There’s this old joke: Marriage has three rings. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering. Hmmph. It’s sad that so many people expect marriage to be a burden. The truth is, for the Christian, marriage is a sacred union between husband and wife and a great place to love, be loved, and become more Christ-like.

Unfortunately, many couples fail to see marriage as the sacred place that it is. Instead, marriage has been seen more as a “temporary condition.” Some couples operate on the belief that:

-all couples cheat, so if I look around it’s not a big deal
-nobody is happy in marriage
-I got married too young and probably made a mistake
-if I were married to a better, more loving spouse; things would be different

As a therapist, I almost weekly hear somebody say that they’re pretty hopeless and believe marriage cannot be a place of happiness, and while marriage wasn’t really created solely for your happiness, I know that marriage can be a place of incredible healing, hope, and joy.

So what about those couples who have marriages that are unfulfilling on good days and downright tragic on bad days?

Truthfully, some couples are guilty of not having a “good” marriage because of their own silliness or bad behaviors. It’s a little bit rare to have marriages that are bad or difficult because of only one spouse. Typically, both play a role.

I’ve talked before about when your spouse makes you angry and the truth is that anyone can get to the place where they are blaming, or even hating their spouse for some behavior that’s undesirable. The belief that “my spouse should be more like me” can make it difficult to ignore little flaws.

My husband and I sometimes mention the things that drive us nuts about one another. We readily admit that we can get in the habit of getting so annoyed by one of these behaviors that we get angry with one another. But, that really does come down to a problem with unmet expectations. When I expect certain behaviors of him or think that my way is right, I’m bound to be met with some disappointment. My husband is not responsible for meeting all of my expectations. I can’t expect him to act like me or think like me in every situation. We wouldn’t have wanted to get married if we thoughts just alike. How boring that would be!

Look, you’re married. That means there are going to be things that your spouse does that drives you to the brink of insanity. But, you can overcome those feelings by giving some grace and allowing your spouse to be imperfect. By the way, I’m not talking about allowing outright sinful behaviors. I’m just talking about the minor imperfections.

What does it mean to have a sacred marriage?

One of the books I often recommend to people is Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage. He does a phenomenal job of reminding Christians that one of the primary aims of marriage is to make us more Christ-like. Again, not the only reason (my words, not his), but a primary reason.

To make this discussion more meaningful, here’s how the dictionary describes sacred.

Sacred: connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.

Veneration: great respect; reverence.

To have a sacred marriage we must realize that marriage itself gives us a connection to God and his purposes and we must treat marriage with great respect and reverence.

The problem with unhappy marriages is that the couple are not behaving in a way that honors marriage or treating one another with respect.

Love for the wife; respect for the husband

There’s a pretty famous book that talks about the wife needing love and the husband needing respect. And, even if you haven’t read the book, most couples understand the basic idea that the wife needs to feel loved and the husband needs to feel respected.

The problem is, most couples have no idea how to show this to one another. Even if you’ve read the book, you may walk away from it not entirely sure how to show love or respect to one another. But, key to having a sacred marriage is learning just how to do this.

So here is a pretty simple assignment for you to work on that will help you in your marriage:

Wives ~ ask your husband what specific behaviors you can engage in to show him respect.
Husbands ~ ask your wife what specifically you can do to show her you love her.

Now, turn to one another and sincerely apologize for the ways you’ve been disrespectful or unloving. Then, make it your goal to start showing those loving and respectful behaviors to one another.

As always, my prayer for you is that you learn to love God and one another more fully.

Blessings on you and your marriage!