4 Qualities Needed for a Successful Marriage
By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Thinking back to the 19-year-old newly engaged me, I felt very confident that I would be good at this marriage thing. I never anticipated having struggles or wondering if we could make it as a couple. I dove into love headfirst, feeling confident and ready for the journey ahead! Did I have the first clue about how to build a successful marriage? Nope, not at all. I had my man and Jesus for those early years of matrimony that felt like more than enough to get us through.
As time has passed and our lives have expanded greatly, I have realized that a successful marriage takes a lot of intentionality. Me winging it with Jesus hasn’t always led me to places I wanted to be in my marriage. Nonetheless, we have both learned so much on our less-than-perfect journey and continue to be confronted with the reality that we have to fight for each other every day if we are going to make it to death together.
Fifteen years and five kids into this wild ride, and I’ll be honest, we still haven’t figured it out. We have many ups and downs and are two very different people doing our best to be faithful and loving to each other. Here are a few lessons we have learned the tough way about what makes a marriage successful.
1. Jesus Has to Remain Our Anchor
I know I made fun of my naive thought that Jesus and I would wing this thing for the many years to come, but there is a little bit of truth that we must cling to our faith in order to endure the trials and joys that we will inevitably endure with our partners over the years. If it wasn’t for our shared dedication to the Lord, I don’t think we would have been able to remain in our marriage once the issues started to come into view. God’s Word encourages us to remain committed to our marriages unless there is abuse, our partner is not a believer, or our partner is unfaithful.
The Bible reminds us that love is patient, kind, enduring, and selfless, and it forgives. Without these reminders, the first time we feel disappointed or deeply offended by the person we love, it’s much easier to abandon ship than to do the work to heal these rifts. When our bitterness becomes a stumbling block to expressing love in our marriage, we have Jesus to rely on. He takes care of us when we are in a situation where we feel we would be justified to retaliate. In the kingdom of God and with him at the center, marriage is called to be a place defined by sacrificial love and not self-preservation.
2. Develop Strong Communication Skills
Communication is the bedrock of a strong marriage. Healthy communication is the most important skill you can develop as a couple. Our marriage counselor even encouraged us to see conflict as an opportunity, not a defeat. These are moments to learn more about each other. When we see every encounter as a chance to learn about each other and grow into the team you are called to be, your relationship can flourish!
No subject should be off limits if we are embracing kind and open communication. I share this telling you to do what I say and not what I’ve done. My husband and I have struggled as a team because we have not mastered a healthy communication pattern. Hope is not lost for us! Or for you if you find yourself stuck in an ugly loop of miscommunication punctuated by explosive moments. If you find yourself stuck, it’s time to call on your community. Get counseling together and/or individually. Do the communication workbooks together. Keep pursuing health! As long as you both are working towards growth, there is hope for your marriage.
3. Cultivate a Village
You need a village to rely on. This village doesn’t start once you have kids; you need this village at every age and stage of marriage. When we were the only young crazy people married that we knew, we sought out other couples that jumped in at a young age like us. They helped us remain accountable and committed to our marriages when they were just at the start.
As young parents, I’m so sure I couldn’t have stayed married without other couples in the same life stage sharing that our fatigue and uncertainty about parenting was normal. At this time, I also developed chronic anxiety and depression that cost our marriage quite a bit. We relied on friends, pastors, parents, and more to find the next step forward in this growing season.
When we start seeing our kids become adults, we will need a village to remind us that we can still live with purpose and joy in that new life phase. Proverbs 19:20 tells us we need others around us to give us wisdom and instruction when the road ahead feels unclear. We need people to advise us, cry with us, encourage us, and more! Life is meant to be done in the context of community.
4. Mutual Love and Respect Are the Foundation of a Strong Marriage
Ephesians 5 gives a lot of advice for married couples. This passage talks about our mutual need for love and respect. Both men and women crave to be known, seen, and loved, as well as have their desires, thoughts, and passions respected. It’s just a basic human desire.
We will thrive if we keep these foundational virtues at the core of our marriages. When we talk to each other, are we being loving? Are we showing respect? When do we make decisions about our future? Parenting? Money? Relationships? Etc. Are we showing love and respect? If the answer is no, then we need to pivot.
If you have lost a heart of love for your partner, it’s time to go out of your way to cultivate closeness between you and your partner. If you struggle to respect each other, you need to have an honest conversation about the bitterness that may be clouding your communication. It’s impossible to respect someone you are harboring unforgiveness toward.
Marriage is one of the most challenging yet most important things we will ever do with our lives. To remain committed to one person for a lifetime, you will have to apologize at least a million times and be willing to offer a million and one gracious moments of forgiveness. It’s not easy to live out, but it matters so much to the work we are called to do while here on Earth. We have to keep choosing each other, not expecting perfection but offering a willingness to grow through whatever challenges we face individually or as a couple.