem-solving mindset of teamwork rather than fear or mudslinging.
My administrative abilities and schedule flexibility make it easier for me to take care of the one-offs—car registration, medical copays. In budgeting, I’m most aware of certain household needs; my husband knows how much we need for car repair.
What’s that moment you can’t wait for (maybe your last debt payment)?
Financial management means financial freedom—from taking out fear on each other, the slavery of debt, keeping up with the Joneses. It’s managing money rather than money managing you.
Dive deeper with FamilyLife’s mini-course, How to Talk Money in Marriage Right Now: 3 Must-Have Conversations.
The Good Stuff: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10)
Action Points: Think through these questions, too:
What inner purposes does money serve for each of us? How do those inform why we spend or save?
How do my spouse’s values enhance our family?
How does my money style create loss or vulnerability? (Penny-pinching could, say, steal from freedom, joy, and carefree memories.)
How have our clashing desires damaged our relationship, especially around trust and honesty?
By Ryan Guinee
My wife was working a double shift the next day. The kids were down, and there was a green light for some “me time.” Couldn’t ask for more on a weeknight. This night was different though.
She’s a new mom—again—having to do new mom things, and couldn’t do all the things at once. So I packed her lunch and dinner. I wrote a little love note and stowed away the plastic bag of food in the fridge. Took all of 15 minutes and the task was done.
What I know about me? I can’t go long without acknowledgement and praise. Truthfully, it’s the blood that flows through my heart. What was so different about this night and this act of kindness was my motivation.
This time, I served my wife “from” love and not “for” love.
I could feel the difference. I wasn’t waiting for brownie points or sex. It wasn’t a deposit in our relationship bank account hoping for some return on investment.
If anything, I was ready to get my hands around an Xbox controller and hang out with my friends.
She sent me a text the next day: “Marriage feels magical right now.”
I knew exactly what she was referring to. It felt good to be appreciated, but the greater joy was found in expressing my love for her without an agenda.
Just by noticing her load could be lightened and doing something about it, I gave her butterflies she hasn’t felt since we dated. I felt invincible.
Here’s the catch: If I was expecting her to make me feel whole through her praise, our marriage would be in serious trouble. She won’t always notice or appreciate my acts of kindness.
So I’ve drawn a line in the sand in my heart. Rather than manipulating her through my service when I need affection or appreciation, we talk about it—and I save my acts of service to love her rather than myself.
The good stuff: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Examine the “why” behind your acts of kindness. Are they emotional bids for love or humble gestures from love?
If you do need love and support from your spouse, consider bringing it up in conversation rather than pushing for praise or gratitude through actions. Ask specifically for what you need. (You can do it!)
If you’re married to a habitual helper, consider addressing this “from love” vs. “for love” distinction. Communicate that you love them for who they are, not what they do. Remind them of their needs and how you can work together to meet them.
Broadway musical junkies recognize the lyrics. “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” demands My Fair Lady’s Professor Higgins.
He comments to Col. Pickering, “Men are so pleasant, so easy to please. Whenever you’re with them, you’re always at ease. Would you be slighted if I didn’t speak for hours?”
Women throw popcorn at the screen. Men might shrug: He’s got a point.
I, too, seem to wish my husband were a better woman. Women are so gracious! So wonderfully observant!
I’d love my husband to compliment my new blouse, gush when I look good. Like my friends. “Oh! You look so cute!”
I’d prefer he uses words like “sort of” before words of criticism. Does he have to mean what he says? I prefer “tactfully indirect.” Wheedling.
I’d like us to chat for an hour after work, maybe share a salad.
(Your husband may be the vegan extrovert. Work with me.)
Alas. God made my husband male for good reason. Not because we needed to be the same, but because I need a person exactly like him.
My exuberance needs his quiet contemplation. My parenting needs his deep voice, broad-shouldered presence, and gentle, logical firmness. He can’t notice my haircut more than my heart. And if I hear a noise at night, I prefer he wallop the bad guys.
Together, we look more like God’s image. God says both genders, together, reflect Him (Genesis 1:27).
Unfortunately, it’s not really in vogue for me to be pro-men as much as it is for him to be pro-women—for us to be for each other, needing each other and our gendered strengths profoundly, as the Body of Christ.
We need good men, just like they need good women. For all the ways we’re different.
