faith, marriage

6 Things We Did Wrong When We First Got Married

If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I am posting late. I usually post on Sunday and Wednesday, but I missed last Sunday due to an allergic reaction. I could barely walk and talk let alone write anything. A few days later, and I am feeling a bit better but not 100%. One day at a time. In the meantime, here’s the post that should have been posted Sunday.


6 Things We Did Wrong When We First Got Married:


1) We made idols out of each other.

Even the very best husband makes a very lousy god.

We made the mistake of thinking that the other person could be our rock, our stronghold, our anchor.

Only God can truly be that.

I remember the pastor mentioning this in our marriage counseling –mentioning that this was not uncommon, but that we needed to watch for it and correct it.

We didn’t correct it for a long time, and it led to problems of feeling disappointed or even abandoned when we found that the other person had let us down.

Neither of us is perfect so even if we have the best of intentions, eventually, we will let the other one down.

In our premarital counseling, the pastor said that in the beginning of the marriage, it’s like all you can see is each other: you’re standing there holding both hands, only seeing the person you love.

But as you grow, you should turn and start walking toward God together.

I have found that this analogy is somewhat true but that sometimes walking together is difficult because you’re walking at different paces –it’s rare to find a couple who is walking at the same pace toward God.

If we make our spouse into an idol, we put the person on a pedestal.

And then they do what people on pedestals always do.

They fall off.

The only person who will never disappoint us is Jesus, so we need our confidence, our stability, our strength wrapped up in who He is –not what our spouse is or what we wish they would be.


2) We stayed up late fighting when we should have gone to bed.

The Bible verse that says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26) is using an analogy which basically means “Don’t wait too long to resolve your issues.”

It doesn’t literally mean that you’re in sin if you go to bed instead of staying up until 4 AM arguing.

Oftentimes –for us anyway– the lateness only added to the problem.

If it’s midnight, the sun has already gone down: deal with it tomorrow when you’re not exhausted and when you can be more clear-headed about it.

Not feeling like we had to deal with it tonight has helped.

We still try to not let anger stew and become bitterness –because leaving stewing anger unaddressed will become bitterness– but dealing with it right now instead of waiting to cool off often opens a whole different can of worms.

The concept is still true: don’t let too much time pass before you deal with your anger.

But, I don’t feel pressure to deal with anger in an unhealthy way or deal with it when I cannot be calm and will only make the situation worse.

Often times, if I need to discuss something with Scott, I’ll write everything I’m upset about on a sheet of paper and then throw it away before I address the issue with him. I try to only bring up the big issue, not all the little stuff.

You can see the method I use in this post about Prayermapping.


3) We expected ourselves and each other to be perfect.

I have written extensively about this idea of the spouse living up to your expectations.

See: The Myth of a Perfect Husband

We often expect our spouses to not only be perfect but to never make a mistake and to always do what we would do or what we would want them to do.

Almost like we want someone who can read our minds.

We erroneously believe the myth that the other person is supposed to “make us whole” as opposed to the idea that marriage is supposed to make us more holy and mature in Christ.

Not even Jesus always did what those around Him wanted –and He actually was perfect.

Scott thought I would be steady and reliable like his mom; I thought he’d be outgoing like my dad.

Neither of us is those things naturally.

While I can improve my management skills somewhat, I cannot change how I’m wired; he isn’t going to suddenly be outgoing.

In fact, the things that drew me to him are directly connected to how he’s wired and why he’s not outgoing.

It just took me a while to understand that and to accept that he wasn’t like me, that he wasn’t going to change to meet my ideal, and that it was okay if he didn’t.

A key for us was understanding and accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies.

This is not the same as ignoring actual sin.

Learning to distinguish between sin and non-sin issues is important.

See more about that in this post about Judgements.

Learning to let myself be less than perfect — giving up my ideal of what I thought I should be– was even harder for me than letting him be himself.

I still have a view of who I wish I could and would be that I have to daily surrender to God.

He’s the Potter who can do with me as He pleases.

His vision of who I should be is way more important than my own.


4) We failed to forgive.

I’m not sure that we failed to do this as much as it took us a long time to learn it.

Forgiveness is important.

Holding on to every little issue and rehashing it each time you have a disagreement is very destructive.

We made an agreement that we wouldn’t dig up old issues and throw them back in each other’s faces.

This has been huge!

I know people who have been married way longer than we have and every time they argue, they dredge up every disagreement and slight and use it as ammunition in the current battle –even stuff that happened decades ago.

That’s just so destructive.

See my series on Forgiveness.


5) We made personal issues into marriage issues.

Not every problem that my husband has is my problem.

