Marriage is meant to be a life long commitment and covenant between a man, woman, and God. And in my opinion a covenant with God isn't something that anyone should enter into lightly. Our society has made marriage a temporary thing. If you get bored, or somehow become discontent or unhappy you can get a divorce and move on.
Here's what I think in a nutshell.
1 - communicate. It's just so important. It's the top thing that all marriage experts say. Communication breakdowns are probably one of the biggest causes of divorce. And communicating isn't just continually telling your spouse what you think they're doing wrong. It's stopping, listening to each other, taking each other's words to heart, admitting when you're in the wrong - because whether we like it or not we are always in the wrong at one point or another, and moving on to be a better you for your spouse. Sure it's not easy to hear Jay tell me that something I said or did bothers him. I want to be defensive but in ten years of relationship with him I know that I'm often in the wrong and I have the power to change myself, my reaction to things.
2 - love. Love is a verb as DC Talk was happy to sing to us when I was but a teen. Love is an action word. It's not a state of being. It's a state of doing. Sometimes my husband drives me batty. Sometimes I am so angry at him I can't even think or see straight. But always, always, I love him. Always there is a part of me that could not imagine life without him. Sometimes I become discontent with my life and I take it out on him and you know what? He loves me anyway. A week or so later I realize life is good and we all move on. This happens monthly and still my husband loves me. We choose to see the good in each other. Sure I could focus on the negative. I could get angry yet again that he hasn't washed the dinner dishes in two nights (his night chore). I could get angry that his idea of cleaning up the chili that Sawyer spilled two nights ago was to toss a towel over it and leave it there. But eh, it's life. Why waste my time when I can choose instead to love that my husband took a vacation day to go with me to a flea market yesterday? Love is a choice. Jay and I are not the same people that we were when we met 10yrs ago. But we have chosen to continue loving one another as we have changed and grown.
3 - let go of self. There is not room for self interest in marriage. There just isn't. Once you are married life is not about you. It is about US. Now a good marriage will consist of a wife who wants to encourage her husband to follow his dreams, to be the best him that God created him to be. It will consist of a husband who will encourage his wife in her dreams and want her to be the best her that God created her to be. It will consist of sacrifices on the part of both to reach the goals that God has for that marriage.
4 - marriage should NEVER EVER feel like being under arrest. I read the other day a statement that marriage is like being under arrest, anything you say can and will be held against you. It should NOT EVER be that way. I say stupid stuff. I've had stupid fights with my husband. He's said stupid stuff to me. If we spent all of our time reminding each other of the hurtful things we've said in the heat of the moment it wouldn't be pretty. It wouldn't be LOVE. And this is most definitely NOT part of communicating.
Communication. Love. Forgiveness. Grace and mercy. Forsaking self interest.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
4 Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. 5 It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs.
6 Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. 7 It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.
This is what marriage should be. It may seem cliche but I read it right now as I'm writing this post and it rocks my heart to the core. I want to be this in my marriage. God wrote the prescription for a healthy marriage so long ago.
I have flaws and Jay has flaws. We are human. This is the way of life on this earth. But we also have God and our marriage is a covenant between the three of us and where I fall short and where Jay falls short is where we have to depend on God to step in. It's the only way.