The first six years of my marriage were anything but happy. My husband and I constantly butted heads, each wanting our own way. After growing weary and miserable, we decided to explore God's intent for marriage.
With more than 20 years of marriage behind us now, we've learned that marriage is not a one-time "I do" and then you live happily ever after. Marriage takes work, and a healthy marriage is the result of making right choices.
Here are some of the choices that turned our marriage around:
We chose to make peace. This, however, requires humility — a virtue I don't easily embrace. Although humility is still a difficult choice for me, I've learned that when I'm wrong, I should quickly and genuinely admit to it, apologize and move on. Peace enters my marriage when one spouse restores balance through humility.
We chose to serve each other. We began realizing how often we expected more from each other than we were willing to give. We knew we could either continue to selfishly demand our way, or we could selflessly surrender to one another. As both of us chose to serve, our marriage was blessed with joy.
We chose not to focus on changing each other. We've accepted each other's differences, and we've learned not to make major issues out of minor faults. Too often I had tried to change things about my husband, not accepting the fact that any change in his heart or attitude was the Holy Spirit's responsibility — not mine. Only when I began praying for my marriage did things begin to change — in both of us.
We chose mutual submission. Although the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the leader of the family, Scripture also emphasizes mutual submission among all believers, encouraging us to defer to one another when possible. The apostle Paul exhorts believers to submit "to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). The husband and wife who mutually submit do so with God as their guide.
We chose to place God first in our life and our marriage. God empowers us to remain dedicated to each other and to put the other's needs ahead of our own. When God is the director of our lives and our marriage, we bring honor both to Him and to each other.
Make no mistake — marriage still takes work! For my husband and me, though, we've come to appreciate that the One who instituted marriage also holds the keys to a happy marriage. When we choose His ways, things go better.
Because our marriage experiences are directly related to the decisions we make on a daily basis, every day we face the question afresh: Will we make right choices?