It’s not always about me, nor is it my issue that I need to try to fix.

We did not agree on everything.

What he chooses to do in his spiritual walk is between him and God.

It is not about me even if affects me.

I’m not the Holy Spirit, and it’s not my job to be his conscience.

Now, at some point, the issue is big enough that it needs to be addressed, but many issues are not big issues.

So many times we’ve made personal struggles into issues in our marriage when really it was just part of the journey one or the other of us were on and part of the struggles we were going through as we matured and grew.

I’ve had to learn to let him have his struggles and not take it personally.


6. We fought against each other instead of for each other.

In the beginning, I had a me-versus-him mentality.

I wanted to get him to do things my way instead of being willing to find something that worked best for both of us.

I didn’t realize that if it was best for me but not best for him it still wasn’t good.

For instance, if I want to go to a party and want him to go with me, so I argue for that and win, but he goes begrudgingly and is miserable the whole time, who really won?

It may seem like I won, but did we win?

Is our relationship better for it?

We’re in this together.

I’m fighting for us –not just me.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t stand up for myself.

On the contrary, we are the best we can be when each is emotionally healthy and knows they’re loved and accepted unconditionally.

To maintain a healthy relationship, I must stand up for myself in truly important matters but let less important matters go.

If the bringing up the issue would cause more harm than good, I let it go.

I’m learning to fight for him.

Not against him.

I’m fighting for us.

I’m still learning what that means and how best to do that.


Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

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faith, marriage

Advice for Husbands (from My Husband)

Today is our 17th anniversary.

In honor of our anniversary, I am offering advice to husbands by way of a mini interview with husband Scott. I am the writer; he is not, so I am writing what he has told me. He approved it before publication.

A few months back my husband gave some advice to a coworker, and I thought it was solid advice that is worth sharing.

From my perspective as his wife, these are things that he does which really help me feel loved, honored, and appreciated.

Scott and I have both noticed that often men do not make the effort to help their wives feel appreciated and secure in their relationship.

There are the three things that my husband recommended to his coworker –three things he does to make me feel special and my explanation of why I think they help me.


1. Be nice to her

More than once, I have heard Scott remark that it is not that hard to just be nice –so why do husbands seem to have such a time doing it?

We have known men who seem unable to say a nice thing to or about their wives even when around complete strangers.

That kind of treatment is very sad –not to mention disturbing to witness.

When we got married, Scott’s father told him

If you’re nice to her, she wouldn’t mind if you get fat and go bald.

It’s the truth!

Kindness covers over so many things.

What value is a handsome face if that is the same face that speaks horribly unkind things to you?

Scott is kind to me, and I truly appreciate it.

It makes me all the more willing to help him and go the extra mile for him because he communicates through his actions and his words that he values me.


2. Listen to her

Scott is a great listener.

I appreciate it because I can really talk.

I mean really talk.

A lot.

Especially when our children were little, I needed adult conversations.

Because sometimes he would be the only person that I would see in days who actually spoke full sentences.

He would walk in the door, and I would unload all the words I hadn’t used up in the whole day onto him in three minutes flat.

He loved me anyway.

I try not to do that right when he opens the door anymore because it can be very overwhelming for him if he has had a rough day at work; I will ask if he is ready for me to vent –and if he isn’t, can he please tell me when he is ready.

Sometimes, I just need to talk it out, and I really appreciate when he listens to me and doesn’t try to fix it unless I ask for advice or help.

It brings us closer together because he is my trusted confidante.

This is a part of intimacy that I think many couples miss: it isn’t just about physical intimacy –but to be fully known and still fully loved and accepted, that is true intimacy.

That is the truest kind of love.


3. Tell her you appreciate the contributions she makes

When we get married, we wives give up a lot for our husbands: our jobs, our names, our bodies to make children, and sometimes –usually– even our sanity.

And then, we look around at all we have to show for it, and we don’t feel like we are really contributing.

It is sometimes hard for us to see that what we are doing is valuable –eternally valuable, truthfully.

You couldn’t pay someone enough to do what we do on a daily basis.

It is even harder if our husbands come home and criticize what little we have accomplished –or what they can’t tell we accomplished because the little minions undid everything we thought we had accomplished.

When Scott told me about this part of his advice, it made me tear up, because I feel like I can never hear enough that what I do is valuable: I have the added feeling of uselessness brought on by my debilitating illness, and I need to be reminded that I am valuable and that what I do matters.

It means a lot to me that he values me for who I am and what I do even though that contribution is less than perfect.

It does really mean a lot to me when he tells me that what I do matters, when he appreciates what I do –even if it is just the small things, even if he just says “Thank you for dinner” or “Thank you for washing my clothes.”

