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What Does a Good Marriage Look Like?

The desire for a good marriage is a strong desire for most people. I don’t know of anyone that is married, or hopes to be married one day that doesn’t desire for their marriage to be good. But how do you know if you have a good marriage if you’re not sure what a good marriage looks like?

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Sure, it’s easy to look around and compare your marriage with some other couple who appear to have a good marriage to see if you have what they seem to have. If you think their marriage is built on great friendship, then maybe that’s what you need to have. If they are good communicators, maybe that’s your answer. If they are romantic and affectionate with each other, that could be what your marriage needs. Or if they report to have a very satisfying sex life you could think that is your answer as well. All of these, and so many more are great qualities to have in a marriage.

But comparing your marriage with someone else’s is no way to answer the question of what does a good marriage look like. After all each couple is unique in their own way and there is no way to duplicate their uniqueness. And besides looking in from the outside at someone else’s marriage will never give you the full picture of what they have that makes their marriage good.

So, What Does a Good Marriage Look Like?

Creating a good marriage and maintaining a good marriage requires making conscious choices everyday of our lives. I have found that through all the bad years of our own marriage we had some seasons when it was good. And now through all these good years of our marriage we occasionally have some moments of bad. The choice has always been there even when we did not understand what that choice was.

There is always a choice between two models of marriage. One model allows us to build a good marriage, the kind of marriage God designed for us to have and the other model causes us to destroy it. In order for you to have a good marriage you must choose between a marriage that manipulates or a marriage that ministers.

There is no such thing as a picture perfect marriage because none of us can be perfect. So because neither you or your spouse have the capacity to be perfect you have to constantly choose how to deal with those imperfection in each other and therefore in your marriage. And you will always choose between manipulation and ministering.

Choice number one is to manipulate. This is really not that much of a choice because it always comes naturally for every one of us if we do not conscientiously work to stop it.  You may think, “wait a minute, I don’t see myself as a manipulator.” But I can assure you that anytime you give place to selfish thoughts and selfish motivations you will use some form of manipulation to serve your own personal desires.

You may scream and yell at your spouse when you don’t get what you want. You may pout and sulk in order to teach your spouse a lesson. Maybe you use cutting words to hurt your spouse when you disapprove of the way they do things. Or, you refuse to say anything or do anything nice unless your spouse says or does something nice first.

Also you may refuse to forgive your spouse until they have suffered the sufficient amount of suffering you think they deserve. Or when your spouse has broken your trust you may use your lack of trust as a way of keeping control over your marriage.

When your spouse fails to meet your expectations you could refuse to be engaged with your spouse by staying away from your home or even if you are at home you stay plugged in to the TV, telephone, social media, or some type of hobby.

And of course you could also resort to abuse, having an affair, or using pornography, all in an attempt to serve what you want because for one reason or another your spouse is not fulfilling your desires.

Choice number two is to minister. You may have never thought of ministry as something that takes place in marriage. But ministry is exactly what has to take place in marriage for it to be good. It is that place where regardless of how imperfect your spouse may be, you choose to put your spouse first instead of putting yourself first.

You minister to your spouse by your commitment to your marriage covenant and by never threatening to break that covenant when the challenge gets tough. You minister to your spouse by serving their needs first above your own. And by preferring your spouse as the most important person in the relationship.

When there is failure in your marriage you minister by confessing your faults to one another and asking for forgiveness. You minister to one another by forgiving one another without expecting retribution or punishment. And when you allow yourself to trust again when trust has been broken you are ministering.

You minister to one another by not withholding affection or sexual intimacy just because you’re not in the mood for it. If your marriage comes up short in the romance department you can minister to your spouse by initiating ways to create a new spark.

When you choose to speak kind to each other even when the other spouse is being hateful, you are ministering. Choosing to fill the gap of unmet expectations with unconditional love is also ministering. When faced with challenges or differences you minister by submitting to one another.

Regardless of what examples I give or the examples you may think of, the choice is always ours to follow, either the model of self-seeking manipulation which will only bring us heartache and hardship. Or we choose the model of life-giving ministry, that can be proven over and over to be exactly what is taken place in some form or another when we examine what a good marriage looks like.

Question: What steps are you willing to take to move from self-seeking manipulation, to life-giving ministry in order to build a good marriage? 

