Would you say you’re getting better at marriage? Do you know how to enjoy marriage? Whether you’ve been married a week or fifty years, it’s not easy to continually improve at marriage. Think about it a different way. Most of us tend to enjoy activities in which we excel, and dislike activities or situations in which we feel subpar.
For example, my wife is a great snow skier and she loves to go skiing. I, on the other hand, am not very good at skiing, so I only ski as an act of love for her. I really don’t enjoy it. In this post, I want to give you a quick reminder for how to keep getting better at marriage—no matter how long you’ve been married.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. —Ephesians 5:1-2
How to Enjoy Marriage: Keep Getting Better
You no doubt understand that sin is a barrier to oneness and enjoyment in marriage. When one spouse sins in marriage it often triggers the other to sin as well. Then, when we try to “work on our marriage” it can be frustrating. Sure, we see the need for improvement and try to do better. Our marriage improves for a time until it reverts to the same or a worse place.
How can we get better at marriage instead of jumping from one ditch to the other? Praise God, there is a permanent breakthrough available for all of us. Thankfully, it is not dependent on our behavior, consistency, or continual improvement. You keep getting better at marriage when you shift from a performance-based marriage to a grace-based marriage.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In order to keep getting better at marriage, your marriage should not be a place where love and kindness are conditioned on the behavior of the other.
Most bad marriages work like this:
- If you do well, I’ll be nice.
- If you offend me, I’ll withdraw or strike back.
- If you are kind and helpful, we will come together physically.
- If you are rude and unhelpful, distance and no physical intimacy will follow.
In these relationships, love and acceptance are conditional. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. It is buying into the “you get what you deserve” teaching of the world. And so the roller-coaster marriage begins. As we focus on our performance and the performance of our spouse, our marriage will rise and fall with our circumstances and perception of behavior. Our marriages will be man-centered and man-dependent, not God-centered and God-dependent.
Conditioning love on behavior will result in a restrictive, heavy, and joyless relationship. The law is referred to as the ministry of death and condemnation. When my wife and I begin to put “laws” into our marriage that we expect each other to uphold, we set each other up to fail. When we set up these “laws,” we begin to hold sin against one another and birth a spirit of distance or condemnation.
Then, we can quickly become frustrated with one another as fuses get shorter and distance becomes greater. Sadly, we get worse, not better, as “The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more” (Rom. 5:20). This is how it worked in the early years of our marriage. We were crazy about each other until we got married. I sinned by being unkind and not prioritizing our marriage, spending virtually all my time in sports or building a law practice.
In response, my wife stayed after me trying to get me to focus on her. In response, I took offense, was harsh, and liked my wife less. Within a year, my wife was praying “Lord, am I sentenced to a life of this?” My sin had increased hers and vice versa—sin had control. The better way to keep getting better at your marriage is to rest in God’s grace—and seek to give grace to your spouse.
Think of how this readily translates into how to enjoy marriage. As you grow into becoming an effective lover of your spouse, you will enjoy your spouse and your marriage more and more. You’ll give grace rather than constantly look at your spouse’s marriage report card. As your spouse’s heart responds to being seen, heard, known, and loved, you will find yourself increasingly motivated to continue loving them well. The best part is, that this cycle of love and blessing is fun for both of you and brings glory to God.
Grace Marriage Mission
On your next date with your spouse, ask them for one way you can love them better. Seek to hear their heart in their answer, and extend grace if any part of it rubs you the wrong way. Ask follow-up questions about how and why those things would bless them. Make a plan to implement each new act of love, and then promptly execute.
Brad Rhoads is co-founder of Grace Marriage.