The Good Stuff: The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:21)
Action Points: In what ways do you wish your spouse were more like you? Take a look at the strong flip side of his or her weakness. What does this add to the two of you?
By Lisa Lakey
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Twenty-four hours of romance, red roses, candlelight, and love, right?
Maybe. Honestly, I don’t know the last time my husband sent me a dozen red roses.
I’m not saying he’s not romantic. The man has his moments.
But to be completely honest, we both feel Valentine’s Day comes far too soon after the big holiday season. Seriously. I’ve barely given up on New Year’s resolutions.
But before you think I’m going to give you an out on Valentine’s Day, think again. Do the dinner, buy the roses if that’s your thing (or your spouse’s). A reminder of your love is never a bad thing.
Can we all just agree Valentine’s Day is not the be-all, end-all, final judgment on the romance level of your marriage?
If your wife forgets to get you a card, but shows you how special you are in a hundred little ways the rest of the year, is it really that big of a deal? Probably not.
If your husband fails to send the dang roses yet he is a faithful, loving husband the other 364 days of the year, is it really cause for the cold shoulder?
Last night, my husband gave me the gift of clean dishes. I was exhausted and still finishing a work assignment after the kids went to bed. He had worked a 12-hour shift, and knowing I still had a to-do list to complete, he put the remains of dinner away and loaded the dishwasher without a word.
So if I wake up on Valentine’s Day to find my husband has already left for work, yet put my favorite mug by the coffee maker with a fresh K-cup ready to go? I’ll take it.
Romance isn’t one day a year. It’s mutual love and respect regardless of what day is on the calendar.
Besides, I’ll take coffee and clean dishes in favor of overpriced roses any day.
February 14 is just one day. If you really want to romance your spouse, read “What to Do After Valentine’s Day.”
The Good Stuff: Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
Action Points: In what ways does your spouse show you their love and affection outside of the typical holidays and birthdays? Are they faithful and kind? Do they romance you with laughter? Thank your spouse for all the ways they make you feel loved when it isn’t February 14.
One day, I told my wife I felt God calling me to quit my job and go into full-time ministry.
“I don’t think you heard that right,” she said.
I was confused. I tried to explain, but the more I did, the more she dug in.
“If you want to do ministry, go ahead, but leave me out of it. And don’t quit your job—we have a mortgage.”
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, so I know the drill. As the husband, the spiritual leadership is my responsibility.
Was I supposed to “assert my spiritual authority” and quit without her blessing? What would that do to her? Our marriage? What others see about Christ through us?
As I struggled to lead my wife in a direction she didn’t want to go, I decided to look closer at the leadership style of Jesus.
Jesus faced resistance, and even though “all authority on heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18) was given to Him, He never ordered us to follow. Instead, He was patient and kind. He didn’t brag about His special calling or coerce us in any way. He put our needs first. https://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/matthew/28-18.html
What my wife needed most was to hear from God, not me.
So I tried to make it easy for her to do that. I encouraged her to make friendships with mature Christian women, attend Bible studies, and go on women’s retreats.
In the meantime, I did ministry work on the weekends while making preparations to one day leave my job.
It took a few years, but my wife eventually heard God’s call, too.
We were then able to enter ministry the same way we started marriage—as partners.
In this episode of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife president David Robbins encourages men on how to intentionally lead their families.
The Good Stuff: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) https://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/1-corinthians/passage/?q=1-corinthians+13:4-7
Action Points: How can you help your spouse hear more clearly from God? Do they need encouragement? Help with chores? A night without kids? Ask them. Then pick one thing you can do this week and do it.
There’s nothing more daunting than seeing a list of things I should be doing to improve my marriage. Some days I feel like I’m doing good just to keep our family fed, dressed. Alive.
I don’t need 10-15 more things I should be doing on top of that. I’m really good with Mediocre Wife of the Year at this point.
Kidding. Sort of.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do want to know my husband better. I want to serve him in new ways. I want to grow in our oneness. I want to improve our marriage. I just need it to be simple.
That’s why something I heard from a Weekend to Remember® speaker struck me. He described how every day, his wife asks him one question: “Is there anything I can do for you today?” https://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember/
Hmmmm, I thought. That’s easy. I like it.
He described how much it meant to him and the difference it made in their marriage. So I decided to give it a try.
