How to Enjoy a “Happily Ever After” Marriage
- Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Craig Groeschel's book, Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance, (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2011).
The desire that you have for a lifelong, intimate marriage is a God-given one that reflects His plan for marriage. But when you look around, you see many marriages that either don’t last or aren’t close and happy relationships.
Despite the divorce and marital tension that are so prevalent, marriages in which spouses live “happily ever after” aren’t just found in fairytales. They do exist – and you and your spouse can enjoy one, if you approach marriage the way God intends.
Here’s how you and your spouse can enjoy a marriage that really is a happy one, today and every day after:
Find your “one.” Loving Jesus must be your number one priority in life if you’re going to become the kind of person God wants you to become and be able to give and receive love in your marriage the way you should. So reach out to Jesus with all of your heart, devoting the best of your time and energy to pursuing a closer relationship with Him. Place your relationship with Jesus at the center of your life and revolve everything else around it.
Find your “two.” If you’re not yet married and are looking for a spouse, search for a spouse carefully, in ways that honor God. Don’t even consider marrying someone who’s not a Christian because you can’t ever truly be compatible with someone who doesn’t share your spiritual connect with Jesus, and marrying a non-Christian can only bring misery into your life that will grow. Beyond choosing a person who’s a Christian, you should also look for someone who shares common interests with you, whose personality fits well with yours, and to whom you’re physically attracted. Don’t rush the process, and don’t settle for less than God’s best for you simply to marry by a certain time.
Move a relationship with a potential spouse through first gear. In first gear, when your relationship with a potential future spouse is just beginning, work to get to know each other well and build a strong foundation of friendship. Rather than spending time alone, try to spend most of your time together with groups of people. If your discover that you’re not interested in taking the relationship to the next gear, then don’t lead the other person on; be honest about how you feel to avoid hurting that person more deeply later on.
Move a relationship with a potential spouse through second gear. In second gear, as you sense God blessing your friendship, you can spend more time alone together. But continue to guard your heart, and avoid discussing marriage at this point. However, ask yourself questions like: “Is this person becoming more like Christ?”, “Does this person have a strong and growing character?”, “Does this person have the right kind of friends?”, “Is this person responsible – financially, relationally, emotionally, intellectually?”, “Is our attraction increasing?”, and “Are we helping each other grow closer to God, rather than drawing each other away from Him?” If the person you’re dating isn’t helping you move closer to God or isn’t right for you, break up with him or her as soon as you know.
Move a relationship with a potential spouse through third gear. In third gear, you should discuss the possibility of getting married and explore it with the help of prayer, advice from mentors, getting to know each other’s families, and talking openly about how each of you have been both hurt and helped in life and what dreams each of you are hoping will come true in your lives. Don’t hesitate to break up if God isn’t clearly leading the two of you to get married; it’s better to end the relationship (and grieve and heal) before making a lifetime commitment than to marry when you know you shouldn’t.
Move into fourth gear: engagement. If it’s clear to you both that marriage is where God is leading your relationship, then set a wedding date. But use the time during your engagement to plan your marriage – not just your wedding. Participate in premarital counseling, and discuss issues about which you’ll have to make decisions about together in married life, like: career choices, where you’ll live once you’re married, how you’ll share and manage your finances, your philosophy for bearing and raising children, which church you’ll be a part of together, and how you plan to grow spiritually together. Continue to protect your sexual purity during your entire engagement until you’re actually married, so you can enjoy God’s best during your marriage. The fifth gear is marriage itself!
Pursue sexual purity. Keep in mind that you can’t have premarital sex without consequences (physical, emotional, and spiritual), so your future marriage will be affected in significant ways if you and your future spouse have sex before your wedding. Realize that you can’t have premarital sex without intimacy, either, since God designed sex to develop intimacy between people, so if you end up breaking up with the person you had sex with it, the breakup will hurt badly. Ask God to help you make and keep a commitment to abstain from sexual behavior of any kind until your wedding night. You’ll gain many benefits if you do, including trust between you and your spouse (if you compromise sexually before marriage, you may compromise after marriage by having affairs) and an exciting sex life (that you’ll never have to compare to the thrill of dangerous sex before marriage and are free to build with real intimacy between you). Set clear boundaries of behavior in your relationship to guard your sexual purity (such as no sleepovers) and ask some trusted friends to hold you both accountable to respect those boundaries.
Identify sins and wounds and pursue repentance and healing. Both you and the person you’re considering marrying need to confess sins to God regularly, repent of them, and accept God’s forgiveness and strength to make better decisions. You all should also talk honestly with God and each other about the emotional wounds you’ve suffered in life, and seek God’s healing for them, perhaps through Christian counseling. This will help you both begin married life as healthy as possible.
Keep passion alive after you’re married. Every new day that God gives you and your spouse during your marriage, pursue each other like you did when you were dating, seeking to learn something new about each other, and nurture the passion and deepen the intimacy between you. Don’t keep sins or secrets from each other; confess them to each other and pray for each other regularly.
Submit to God together. Rather than trying to convince each other to make decisions that either you want or that your spouse wants, commit to seeking God’s will together regularly and basing your decisions on the guidance He gives you. Learn how to pray together, listen carefully to each other and to God, and work through conflicts with love and respect.
Adapted from Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance, copyright 2011 by Craig Groeschel. Published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookmultnomah.com.
Craig Groeschelis the founding and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, recently ranked the nation’s second largest church. By 2010, LifeChurch.tv was hosting more than 80 services at 14 campuses. Craig and his wife, Amy, share a passion to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They live with their six children near Edmond, Oklahoma.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
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