By Betsy St. Amant Haddox, Crosswalk.com
It’s an interesting contrast to think about the very first marriage compared to our culture today. There was no six-tiered cake, expensive decorations, or drawn-out ceremony with candles and music. There was no debt incurred, no registry at Target, and no dish-ware patterns fought over.
There was only man, woman, and God. What a holy moment that must have been!
We’ve come a long way since that moment in the Garden. Today, marriage tends to look very different. In short, we’ve complicated things. The Fall of mankind introduced sin into the world, and therefore into our marriages. We no longer know perfect communion with God and our spouse. Our flesh gets in the way, and we combat selfishness and pride on a regular basis. I don’t think anyone would argue that they have a perfect marriage—in fact, I bet we could all agree there are elements in all our marriages that need improvement.
But how do you know if your marriage needs a regular tune-up, or a complete overhaul?
To know if our marriage needs to change, we first must look at what God says about marriage. We know from Scripture that God created male and female in His own image. He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone and created woman as an answer to that problem. Then, He instructed Adam and Eve to populate the earth.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)
The Lord also stated that marriage creates a new family unit. Adam and Eve didn’t have earthly parents like everyone else does, but God, even in the beginning, was setting up the order of the home.“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)
In a two-becoming-one type union, there are bound to be issues! But here are six signs that your marriage really needs to change:
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1. You constantly fight.
All married couples are going to fight—after all, you’re two separate people coming together as one flesh. Of course, there will be disagreements and various points of view on how to do things. But if your disagreements are more fights than arguments, and if fighting is more normal than not fighting, this is a sure sign your marriage needs to change.
Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
These verses aren’t directly referring to marriage, but how much more so are we to treat our spouse this way? The next time you find yourself in a pattern of arguments with your mate, ask the Lord to help you be compassionate, kind, and humble. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the ability to forgive as you’ve been forgiven, and to bring harmony to your marriage. Praying Scripture is a powerful tool we possess as believers!
2. You never fight.
One might think not fighting is good sign, but couples who never argue are unhealthy in a different way than couples who argue all the time. Because people are obviously different, there is bound to be disagreement. If you never disagree or argue, it could mean someone in the relationship isn’t being honest and is constantly suppressing their true thoughts or feelings. This usually leads to a build up of resentment and anger that could erupt later in your marriage. The goal is to find a way to argue in a loving, godly, spouse-honoring manner that resolves the issue, rather than letting it develop into a full-blown fight or negative pattern.
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3. You don’t spend quality time together.
Dating is crucial for a thriving marriage. Before you got married, you went on dates, right? That’s what helped you get to know the person you married! So why would we quit dating after getting married? As we grow and shift as individuals, it’s important to keep getting to know each other via one-on-one time outside of the demands of the home and family. If your dating life has gone by the wayside, that’s one major sign of a struggling marriage. Dates don’t have to be expensive to “count.” If babysitting options are limited, do a date-night-in. The point is quality time, not money spent or going to a specific location. Make it happen for the good of your relationship—and for continued connection.
4. You have a wandering mind.
Anyone who has been married for a while will be tempted to have thoughts of “what if.” If your marriage is in a dry spell, or you’re feeling disconnected from your spouse, it’s possible to be tempted to think about what could have been. If you’re feeling particularly discouraged in your relationship, it’s even possible to start mentally running down the road of separation or divorce. While this is relatively normal occasionally, it’s not healthy to fixate on. Dismiss those wandering thoughts with prayer and Scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to renew your love and passion for your spouse.
“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’” (Mark 10:2-9)
Divorce exists today, just like it did in Bible times. But just as Jesus encouraged back then—it’s not the answer to your problems (outside of abuse or infidelity). Seek counseling, invest in each other, and ask the Holy Spirit to revive your marriage before you start down that path.
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5. The biblical roles of husband and wife aren’t being fulfilled.
God ordained a biblical order for the family unit, with the husband being the head as Christ is head of the church. He instructs husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands (and children to obey their parents!)
“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
When these roles go unfulfilled or get reversed (such as the woman taking over and demanding headship) things tend to fall apart. It’s often difficult for sinful men to rule in a way that’s loving and gentle, just as it’s hard for sinful women to submit in a way that’s respectful and faithful. This part of marriage isn’t easy, but it’s possible by way of the Holy Spirit. Your marriage will work much better when these roles are fulfilled as God intended—on both sides.
6. You aren’t physically affectionate.
Affection is crucial in marriage. There are certain physical expressions (even outside of sex) that aren’t appropriate for men and women to share with anyone else. We rob our spouses of the joy of affection if we aren’t intentional about sharing hugs, kisses, and snuggles.
The same applies to physical intimacy, and the Bible is clear on the expectations of this in marriage for mutual benefit.
“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
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