My husband and I work together. So every day it was easy for me to message him and ask, “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
What followed surprised me.
My husband opened up to me in ways he never had before. He gave me specific ways to pray for him. He let me know what was going on in his heart and mind.
Just asking that simple question checked off all the boxes that a list of 10-15 new habits would have. I understood my husband better. I learned how to serve him in unexpected ways. We grew in togetherness. Our marriage improved.
What could asking this do for your marriage? Try it! You don’t have much to lose. But you’ll have a lot to gain.
Here are a few more tips for improving communication in your marriage.
The Good Stuff: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Action Points: Ask your spouse this simple question every day: “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
One of the decidedly less cool aspects of marriage these days?
The “ownership” prospect.
Sure, artists from Taylor Swift to Carly Simon still churn out “You belong to me!” But people get skittish with “property” vocabulary. They wonder if individuality and liberty will be sucked into an amorphous, mashed-potato blob of marriage. RIP.
Maybe even the scriptural “one flesh” makes you nervous.
Does that mean we both like the same movies on Netflix, finish each others’ sentences, and Friday nights are spent looking through photo albums?
I might die.
But there’s a strange moment, at least in initial attraction, where we want to melt into each other. We long to be one with what we find beautiful.
It’s not unlike our desire to buy the song, the artwork, the postcard, the real estate. Gotta-be-a-part-of-that is why we follow charismatic, wise leaders. Support charities accomplishing quality work. Partner with people for life.
Truly, there’s only one Beauty worthy of ownership and trust.
But it’s in service to God’s ownership that Jesus sets aside His rights and gives Himself to the point of death. Romans 12:5 (NIV) says that in Christ, “each member belongs to all the others.”
We’re not foolish doormats. We just willingly belong to God, giving ourselves to others.
God doesn’t strip us of personhood, preferences, desires. (We call that a “cult.”) And when we see Him more and more as He is, we long to be a part of Him; to be owned and ruled by Him. (Check out 1 John 3:1-3.)
Great marriages mirror this kind of one flesh-ness: Shared closeness. Shared identity. Shared growth. Shared submission (as Jesus washed the feet of His bride—see John 13:1-17). And yet, preservation of God’s image in each spouse.
Rather than “you’re not the boss-a me!”? That’s …
The Good Stuff: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Action Points: In what ways would you say a sense of ownership or possession in marriage are positive? At what point are they destructive? In what ways does your marriage flirt a little too closely with that line?
That Tuesday, work didn’t go my way.
I brought the frustration home with me and spoke rudely to my wife.
She took the word-barrage, stared me down as only she can, and then made me some hot cocoa. Placing it in front of me, she said, “OK, what happened at work?”
Besides the hot cocoa, what did she serve me on an angry Tuesday?
She treated me better than I deserved. This is the secret sauce of Christian marriage.
How many times have you entered into dialogue to reconcile conflict, only to be thrown off the rails by a single harsh comment by that lovely spouse of yours?
We’re in justice mode (treating them as they deserve). Not grace mode (treating them better than they deserve).
But it starts with Jesus. Have I paid attention to how He treats me? Better than I deserve.
I used to follow the world’s wide path to destruction, serving Jesus’ enemy. And how did Jesus respond?
No, really. Think about it. It will change your marriage.
He said, in effect, They’re lost, dying, and helpless. I’m going to trade my life for theirs! It’s the only way. I love them too much for anything less! (See Romans 5:8.)
The Good Shepherd became the slaughtered Lamb. The Perfect Judge took the death sentence upon Himself.
Now if the King can do that for a raggedy mutineer like yours truly, I’ve got no excuse not to do the same thing with my wife.
Jesus’ desire is to lavish us with so much grace that it flows through us toward our spouses.
Lean on this next time a rude remark, a sinful eye-roll, or (my personal trigger) a distorted fact is flung your way. It helps me stay in grace mode, apologize for what I can apologize for, and envelop them in warming, marriage-protecting grace.
Looking for ways to better love your wife? Read “25 Things Husbands Should Start Doing.”
The Good Stuff: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
Action Steps: Arm yourself with “grace layers” during your next argument. When your spouse does something wrong toward you, instead of retaliating, use a “grace layer” and treat them better than they deserve. Watch how the fight fizzles out far quicker than ever before.
By Lisa Lakey
Ever played “one-up” with your spouse?
