What does it take to have a “successful” marriage? Some people have questioned whether there are any successful marriages. They’ve seen so many bad ones that they question if it’s possible to have a good one. And that’s understandable!
But we can whole-heartedly testify that there ARE successful marriages (ours included); they ARE out there (even if there aren’t as many as there should be).
But there are no shortcuts; it’s a lifetime achievement. Plus, it’s an ever-growing and changing achievement. No marriage can “arrive” at a point of being successful and just sail along as such. You must keep working at it.
We have a great marriage. But we haven’t arrived! For as long as we both have breath, life will keep throwing challenges at us. And we must keep working through those challenges to get to any type of a successful place. And then there we go again; more challenges just keep piling on top of us! It can be exhausting!
Concerning Successful Marriages
We really like what Kevin Bullard wrote a while back on the Mymarriageworks.org web site concerning this matter. He points out:
“Successful marriages aren’t reserved for ‘special’ couples. Rather, they’re attained by couples who do ‘special’ things. This includes things like putting forth effort when they don’t want to and showing love when it’s undeserved. It concerns forgiving when they’re offended and being present physically and mentally when they’d rather be somewhere else.
“When you and your mate begin practicing any one of these things, you’ll be one of the couples who has a successful marriage.”
We totally agree. It’s not that it takes a “special” couple to have a good marriage, but it definitely does take extra effort, made by both partners.
Wonderful, Successful Marriages
We’re also reminded of something that Bill and Lynn Hybels wrote in their book, Fit to be Tied, which gives added insight into a marriage that can be rated as “successful.” They wrote:
“Marriage can be wonderful. It can be deeply satisfying and mutually fulfilling. But if it becomes that, it is because both partners have paid a very high price over many years to make it that way.
“They will have died to selfishness a thousand times. They will have had countless difficult conversations. And they will have endured sleepless nights and strained days. They will have prayed hundreds of prayers for wisdom and patience and courage and understanding. As a couple they will have said, ‘I’m sorry’ too many times to remember. They will have been stretched to the breaking point often enough to have learned that, unless Christ is at the center of both their lives, the odds for achieving marital satisfaction are very, very low.”
Again, we totally agree.
Successful Marriages Take Working Together
It definitely takes a couple who is willing to work together to do whatever it takes so their marriage not only “works” and is healthy, but they each go that extra mile that Jesus challenges us to walk in life.
A good or successful marriage takes BOTH spouses working on the relationship. Sometimes there is one who is the main initiator to resolve conflicts. This spouse gets the marriage headed in a better direction. And sometimes the workload is out of balance. But it ultimately takes two people working on the marriage to make it a successful one.
Marriage is designed to be a two-person partnership. And yet, when you really think about it, it’s actually a three-way partnership, as you include the Lord into a “cord of three strands” partnership so it is “not easily broken” (as pointed out in Ecclesiastes 4:12).
It’s about making sure the “we” of the relationship is not broken. Plus, it’s not so much about who does what, but rather that both spouses are in agreement that they are working in union with each other as a partnership.
Your Working Union
We want to also bring out another important point that Pastor/counselor Greg Baker makes. It’s a less recognized point but it is vitally important! Here it is:
“Unhealed emotional injuries will always be the most hazardous obstructions in marriage.” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7, Matthew 5:23-24) “When a person is emotionally traumatized, they usually stop their emotional growth at that moment. As a result, we have adults getting married who emotionally are still children, or senior citizens who still have an emotional immaturity of a young couple.
“These emotional injuries are the greatest danger to a marriage. They prevent growth. They stop couples from achieving their dreams. And they short-circuit a couple’s happiness. Giving them all the knowledge in the world is not going to fix such a marriage. Only healing will fix it.” (From the article, “The Ten Christian Principles for a Successful Marriage”)
We couldn’t agree more! We have dealt with emotional injuries from our own pasts in our marriage. And until we worked through them to the point of healing, our marital relationship was stunted.
Most couples don’t recognize this important point. They think they can skirt around this issue. But they can’t. Unhealed past emotional injuries will ALWAYS resurrect themselves and enter into your marriage to cause division. You MUST deal with them properly, so they stop causing further damage and victimization.
If something is causing division between you—put the work and effort into getting rid of that obstruction. Make it your mission to get to a place where you can experience healing so both of you can experience peace in your relationship.
Another Important Tip
In her blog, Erin Gram highlights another key to a building a successful marriage. It is humility.
“A successful, godly marriage cultivates humility. Pride, entitlement, and control are natural. I’m learning if I’m basing my standard of humility in relation to the display of my husband’s humility, I lose. He’s not meant to be my standard.
“Turns out, he’s not perfect; but neither am I. If, however, my standard is on Jesus, and I draw my strength from Him, it is a completely different scenario. When tempted to base your response on your husband’s [or your wife’s] example, pivot to look at Jesus instead. This becomes a powerful blessing to your marriage.” (From the article, “7 Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage for Christian Couples”)
Again, that’s so true. “Pivot and look at Jesus.” When we approach each other in a prideful “I’m better, smarter, and/or more enlightened than you” stance, there is going to be problems! “Pride comes before a fall” … and it does. Have you taken some big falls in your marriage in the past? We have! And often pride has been right at the center of it all. But when we approach each other in humility—it’s amazing how much more open we are to listen to each other and find solutions that will help us to marry our differences so we’re both satisfied.
Making Good, Successful Marriages
As we said before, you never completely arrive at having an everlasting, successful marriage. We must keep applying ourselves to do all we need to with perseverance, diligence, and love—a love that God keeps growing in us.
Above all, here is a wonderful formula for growing a loving, successful marriage:
“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness. And to goodness, add knowledge. To knowledge, add self-control. And to self-control, add perseverance. To perseverance, add godliness. And to godliness, add mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)
“And WHATEVER YOU DO, whether by speech or action, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
May God be glorified in all we do, as we apply ourselves in our marriages as He would have us.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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