We’ve been married for almost 10 months now and enjoyed learning more and more about marriage from personal experience and reading Christian marriage books. While we still have a lot to learn, in this article I want to share with you 5 tips for a vibrant Christian marriage that we have learned so far.
1. Keep in mind that you are married to God’s son or daughter
Your spouse is God’s son or daughter. God is not only your Father, but also your Father-in-law. That was very convicting for me to realize. Am I loving my husband the way I should? How am I supposed to treat God’s son?
Imagine a husband mistreating his wife and then coming to her father, his father-in-law, asking for help about something unrelated. The father-in-law would first want the son-in-law to stop mistreating his daughter and apologize, before even thinking about helping him with anything else. So it is with God. If we mistreat God’s daughter and then pray to Him about something unrelated without repenting and apologizing first, then our prayers would be hindered. This applies to husbands as well as wives. Are we treating our spouses the way God would want us to treat them?
Another question wives can ask themselves is: do I treat my husband the way I would want my daughter-in-law to treat my son? And a question husbands can ask themselves is: do I treat my wife the way I would want my son-in-law to treat my daughter?
2. Do the things that your spouse likes
In dating, James wanted to please me and woo me, so we mostly did the things I wanted to do. We watched my favorite movies, went where I wanted to go, and cooked the foods I wanted to eat. And while James continued doing the things I liked when we were married, I thankfully realized that we should do more of the things that he likes.
So we started watching more of his types of movies, we ordered card games of his choice to play together, and we started cooking more of what he wants to try. James is very thankful for me embracing more of his “culture” and I feel like this is really helping our marriage. This also forced me to go out of my comfort zone, like in the movie example, and become more well-rounded at least in the movie culture.
3. Celebrate your differences
I think that every married couple at some point discovers that they are very different people. There are three main reactions we can have. We can either tolerate our differences, we can embrace our differences, or we can celebrate our differences.
We can tolerate our differences by just agreeing to disagree on certain topics or just agreeing to be different in the way we do some things.
Or we can embrace each other’s differences by acknowledging them and maybe even trying to do things “their way” or trying to understand their perspective better, such as learning more about their upbringing and culture.
Or we could celebrate our differences. I believe God puts two different people for a reason together. And that’s not to torture or irritate each other. It’s because two different people can serve God better together as one unit as they have more skills and talents between the two of them. So we should encourage our spouses to pursue the talents that God has given them and celebrate our differences in that way.
For example, James is really good with music. He played trombone from a very young age and was always a part of a band or a choir. I am not good with music. However, I am good with visual arts. I like to paint (did you know?). I really enjoyed painting growing up and still enjoy it now. James is not into painting himself. But we can still encourage one another to pursue those passions and celebrate those differences. Because ultimately, using the gifts we have for God’s glory is what God wants us to do. And marriage is meant to help us live for God’s glory as a couple and as individuals.
4. Communicate about your expectations
A lot of conflict can be avoided if spouses communicate about their expectations for vacations, life and work balance, what holidays to celebrate and how, and other things.
In Europe people have roughly one month of vacation days per year plus holidays. My husband grew up in the US where people usually take two weeks off per year. In Germany people also work on average less hours per week than in the US. So when we got married we had different expectations for how much vacation time per year we would have and how many hours of work per week is the norm. For me, work and life balance is very important. So talking about it helped us to realize that we had different expectations because of our different backgrounds, and that helped us to set healthy expectations.
We also spent some time talking about different holiday expectations and how we are going to celebrate them. Even though we are both Christian, the way even Christmas or Easter are celebrated is different in different cultures, so it is important to talk about it to avoid disappointment.
Talking about your expectations helps you to realize if your expectations are the same or whether you need to align them with your spouse’s expectations and figure out something that will work for both of you. You might be both Christian and from the same country but, due to growing up in different types of families, still have different expectations.
5. Have a date once a week
When we first got married, we were dating like every day. We did not have to set a specific date time. Every day felt like a date. But then months passed and we both got busy with other things. That’s when we realized that we should be intentional about going on dates and scheduling those into our calendar.
Going on dates does not always have to mean going out. We had some fun date nights at home where we would try cooking Mexican food, playing Mexican music, and then playing a card game afterwards. On another occasion we made a strawberry cheesecake in a shape of a heart and then watched a movie together. Once it gets warmer in Germany, we want to go to different parks together, go biking, and go swimming in a lake nearby.
What fun things could you do together with spouse this week?