It’s where you attempt to outdo each other in tiredness, busyness, and general holiness. You compare workloads, accomplishments, and your martyrdom. My husband and I are frequent players.
For example, a few months ago our daughter had a minor surgery and I had to stay up late to complete work assignments while I cared for her. It happened to coincide with my husband’s working out of town. We were exhausted and irritable.
On a phone call one night, I mentioned how tired I was.
His response? “You think you’re tired …”
I did not respond kindly to that.
In fact, I may have rattled off a list of everything I had done that day, down to the forgetting to eat lunch (sympathy points for that, right?).
And maybe I threw in a few more punches, for good measure, about the daily load I carry in addition to a full-time job (more points!). By the end of the phone call, neither of us had much to say.
Before we hung up, I was sure I had won—math doesn’t lie, people—but it didn’t feel like that after.
But though God does reward my good work (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)—is scorekeeping really the culture I want in my marriage?
I guess if that were truly the case, I’d be worried about deductions.
Ten points off for what you said in traffic this morning!
Five points deducted for sneaking 12 items in the 10-items-or-less line!
Twenty points lost for refusing to offer grace to your husband …
Trust me, neither of us “wins” when we one-up our spouse—or find our worth in what we do. Besides, the only prize worth winning has already been won for both of us.
And it wasn’t by our awesomeness, but His.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
How we think influences how we act. Listen to this FamilyLife Today® episode, “Thinking the Best of Our Spouse.”
The Good Stuff: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Action Points: Are you keeping score? One way to nip the scorekeeping is to be more aware of how amazing our spouses already are. Look for three things to thank your spouse for today. Here are a few examples:
By Sherri Oehme
It began when my hubby and I returned from our honeymoon. As I unpacked our suitcases, I filled the laundry room floor with sorted piles of dirty clothes.
I was excited to begin my wifely duties, even laundry. Through my actions, I was going to show him how much I loved him.
When I heard the buzz signaling the first completed load, I eagerly rushed in to remove the warm tangle of clothes.
But when he came in to help, words I had never heard spoken, nevertheless still understood, slipped from my sweet, smiling lips: “This is my job.”
“We don’t have my jobs and your jobs—we’re married and we work together.”
Well, okay then … I thought, wondering how long this was going to last.
I entered marriage comfortable with the idea of being his helper. But honestly, the other way around was a bit foreign to me.
I grew up when roles were more gender defined. He grew up as an only child raised by a mother who didn’t have that luxury.
And we recognized early that these dissimilar upbringings were going to shape our marriage into one completely different from our parents’. Into a marriage that works for us.
True to his word, 30 years later, he still helps me fold laundry, cook, rinse dishes, and clean the house. And I help him mow the lawn, care for the garden, and clean the garage.
Our marriage doesn’t look anything like those we were (and weren’t) raised in. We learned that’s OK. Different isn’t wrong—it’s just different.
Marriage often looks different after a few decades. Read “40 Lessons From 40 Years of Marriage.”
For FL: https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/archived-content/miscellaneous/40-lessons-from-40-years-of-marriage-entire-list/?utm_campaign=IDED&utm_medium=email&utm_source=FamilyLife&utm_content=Feb 20
The Good Stuff: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
Action Point: Talk about the roles of your mother and father when you were growing up. Were they gender defined, or did your parents share the responsibilities of the home? How is your marriage similar? Different? Are your current roles working for you both? If not, discuss what’s not working and how you can become better helpers to one another.
Someone I love died from heart failure.
Maybe that’s why it hurt to read about it: When a heart begins to fail, it needs to maintain the same level of blood output every minute. So it tries to beat faster and pump more blood with every beat.
In essence, it overfunctions.
When the heart can no longer keep up, there might be a backup of blood into the lungs, or it might just produce less blood flow, even to things that need it, like your brain and vital organs. The body begins to die.
I thought of this recently in a deluge of snow days. My kids delighted in rolling over in bed. I trudged downstairs, squinting, to begin work. (Somehow my productivity falls when kids are home. Go figure.)
My kids completed their chores as well as compulsory sibling squabbles, leaving out cereal bowls and wet boots.
I realized I associate snow days with the rest of the family chilling, while I amp things up a bit.
I wish this was a freakish snow-day red herring. But later I whispered to my husband, “Sometimes I think our house survives because I overfunction.”
