10 Sure Signs of a Strong Marriage
By: Jennifer Maggio
I sat with Becky as she shared with me the feelings of utter shock, horror, devastation, and heaviness she felt that Thursday morning. She was shaking and tears steadily streamed down her face. Her husband had just announced that he wanted a divorced after twenty years of marriage. They had raised three children together. They had built a house – a home – together for over two decades. Becky hadn’t worked outside the home since they married. What would she do now for income? For companionship? It was a shock, to say the least.
The next several weeks began a dialogue between she and her husband about what had been missing for some years. It resulted in much pain, as the questions always were, Why didn’t we talk about this before? Why did it get to this point? I wish I could tell you that Becky’s story is a rare one and that she was the only woman I knew with such hurt. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Nearly 50% of today’s marriages will end in divorce or separation and researchers estimate that nearly 41% of all first marriages will end in divorce (2016 of the U.S. Divorce & Marriage Rates by Year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here).
My husband has been such a joy in my life and our marriage has truly been a partnership over the last decade. There are some things that we’ve learned through the years to dissect the health of your marriage.
- Communication. No topic should be off topic. As life partners, the necessity of keeping an open line of communication is critical. As was with the case with my friend, Becky, as she and her husband began the divorce process, there were many topics that had been untouched for years. The inability to communicate openly, candidly, and honestly within in a marriage could be the death of the marriage. Do you feel that there are topics that are best left alone in the marriage? Have you carried a past hurt from years ago about something your spouse said or did that you did communicate clearly on? Is there a need (emotionally, physically, etc.) that you have within the marriage that you have not communicated to your spouse? These are questions to consider as you evaluate your marriage.
- Conflict. Conflict does not denote an unhealthy marriage. We are all different. We have challenges and different perspectives and old hurts, occasionally. These things make conflict pretty much inevitable. The key to a strong marriage is your ability to work through conflict. The necessity to have a game plan now (in the absence of conflict) is important to how you move forward. Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.” This does not mean that there will never be conflict. It means that we are blessed as we work towards keeping the peace. As with point number 1, failing to communicate doesn’t mean that conflict isn’t there. It means you are unwilling to address it. The problem with that is, it festers. Take the time to talk about the challenges and be willing to work through them.
- Financial Transparency. As you’ve likely heard, money is one of the biggies when it comes to marital bliss or discourse. People always find it funny that my husband and I rarely buy each other gift’s for birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversary, and the like. Early on in our marriage, we just decided that it wasn’t that important to us. We usually will get a card for each other or a letter and there has been the occasional surprise, but for us, the financial goals we had established were more important than a trinket on the day of the event. That said, this was a choice for us. Many couples don’t have financial conversations. Usually, there is a primary financial handler who pays the bills and handles much of the finances. That is certainly fine. However, it is necessary to be on the same page about who is spending what where, what financial goals you have as a couple, and what are considered reasonable and unreasonable expenses and extras.
- Trust. There is such peace that comes with trust. Years ago, I was in a relationship with a man I did not trust. He had broken my trust early on in the relationship and sadly, continued to make poor decisions for some years thereafter. I can’t tell you, even today, why I took it for so long, but it was miserable, to say the least. Some of you today have gone through a particularly devastating part of your marriage that has caused broken trust. The good news is, there is hope. With two parties who are “all in” for their marriage, God can heal, restore, and redeem the broken places, including broken trust. Unlike that previous relationship, I don’t the need to constantly double-check my husband’s whereabouts, social media, or other details of his life. We have full transparency and I know he is honest, so I don’t have to operate in insecurity. Trust is critical to the relationship. If you don’t have it, communicate about it, and begin the process of working towards what each of you have concerns about.
- Growth. We are never finished. A productive and healthy life means one full of growth in our spiritual journey with the Lord, our physical fitness, our financial stewardship, our parenting techniques, and….our marriages. We grow in closeness. Healthy marriages are filled with individuals who are growing. There should be much grace during the growth process, as sometimes it can be challenging. Commit to growing. What are the areas that you know are a struggle for you? Do you struggle with insecurity? Are you quick to anger? Do you talk calmly or tend to scream?
- Willingness. A healthy marriage means two people who are willing to grow, willing to learn, willing to try, and willing to risk. You cannot move the ball down the field if one person is unwilling to communicate, change, and persevere through the hard times. Healthy marriages are full of folks who are willing to do the hard work necessary to have one of the most fulfilling relationships on the planet. Healthy marriages don’t fall into our laps from outer space. They are birthed through willing hearts.
- Passion. The early years are often met with giggles and flirting and lots of sex. Through the children and health problems and maybe weight gain and complacency, many lose their zeal and passion for their spouse. Togetherness, in a physical sense, is a critical component of a healthy marriage. Passion, of course, isn’t only exhibited through sex, rather through the pursuit. Do you write love notes? Do you send sweet texts? Do you hold hands or cuddle during television time? Do you laugh at his jokes? Do you hurry home and put on fresh makeup, because you can’t wait to see him at the end of a day? I’m certainly not suggesting that these things are a daily occurrence, as life does sometimes get in the way. But intention with date nights and kissing and doing the things that once were great fun can be just what your marriage needs to get back on track.
- Prayer. Do you pray for your spouse daily? Do you lift him up throughout the day as he struggles through that tough meeting or big project? Do you hold hands and pray together about the big (and small) issues of life? Do you commit to praying with the family on a regular basis? Prayer is the backbone of the marriage. It is the glue that binds you, when feelings are hurt and hearts are mending and anger is fuming. Prayer binds hearts, like nothing else can.
- Effort. Okay, so I admit it. I put much more effort into the early years of our marriage than I did after some years passed. And…it showed. I wore the nightgown with the holes in it. I did fix my hair or maybe put on makeup or even sometimes ask my husband how his day was. It began to convict me that I was putting very little effort into my marriage. I took it for granted. I hid behind how tired I was. But the truth is, I put effort into other things, like children’s projects and ministry plans and work and friend relationships. We have time for what we make time for. Don’t take your spouse for granted. What would life look like if he wasn’t there? Have there been times when you have not put much effort into the marriage.
- Fun. Have fun. Be spontaneous. Have a dance party in the living room. Sing karaoke on a weeknight. Laugh. Big time. Go hiking. Ride bikes. Exercise together. Try a new activity. Develop hobbies that you can do together. This journey is supposed to be a fun one. Don’t make your marriage all work and no play.
Jennifer Maggio is author of four books, mother of three, and wife to Jeff. She is a national speaker and founder of the international nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an abuse survivor who is passionate about women finding a life of complete freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.