Listen to this devotional
Most of us enter marriage with a vision of how we are going to love and support each other.
We carefully write out our wedding vows and promise many things to each other. However, as the years go by, it can be easy to stray further away from our original vision of what our marriage will look like.
To have a healthy and strong marriage, we need to constantly evolve and change, and this is why it’s important to make goals that we can actually attain.
This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love…Philippians 1:9 NCV
Looking back at our wedding vows, I (Cristina) have let go of my promise to watch every basketball game together with Ade. While we promised all these grandiose things to each other, the longer we have been married, the more we realize that change happens through simple decisions.
As the scripture says, it’s important for us to keep focusing on our love growing more and more instead of remaining stagnant. This article will give us 7 simple yet challenging marriage goals we can set for ourselves (and fight to keep) to make this upcoming year one of the best we’ve ever had.
Go back to the Bible
One night we were starting to get into an argument, and I (Cristina) wanted to make sure my point was being heard. So I pulled out the Bible and told my husband that I was going to read him scriptures about how a husband should act according to the Bible.
While he agreed, he also suggested that we read the scriptures about wives as well. Reading the Scriptures ended up helping us diffuse the argument and each take responsibility for our own actions.
We often want to settle our disputes with our emotions, proving the other person wrong or making our point of view sound the wisest. If we truly want to build a close and long-standing marriage, we should use the Bible to help us define how to think, act, and feel in our marriage.
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.
When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”Luke 6:47-49 NIV
As this scripture teaches us, we each have a choice to make when it comes to building our house. We can choose to do the hard work to lay a solid foundation by digging down deep. This depth is only achieved by listening to the word and putting it into practice.
When we refuse to do these things, we end up having a superficial house that collapses once calamities hit. Things like stress, difficulties with our kids, health-related problems, finances, and hurts and unbelief in our marriage can start damaging the relationship.
However, when we choose to go back to the Bible and obey it, we will be able to handle whatever life throws our way.
- How often do we use the Bible in our marriage to guide us through difficulties and decision making?
- What can stop us from using the Bible? How can we grow in using the Bible in our marriage (i.e., talking about our times with God, doing bible studies to strengthen our faith, and sharing scriptures with each other)?
- Where do we see our marriage being superficial?
- As you’re reading the Bible, find one thing you can obey daily that will help you grow in your marriage.
- Share scriptures with your spouse about a vision you have for your marriage and what you will each have to change to get there.
Don’t say “No” to prayer
Prayer has gotten us out of many hard times in our marriage. Sometimes though, I (Ade) have chosen not to go back to prayer or to quit praying before things were fully resolved, which has left me unhappy and ungrateful.
I can choose to stop praying when I let my doubt, my fears, and my bitterness take over. However, when I’ve chosen to pray together with my wife, I have seen our marriage grow closer, and we get resolved quicker.
Praying together is an opportunity to understand each other on a deeper heart level because it allows us to hear and understand the underlying thoughts, desires and emotions of our spouse.
Always be full of joy. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ERV
The way God wants us to live entails us not giving up on prayer. He wants us to live this way because He knows that it will bring happiness and closeness in our relationship.
- What makes us give up on prayer?
- How have we seen our marriage grow when we choose to pray?
- What have we stopped praying about in our marriage?
- Choose to pray together with your spouse every day.
Encourage the other person
When I came into marriage, I had this unspoken expectation that it was to meet my needs and encourage me. This attitude has led to arguments, put unrealistic pressure on my spouse, and left us both distant and dissatisfied.
Over the years, I have learned that my marriage is doing the best when I am fighting to get the encouragement I need from God. This helps me to come into the relationship not only expecting to get but also expecting to give.
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.Romans 1:11-12 NIV
In this passage, Paul speaks to the church in Rome about his expectation to both give to them but also receive from them.
This scripture teaches us a spiritual concept that is also applicable in marriage: in order to build healthy relationships, both sides need to have a mutual expectation to bring encouragement.
When we look for ways to strengthen and help each other’s faith, we will build a strong marriage. This takes thoughtfulness and consideration.
When we spend time thinking about our spouse and expecting ourselves to build their faith, we find creative ways to help them feel special and have a greater vision for their lives. This can come through encouraging scriptures, words, affection, and actions.
- What unspoken expectation do we have in our marriage?
- What can stop us from expecting ourselves to give to our spouse?
- What encouragement does our spouse need?
- Choose to do one thing this week that you know will encourage your spouse.
Make time to connect
Let’s face it, life gets busy. Having a two-year-old can keep me on my toes and takes up a lot of my attention and bandwidth. It’s easy for me to want to check out once I get a little downtime instead of making time to connect with my spouse.
As much as I think that Netflix will give me the relief I’m looking for, I have realized over the years that it is more refreshing to spend time catching up and having conversations together.