He looked at me solemnly. “I agree.”
(Do you ever feel this? Like “just work harder” can’t work forever?)
In your home and marriage, could one of you perpetually be overcompensating, possibly leading to the breakdown of the “body” of your home?
Hold any jabbing fingers for a minute. Serving isn’t truly loving if it doesn’t have the best for the beloved in mind.
Sometimes a body needs a heart to step up for a season. But could overcompensating keep our families and spouses from developing selflessness, service, responsibility, others-awareness?
Could it cause character to die a little? Who might they fail to serve elsewhere?
My husband took me seriously. Snow days now mean an additional chore for our kids, him helping with crowd control on work breaks, and me asking for help.
Don’t let serving cross the line from empowering to enabling.
The Good Stuff: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
Action Points: Do you tend to be the overcompensator—or the one overcompensated? Talk with your spouse about work division and what it looks like to be both generous and wise. If you struggle with resentment for overcompensating, bring your frustration to God. Ask Him to reveal the motives beneath, and seek His change in your heart from bitterness. Pray about how to graciously acknowledge and ask for the help you need.
There was nothing left to do but wait for the doorbell to ring. But as we waited, my wife’s eyes filled with uncertainty.
“I’m not a counselor,” she said.
Our pastor had asked us to meet with a new couple from church. Their marriage was in trouble, and he thought we could help. Our stories were similar, but I didn’t have a clue what we were supposed to do.
Maybe a marriage you care about is swimming against a riptide and you feel unequipped to help. That’s ok. Our job is not to fix people’s problems. Our job is to help people connect with the One who can.
If you find yourself sitting across the room from a marriage in trouble, try the following.
It’s easy to observe a marriage from afar and assume we know what’s happening. But people’s lives are seldom that simple. We must listen well.
You’re naturally going to want to side with one or the other. But even if you can relate better to the pain one spouse is experiencing, you must make it clear: You’re on the side of their marriage.
The problems you encounter probably won’t evaporate in an hour over coffee. They may even seem hopeless. But no matter how big their problems seem, God is bigger. Your sincere belief in their ability to pull through can help them hold on for one more day.
It turned out our pastor knew what he was doing when he set up our meeting with that couple. We didn’t have all the answers, but we were able to listen, offer a shoulder to cry on, and point them to the God who has helped us in our own marriage more times than I can count.
Grab more tips on how to help a marriage in trouble.
The Good Stuff: His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Action Points: Is there another couple God is calling you to help? Discuss your feelings with your spouse. Is there something in your own marriage you feel this couple could benefit from?
by Jim Mitchell
You know that nauseating pit in your stomach when you realize you’re being manipulated?
Author Tim Kimmel says there’s a reason this behavior, whether intentional or subconscious, is so toxic:
God never intended one person to control another. He didn’t wire us to respond well to it, either. In each of our hearts is an innate aversion to a person or persons from the outside compelling us to do things that primarily benefit them.
Yep, ugly stuff. Ugly in marriage. Ugly when she does it to me, and ugly when I do it to her.
Uglier still when I rationalize it, which I’m good at doing in predictably man-ish ways.
Putting the “man” in manipulation, I’ll take one of my typical trifecta of desires (food, sex, respect) and pout when I don’t get ‘em.
Then as the rift grows, I’ll rationalize with truisms like, “Men are just visually stimulated” and “Doesn’t the Bible require a wife to respect her husband?”
And at that point, something important has shifted. Desire has grown into demand. And my spouse has shrunk from person to a means-to-an-end.
Again, the desire itself may not have been wrong. But desire achieved through manipulation is wrong.
Lord, forgive me. Not for my desires. But for the ways I go about satisfying them.
Click to hear why the simple physical act of sex carries such emotional weight for your husband.
The Good Stuff: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
Action Points: Does your marriage suffer from “man”ipulation? Get honest about it. Grab her hand, bow your heads, and confess to God. Then ask for help finding a healthier, more honest approach.
When I first heard that Christian wives are to submit to their husbands, it was like hearing a four-letter word.
I’m the oldest of four girls. I was used to being the leader. “Submission” was not in my vocabulary.
For the first several months of our marriage, little decisions could turn into major battles. Then one of those battles went nuclear. I had a complete meltdown. But Aubrey remained calm and loving even as he stood his ground.