10 comments

  1. Heather B says:

    After 18 years of marriage, I still struggle with selfishness and bearing grudges against my husband. I’m trying to take steps in understanding what my God-intended role as a wife is and fixing myself accordingly. I just finished reading a brand new book that focuses on effectively influencing our marriages in a positive way by changing what we can – ourselves – our attitudes, actions, decision, priorities and words. It’s called “The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship,” by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. Biblical, inspirational, affirming. One of my favorite quotes is, “When we turn to God for help, he fills us with his love and enables us to see ourselves and our husbands through his eyes. Keep in
 mind that a wholehearted wife focuses first on her own heart!” I highly recommend it!

    • jackandjanet says:

      That sounds like a great book. We have been to a Gary Smalley conference and we love what Greg and Erin share on Focus on the Family.
      Good stuff! Thanks for recommending the book.
      Jack

  2. Nocturne says:

    I feel like I hate my husband now. He is so petty and vindictive. Every act of kindness has a price and payment is demanded up front. I long for the days of living in peace as a single woman.

  3. John David George says:

    I took one of your articles and rewrote it to apply more directly to the situation in my marriage. I then posted it on Facebook and am getting good reactions to it. Thank you for the inspiration your article gave. Here is what I posted but I was unable to include the great picture that went with it. You can go to my Facebook page to see it if you like.

    IS YOUR SPOUSE A MANIPULATOR?
    Based on “Redeeming Marriages” with Jack and Janet
    There are two choices we all have. We must choose to love or we will naturally choose to manipulate
    CHOICE NUMBER ONE IS TO MANIPULATE
    This is really not that much of a choice because it always comes naturally for every one of us. You may think, “wait a minute, I don’t see myself as a manipulator.” But I can assure you, by nature, we are all master manipulators. But as Christians, God has provided the means to overcome manipulation and instead chose to love.
    Here is a list of some of the ways we choose to manipulate.
    1. You may scream and yell at your spouse when you don’t get what you want.
    2. You may refuse to speak to your spouse to teach him/her a lesson.
    3. Maybe you use cutting words to hurt your spouse when you disapprove of the way he/she does things.
    4. Or, you refuse to say anything or do anything nice unless your spouse says or does something nice first.
    5. You may punish your spouse by saying I will treat you with respect only if I see you treating me with respect first.
    6. You may threaten your spouse by saying I will love you if I see you make a real effort to prove your love for me first.
    7. Also you may refuse to forgive your spouse until they have suffered the sufficient amount of suffering you think they deserve.
    8. Or when your spouse has broken your trust you may use your lack of trust as a way of keeping control over your marriage. “You broke my trust so I refuse to ever trust you,”
    9. When your spouse fails to meet your expectations you might stay away from home. Or you may remain at home but shut him/her out of your life by plugging in to the TV, telephone, or social media., or sleeping
    10. Or you may pretend to have (or really have) someone else in your life to punish your spouse and show how it hurts when your spouse cheats on you.
    CHOICE NUMBER TWO IS TO CHOOSE TO LOVE
    There are only two choices, love or manipulation. And as a Christian, we must choose LOVE. “But”, you say, “my feelings of love have completely disappeared. His actions are irritating and repulsive to me. He seems controlling and manipulative, I do not feel love from him. I only feel disrespected. He seems to be more like an enemy than a friend. So what do I do?”
    Jesus said we are to love our enemies and do good to those who curse us. And if we must CHOOSE to love our enemies, how much more God expects us to choose to love our spouse. Why? Because God’s system is based on LOVE while Satan’s system is based on manipulation.
    By nature, we are sinners. And as sinners, manipulation comes natural to us. God wants to implant love in us to replace the manipulation. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that if we choose to manipulate instead of choosing to love, we are not one of His followers. Jesus said, you can tell my followers “by their love”.
    But there is one problem. We may choose to love but we cannot love unless God plants His love in our hearts. It is only when we really see how manipulative we are and how lacking in true love we are that God can break our addiction to manipulation and start the process of teaching us to love.
    So learning to love your spouse for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, etc. begins with choosing to allow God to break our addiction to manipulation and implant his love in our heart. And as His love flows into our heart, we will see our spouse in a whole new light. We will see him or her through Jesus’ eyes of love.
    And it is ONLY in this atmosphere of love that people can change. One can threaten, punish, shout, scream, abandon, manipulate one’s spouse but it will never change them or get them to love you. One can only change in an atmosphere of unconditional love. And God alone is the only source of that kind of love.
    So is love a choice or a feeling? It is both. But feelings come and go. And when they go, we must continue to choose to love. And sooner, or later, the feelings will return.
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  4. Marianne says:

    This is definitely the way forward ….ministering ….if the whole world behaved that way , peace at last

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