Unless we have our priorities straight, it can be easy to start passing by each other without having true and engaging conversations. A British study found that the longer couples are married, the less they have to say to each other over the course of an hour-long meal.
According to their research, couples who are dating chat for 50 minutes out of the hour. Immediately after marriage, the time spent talking drops to 40 minutes per hour. Then 20 years into marriage, the average couple talks for 21 minutes of the hour.
By 30 years in, conversation takes up 16 minutes. And by 50 years of marital bliss, the average couple converses for just three minutes in an hour!
What we learned from this study is that it’s important to make a continual effort into connecting with our spouse.
Enjoy life with the woman you love. Cherish every moment of the fleeting life God has given you under the sun. For this is your lot in life, your great reward for all of your hard work under the sun.Ecclesiastes 9:9 Voice
God wants us to enjoy our marriage. This scripture teaches us that we should make our marriage a priority because it’s one of the things that can bring the most joy.
When we don’t deal with selfish ambition in our lives, it will stop us from placing relationships in the order that God wants them to be. It can then be easy to put more emphasis on our career, our leisure, or our comfort than on making time to connect with our spouse
- What do we prioritize over making time to connect with our spouse?
- How will making time to connect help us to grow closer in our marriage and make us happier?
- Plan out some time on a daily basis to talk and connect with your spouse about how you are both doing spiritually and emotionally
Don’t go to bed angry
When we are having an argument at night, it can be easy to go to bed and think we can deal with it in the morning. Unfortunately, when we choose not to quickly resolve our differences, it can lead to more problems down the road.
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
This passage shows us the danger of not swiftly resolving our relational conflict. Anger can give the devil an opportunity to control and divide our relationships. When we are angry, we can start blaming, stop listening, and grow more suspicious, critical, and unbelieving that the other person can change.
This scripture teaches us that we need to have an urgency and a serious attitude about resolving our anger. This can be done through prayer and taking responsibility for our own sin (Mark 11:25).
- What areas of our marriages are left unresolved?
- How does Satan use our anger to create distance in our marriage?
- What do we need to take responsibility for with our spouse?
- When we find ourselves at an impasse in an argument with our spouse, choose to stop and pray about what we can take responsibility for in the moment.
Don’t go at it alone
Like this oldie but goodie describes, “we all need somebody to lean on”.
We all go through difficult times in our marriages, and we all need spiritual friends to help us through these times. There have been countless times where we needed encouragement from spiritual friends to help us get through a rough patch in our marriage.
Brothers and sisters, make sure that none of you has a sinful heart. Do not let an unbelieving heart turn you away from the living God. But build one another up every day. Do it as long as there is still time. Then none of you will become stubborn. You won’t be fooled by sin’s tricks.Hebrews 3:12-13 NIRV
This scripture helps us see the importance of having spiritual relationships. The danger of going at it alone is that our hearts can become unbelieving, sinful, and turn away from God. The solution against such a trap is having relationships that can engage and encourage us.
Even in the busyness of life, we can still fight to make time for friendship. We all need to eat, so why not eat with friends. When we see the benefits of spiritual relationships, we’ll be willing to make time for those relationships that will help us to grow (Hebrews 10:24 TPT).
These relationships help us to grow by telling us truth and giving us the courage we need to be able to overcome our sins and weaknesses.
- How can we each decide to go after more spiritual friendships as a couple?
- What sins do we get tricked by when we choose to isolate?
- Who can we be spiritual friends to?
- Set up a time with spiritual friends where you invite them to express truths to you about what they see needs to grow in your walk with God and marriage.
Do good together
What helps us to have gratitude, not take ourselves so seriously, and fight to move on from disagreements quickly are times when we are involved in making a difference in other people’s lives.
This helps us realize that there are much bigger things than our own issues and that, when we are united, God gives us the ability and responsibility to help others.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone-especially to those in the family of faith.Galatians 6:9-10 NLT
When stress and pressure are building up, it can be tempting to get focused on our own lives and problems. When we are tired, it’s easy to think we just need to take care of our own home.
We start settling for comfort and just worry about our lives, instead of choosing to care about the lives of those around us.
However, this scripture teaches us that we need to persevere in doing good for others. This could be doing good in our community, helping a friend get closer to God, and using our lives and stories to bring hope to another couple.
When we choose to do good, it not only benefits our marriage, but it also spreads to those outside of our home. We’ve been inspired by friends who decided to stay focused on others even though they were going through challenging times in their health and family.
There will always be an opportunity to do good in the life of those around us if we decide to not let discouragement and tiredness get in the way.
- What can stop us from doing good?
- How can we choose to do good together with our spouse?
- Serve another couple who needs help spiritually, emotionally or physically.