Wanting peace and harmony in our relationship, I decided to find out more about biblical submission.
One attitude-changing truth for me was discovering that God wasn’t calling me to be inferior to my husband. We’re both His image bearers (Genesis 1:26-27). We are equally loved and valued and have equal access to Him (Romans 8:17). He just calls us to different roles.
The husband’s role is as a servant first—loving his wife sacrificially and with humility—then as a leader who is in turn following Christ’s lead (see Ephesians 5:25).
The wife’s role is that of a helper (Genesis 2:18). To lead well, a husband needs his wife’s help—her advice and her involvement in their relationship, home, and family life, including the decision making.
I also learned submission isn’t just for wives. Both spouses are called to submission. Ephesians 5:22-29 tells me I’m to willingly yield to my husband’s authority out of obedience to God. And my husband, too, surrenders to authority—the authority of Christ.
I came to understand that submission was not being dominated or controlled. The authority God gives husbands reflects Christ’s relationship with the church—for whom He laid down His life.
With an understanding of what biblical submission is (and isn’t) and a desire to obey God, Aubrey and I went from all out war to becoming a united team.
Listen to how men can experience spiritual growth that is both compelling and compassionate.
The Good Stuff: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
Action Points: Wife, knowing what biblical submission is (and isn’t), what might it look like for you to yield to your husband’s leadership (for instance, supporting a decision he has made even if you disagree)?
Husband, what might it look like for you to be a servant leader to your wife (laying down your life for her)?
Then together, Identify some hesitations you might still have about submission, and some possible solutions for addressing them. For instance, if there is a lack of trust, talk about some ways you can rebuild trust together.
I kissed dating goodbye. I donned the “my beloved is mine” ring. Youth camp was my jam. Revivals, evangelism training, acoustic worship sing-fests lasting well past midnight.
I was a career Christian who did it all right. Especially dating. With a few bumps in the path, I walked a (somewhat pious) straight and narrow road that I hoped would lead right to the altar.
But like the Israelites, I did more circling than forward movement. And at 33, still single, I’d had it with God’s way. I wanted algorithms, matches, dimensions … something!
A couple of years and seven men later, I found the guy. He can’t sing, didn’t read any dating books, and didn’t wear any rings. Yet God showed me that He was mine—clearly.
It was our second date. Hypothetical children were the topic. He said, “I’m not sure I want to have children…”
Shock, panic, doom.
Then quietly, “It’s just that there are so many children in the world already who need parents. I think that’s what I want: adoption.”
I swooned a little, but had no understanding of the foreboding of that statement.
We’ve adopted now. Two precious children. It’s a great story made greater by the revelation that I cannot have kids. I didn’t know this eight years ago when we had that second date. But God did.
God, in His mercy, provided me with a husband whose resume I would have never written. His singing voice pales in comparison to the nurture he offers as a father. Being his first “I love you” embodies the real meaning behind that beloved purity ring.
Like any marriage, the minor points of the story are riddled with character development (read: character building!), but the table of contents demonstrates God’s intention in our union.
The span between second date and two adoptions was defined by one word: Wait. The same word that defined my first 33 years has followed me since. Life is full of waiting—for a friend to be healed, on children, for agreement in marriage, for a job, for finances to straighten out. It never ends.
We pray and trust our way to each next milestone, so we can look back and see God’s faithfulness.
Do you find yourself in a season of unknowns? Read “7 Lessons I’ve Learned From Waiting.”
The Good Stuff: God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Action Points: Sit and write a timeline of your life. Hit the major milestones, focusing on God’s faithfulness. Do you see patterns? How has He provided in the past?
By Bruce Goff
My 2-year-old daughter stared down and began to grab a nice sized fry. But she quickly put it back and with precision picked a pathetic nub of a fry.
I had asked her to share a fry with her mom and that’s the one she chose.
A dinky nub.
How often do I do that in marriage? What’s the bare minimum I can give my spouse to make sure I’m doing what God asks of me?
Like when I give my spouse a nub of a conversation. “How’re you doing? Good? Good. Glad we had this talk.” And now back to watching basketball highlights on YouTube.
Or when I give her a nub of grace. What?! You didn’t do [insert no big deal] exactly how I thought you should—again?! RAAAR!!!
