All married couples want to be happy. The world is quick to offer suggestions related to buying things, taking trips, or spicing things up – all good in proper perspective. Yet, those things won’t help without some other things taking place first. Let’s say a couple is having trouble; they decide to take a cruise to fix things. There’s just one problem: they bring themselves along – with all of their self-focus and unresolved issues. They haven’t done anything to fix their problems; they’ve only moved them to a more scenic location. So what has to happen first for a happier marriage, every day?
Talk About the Things of God Together
True happiness comes from knowing God more over time (Phil. 3:1-15). That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to take in His word every day. You can’t know God if you don’t know what He says about Himself and His ways. And think about it; while personal devotion is important, what better way to grow closer to your spouse than to grow closer to God together? Keep a daily appointment with each other and go through bible passages or books; devotional material; Christian articles; or bible studies. You can talk about theology; worldview; and how to think biblically about what’s going on. You’ll know God and each other better and find more joy in Him and each other. Whether a formal devotion or casual conversation, there is simply no substitute for bible intake to foster like-mindedness and happiness together (Phil. 2-4).
Examine Your Own Heart
Growth in Christ and growing closer to your spouse are no mere academic matters. You have to know God’s word, but you also have to apply it to your sinful heart. You have to replace your sinful thoughts and actions with godliness. The only way to do that is to renew your mind with God’s word. This three-fold dynamic is repeated in different ways throughout the New Testament (e.g. Eph. 4:22-24). The truth is that all of us are mostly focused on ourselves and what we want. We want our spouses to please us, and so often we like them for selfish reasons. But that’s not true love nor is it Christ-like. In order to love God, and indeed your spouse more, you’re going to have to fight sin in your heart. And think about this: you don’t even know the sin that’s in your heart until you examine it through Scripture (Heb. 4:12). No one likes exploratory surgery, especially when it’s related to the heart. But neither can you live without it. Deal with your heart every day and your marriage will be happier.
Resolve Conflict Quickly
Marriage brings conflict because two selfish people live in close quarters. Conflict drains happiness out of a marriage. Things don’t get resolved and bitterness builds up over time. The good news is that one of God’s purposes in marriage is our sanctification. But we have to know what to do for that to happen. We have to resolve conflict quickly. If you’re growing in grace through bible intake and self-examination, you’ll see your faults more clearly. You’ll be prompted to confess your sin and repent more readily. You’ll be eager to forgive. And be the first to do so! That’s part of what Paul means when he says don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t ignore Him when He convicts you. You’re going to have to make a decision to stop being selfish in the moment; to stop being ugly; to stop being unfair. You must humble yourself. When you do, it gets easier over time, and yes, the happier your marriage will be.
Challenge One Another Spiritually
No one likes to be rebuked. Even loving admonition is hard to take. Yet, real Christians love the aftermath of rebuke. God works in our hearts and we grow. While our flesh loves sin, the inner man loves righteousness (Rom. 7:15-23). So, when my wife admonishes me, she’s helping me to be who I really want to be. I love God more, and when I love Him more, I love her more. And that makes us both happy.
Pray for One Another
Finally, don’t underestimate the need for and benefit of prayer. God is the one who does the work, but He works through prayer. Going to God in prayer is no mere religious or spiritual exercise. It really is going to God – the only one who can change someone’s heart. And when you pray for God to work in your spouse’s heart, and you should every day, make sure you pray He works in your heart first.
These things aren’t everything, but they’re foundational. And if you get these five things right, everything else will fall into place (Matt. 6:33).