Marriage is hard work. Great marriages are even harder.
I don’t know if I’d claim to have a great marriage. My wife reads my blog — some days. (She’s the one that finds most of my typos.) And, my wife is the relational queen — the best I’ve ever seen — so her expectations for relationships are high.
For years working with couples I would ask them how strong their marriage was on a scale of 1 to 10. I just wanted to see where they felt they were and how far apart they were from each other. Almost without exception, the wife had a lower number than the husband. I think that’s because the women are usually the more relationally aware than us men. And, frankly, because of that, often having higher expectations for all a marriage could be.
So, while I actually think we have a great marriage — I’m going with good for the purpose of this post.
But, I’m pretty sure she’d say we have a good marriage. (Please say that sweetheart.) And, I’m certain she’d agree we work at being great together — most of the time. (There have been weeks, especially earlier in our marriage, when we seemed to work against each other — but those days are rare now. Thankfully)
Certainly both of us have seen things that don’t work — for our marriage and with the hundreds of other marriages we’ve encountered in ministry. And, we’ve also witnessed some great marriages. We’ve made a goal to surround ourselves with people who have marriages that can strengthen our own. One of our best pieces of premarital advice we give is to encourage people to find mentoring couples. It’s worked for us too.
So, what are some things that make great marriages soar? What keeps them going? What have we observed? What have we experienced?
Here are a few thoughts.
How great couples make their marriage soar:
Let differences work for them. All couples are made with two different people. No two people in the world are just alike. And, after working with hundreds of couples, I’m convinced opposites often do attract. But, great couples learn to build upon those differences. They build upon each other’s strengths and let each other minimize their weaknesses. “Two are better than one” — the author of Ecclesiastes says — and great couples live this truth.
Extend grace for the minor annoyances. Can we just be honest? People do stuff that gets on our nerves at times. That’s true of all of us — even with the people — maybe even especially with the people we love the most. Great couples have learned not to let those little things distract from the major things — like love and commitment.
Serve each other. There are no 50-50 splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrificially serve one another. In the best relationships, it would be difficult to judge who serves one another more. There may be be times one gives 100%, because the other can’t give anything. And there are other times the other spouse gives 100%. And neither complains when it’s their turn to give all.
Prioritize their time. Great couples spend time together. Life is busy for all of us. These couples schedule time together. They find things to do that each of them enjoy. And, they say no to other things that would keep them from having adequate time together.
Keep no secrets. There are no hidden issues among great couples. They are vulnerable with each other. Both partners open themselves up to the other person completely.
Publicly support each other. Great couples are supportive of each other in public. They don’t tear each other down in public. They handle private issues in private.
Keep no record of wrongs. Great couples learn to forgive. There aren’t any lingering issues that haven’t been resolved.
I feel the need to emphasize that I’m writing these with the understanding that it takes two people — both committed to making the marriage great — for any of these to work. There are some people who would give anything to make a great marriage, but they are the only part of the couple trying. I get that. A one-sided commitment won’t work when attempting to bond two people into one great couple.
But, when two people are willing to work hard — a great marriage is within reach. For all of us.
We are working towards the great marriage. Who is with us?