To give and serve someone that way is to doubt Jesus when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
When I intentionally love my wife big time, it blesses me. The joy I get after a real heart-to-heart that blesses her is better than any dunk highlight or victory in a trivial argument.
It’s like C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity: “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
Similarly, love aims at another’s good and gets joy “thrown in.” Selfishness aims at personal joy and misses everything.
God delights to love me big time (Ephesians 1:3-8). And because I’m made in His likeness, I’m made to do the same—to love God and love others, which certainly includes my spouse. And even if she doesn’t respond like I hoped, loving her honors God, and there’s joy in His design.
Later on during dinner, without being asked, my daughter offered to share not a fry nub, but an entire chicken nugget. Now that’s big time love—the kind I want to show my spouse.
Are you giving your time to your spouse? Read why it matters.
The Good Stuff: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11)
By Lisa Lakey
In college, I took copious notes, and studied them meticulously before every test. Each “A” was like a little gold star in my heart.
At work, those little gold stars took on the form of a promotion. Or a simple, “Good job.”
As a new parent, I beamed with pride when my daughter started speaking early. Potty trained before age 2? More little gold stars.
But when I tried to apply this aptitude to marriage, my efforts fell flat. Homemade meals meant to impress were burned. I lovingly washed his laundry only to shrink his shirts. Even the “helpful” advice I gave him turned out to be less-than-helpful. I missed my gold stars.
I’d like to say I was motivated by my profound love for my husband. But I’d be lying. Oh, I loved him alright, but my actions were motivated by something much more selfish: my need to succeed.
At an early age, I bought into the lie that success = value. That I was “less” if I failed, if someone didn’t like me, if I wasn’t the best. So I held on dearly to each little gold star, be it figurative or literal (God bless elementary teachers!). Each one a life buoy to hold me over until the next one. And in between? Lots of non-star-worthy moments.
Maybe this is why I didn’t accept Jesus until I was in my twenties. I just couldn’t fathom a world where, “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).
But can I share something I’m still learning? Marriage is no place for gold stars.
My husband needs a wife motivated by love, not one obsessed with achievement. And I want my husband to feel he can come to me when he falters a bit, not scared of whether or not I will hold him to some unrealistic standard. Our value in this marriage is not determined by our successes, but upon the love and forgiveness Christ has shown each of us.
No gold stars here. But love, hugs, apologies, and second chances? We have lots of those.
Read more on “Giving Your Spouse the Freedom to Fail..”
The Good Stuff: Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4)
Action Points: Motives can hide in unsuspecting places. Like in the desires we have for our marriage … and our spouses. What motivates your actions toward your spouse? Did you clean the dishes after dinner because you wanted to lighten their load? Or was it to prove a point — do to help around the house! Today, attempt to examine your motives in each interaction with your spouse. Pray for God to reveal any that might not be driven by love.
By Aubrey Way
My wife finds generosity attractive. I appreciate this extra incentive to live generously, and according to Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
But one thing I find interesting about His words is how often this verse seems to be recited versus how seldom it’s believed (including by me).
I don’t have any trouble believing that being generous is the right way to be and being greedy is the wrong way to be. But believing there’s more blessing to be had in giving than receiving—that giving is better for me than receiving? That can be tough.
When leftovers from last night’s dinner provide lunch for only one, it doesn’t seem better for me to spend part of my morning packing a lunch. Nor does it seem better for me to eat a cold, boring sandwich while my wife enjoys hot chicken curry over rice.
I get the feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this.
But think about what life would be like if everyone believed Jesus’ words. Imagine a negotiation at a used car lot where both parties are vying to be givers rather than receivers, “I absolutely won’t accept more than $5,000!” The world would be unrecognizable.
What if we genuinely believed that generosity was good for us—like vegetables and exercise—and that greed was bad for us—like deep-fried Oreos and doomscrolling?
How would things be different if we fully believed showing generosity toward our spouses was not only good for them, but also what’s best for us? That would be life-altering for a marriage… the kind of belief that could make a ham sandwich as satisfying as chicken curry.
Are generosity and finance touchy subjects in your home? Check out our online course, “Financial Freedom for Couples.”
The Good Stuff: Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:19)
Action Points: Consider what the day will hold for your spouse. Think of one way you can show generosity toward your spouse that will be a blessing to them today—even if it’s just letting them have the coveted leftovers.