Whenever I speak at women’s events and ask, “Are you the wife you meant to be?” Many look to the floor and tears fall as they consider the type of wife they are––compared to the wife they thought they’d be.
I remember a time when I was in their shoes. After being married for a number of years and having a couple of kids, I knew I had drifted far away from the wife I expected I’d be on the day I said, “I do.” Maybe you can relate?
For me, I found help when I looked to the couples in our church whose marriages I wanted to emulate. The couples who still laughed at each other’s jokes, held hands, and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company. You know the couples I’m talking about. The ones who seem to have discovered the secret to lifelong love that others only dream about.
As I observed these wives I made note of their joyful demeanor. I noticed how they guarded their husband’s reputations by regularly speaking well of them––and did not divulge their secrets. They rarely, if ever, made jokes at their husband’s expense.
It took awhile for me to ask for help, but once I found the courage to make myself vulnerable, the women I approached were more than willing to mentor me toward becoming the wife I longed to be. Read: Why You Need Friends Who Aren’t Your Age
How, you ask? They became my friends. As these ladies opened their hearts and homes to me, I was able to observe in real life how it’s possible to build a marriage without regrets. When they invited me to join their Bible study, my first response was that I was too busy. But when, at the gentle urging of these women, I attended their studies I discovered the wealth of wisdom for which I’d been searching.
During each class these godly women opened Scripture to discuss what God had taught them through their study that week. They shared areas they were being convicted, stories from their past failures, and God’s faithfulness to help them break free from regrets that could have held them back.
The hope I found from their wisdom was remarkable. These were ordinary women who God made extraordinary because they pressed into their relationship with Christ and their relationships with each other. I thought, If God can transform them, then there’s hope for me too.
The mentoring from these women didn’t take place in a program type setting. Rather, it was in the private conversations they had with me after Bible study, or weaved into light-hearted banter over coffee. One woman named Molly who was interning as a hairdresser invited me to come to her shop once a week so she could practice on my hair. As she cut, permed, highlighted, and teased my hair, she chatted about marriage, parenting, and other insights that shaped my understanding of marriage, and of life.
As my husband, Steve, and I developed friendships with these older couples we learned secrets to a happy marriage by observing how they interacted with one another. Here are eight practical insights we learned from these happily married couples that may help you cultivate a happy marriage too:
1. Have realistic expectations.
One reason people become unhappy in marriage is because the relationship isn’t what they’d expected. If you thought your spouse would be the key to your sense of worth, it’s time to realize that your value lies in realizing Christ’s great love for you. The first step to a happy marriage is to release your spouse from filling the void that only God can fill.
In our book, The Marriage Mentor-Becoming the Couple You Long to Be, my husband Steve writes: “You’ll certainly be disappointed if you attempt to establish your worth based on your spouse’s view of you because at some point they’ll let you down, and your perceived security will shatter.”
2. You spouse is not like you.
Unity in marriage is not “sameness”. When you learn to celebrate God’s imprint on your spouse, you’ll resist the temptation to try and remake him into your own image, which is actually a form of self-worship.
3. Think the best about your spouse.
Many couples we’ve mentored admit to having a mediocre, or even bad, marriage until one determined to stop comparing the other to who they wished they’d be. Developing a new habit of thinking positive thoughts will spill over into encouraging words and actions toward each other. Let this practice begin with you.
4. Be kind to one another.
Is kindness your default mode? Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind one to another.” In our own marriage, the seeds of kindness we planted during the chaotic years of raising children have borne fruit in a marriage marked by kindness and a solid foundation for the empty nest season we now enjoy.
5. Refuse to fantasize about someone else.
A major threat to a happy marriage is the temptation to believe you’d be happier with someone else. Jesus told the story of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:26-27). Building your hopes for happy marriage with someone other than your spouse is certainly foolish. And when the storms of life come, your house will come crashing down around you.
6. Your spouse is not your enemy.
In times of strife, remind yourselves the real adversary is the devil, who is a roaring lion seeking to devour you––and your marriage. Several months ago, a rattlesnake slithered into our house. Steve and I worked together to corner and kill the snake. Afterward, it reminded us of the importance of working together when the serpent of old attempts to poison our love and unity. (For more on this snake story read this article I wrote for Focus on the Family.)
7. Love Christ more than you love your spouse.
As you daily devote yourselves to growing your love for God through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with Believers who have the same goal, you’ll discover Christ’s love spills out of your heart and onto those around you––beginning with your marriage and parenting.
8. Determine that divorce will never be an option.
Malachi 2:15 explains how two hearts become one in marriage. In difficult times, believe that God can help you heal your marriage and seek out godly counselors, rather than believing that divorce will somehow make things better. All too often after a divorce, couples experience more pain and heartache than they ever could have imagined.
To recap, the overall message we learned from our godly couples was this:
The secret to a happy marriage is not in how much you love your spouse, but in how much you love Christ. God created us to worship Him. When you make it a priority to worship God through quiet time with the Lord in Bible study, prayer, repentance, and obedience to His will, you will find your joy, identity, and sense of well-being in your relationship with your Creator. When this happens you will not feel the need to find your worth in your relationship with your spouse, and you will never be tempted to look to another person to fulfill you either.
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. Rhonda is an evangelist and speaker at her No Regrets Woman Conference where she helps women break free from the regrets that hold them back––beginning with a genuine relationship with Christ. As a pastor’s wife, author, favorite radio guest, and speaker, Rhonda’s authentic teaching, grounded in sound doctrine, helps women discover significance and become more influential than they ever dreamed possible. To learn more about Rhonda’s messages and to book her for your next women’s event visit her at: NoRegretsWoman.com. You can also find Rhonda on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Sign up for her monthly newsletter at NoRegretsWoman.com.
Rhonda’s books (Harvest House Publishers):
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