I think Scott is one of kindest men–if not the kindest man— I have ever met. It doesn’t escape my notice that all of the three points in his advice basically boil down to the kind of person he is: caring, thoughtful and kind.

Those were characteristics that drew me to him in the first place.

Today, I am reminding myself how blessed I am to have a sweet guy who loves me no matter what and still cherishes me all these years later..

I hope this advice will help others, because we can never go wrong by treating other people –including our spouses– with kindness.

Blessings,

Scott and Sarah Forbes

(Written by Sarah; approved by Scott.)

faith, marriage

Loving an Imperfect Husband

I have talked quite a bit about our husbands in the past –from the myth that somewhere out there is a perfect husband to what to do if your husband is not walking with the Lord or is unsaved to why I stopped criticizing my husband.

Yesterday, a friend and I had a long talk about husbands and particularly about how our Christian husbands –like all believers– grow at a different rate than we do. For more about this, see my post about the growth of Christians.

Everyone’s journey is individual and unique.

She also made the point that God doesn’t convict us about all of our sins at once because He is a merciful and compassionate God and because we wouldn’t be able to handle that.

God addresses one issue in our lives at a time.

So the issue that you see in your husband’s life and that bothers you so very much might not be at the forefront of his mind because the Lord is working in a different area in his life at that moment.

That was actually really insightful for me.

It is really rare for a couple to be in the same place in their walk with Christ. I talk to a lot of women who think that their husbands are more spiritually immature than they are –and that may very well be true.

This discussion prompted me to look at scripture and to observe that those who are considered godly in the Bible were also not perfect.

David was a man after God’s own heart according to 1 Samuel 13:14, and yet he was far from perfect.

David was chosen of God to lead Israel, he wrote many psalms, he led the people to worship the one true God, and he left a legacy for many generations who came after him.

He was chosen to be the ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus is actually called the Son of David.

And yet, David struggled with depression (which isn’t necessarily a sin), he was a peeping tom, he was a murderer, he was an adulterer, and he was unrepentant for his sin of murder and adultery for over nine months.

He was arrogant, thinking that he would not be held accountable for his sins because of his position as king –I am reading into it a bit, but that is my opinion: a humble person wouldn’t have thought he could have sex with any woman in the kingdom, murder her husband, and get away with it. Am I right?

I mean, who is going to chastise the king? (The answer is a very brave prophet named Nathan.)

And, yet, God did not abandon David.

God did not say, “You are no longer my chosen king.”

God did not say, “You are no longer my child.”

God corrected him and restored him.

God corrected him with a story. See 2 Samuel 12.

This is probably a good time to mention that it was not the persistent nagging of a wife that changed David’s mind and heart.

But we will talk more about nagging in a moment.

The greatest men in the Bible have struggled with sin at some point in their lives.

Most notably the three greatest men in the Bible struggled with sexual sins:

The strongest man in the Bible was Samson who struggled with sexual sin in the form of Delilah, a temptress who pulled him away from God. She was his downfall and trusting her eventually brought about his death. You can read more about Samson in Judges 16.

The wisest man in the Bible was Solomon, and you would think that with all that wisdom that he would know how foolish it is to have many wives and how incredibly difficult –if not impossible– it would be to keep them all happy. Scripture says that he tried to keep them happy by building them temples to their false gods, and his wives led him away from God. You can read more about that in 1 Kings 11.

The godliest man in the Bible was David who we have discussed already. He saw a woman bathing, but he didn’t stop there and look away to avoid temptation as Joseph did. Read more about Joseph in Genesis 39:6-12. No, David called for her, committed adultery with her, impregnated her, and then had her husband killed. You can read more about that in 2 Samuel 11.

Suddenly, my husband isn’t looking so bad –you know what I mean?

These men weren’t just mediocre followers of God –although admittedly, we have the Holy Spirit continually living in us, and Old Testament believers did not.

They were considered the best of the best.

I once heard someone say. “No man who had ever viewed pornography is a Christian.”

Really?

That one single sin makes it impossible for you to be saved? I don’t find that anywhere in the Bible.

Now, I know that God does not want us to live in sin –it is never His desire that we sin.

But, even these godly men above struggled with sins –particularly sexual sins.

These men are still listed in the Bible as godly men, there for an example to us. Samson and David are even listed as heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.

We know that even Christians will not be completely sin-free, and while I am not defending sin –not at all– I think it is also necessary to have an honest, realistic view of life.

Your husband may very well struggle with sin at some point in his life just like David, Samson, and Solomon.

That does not mean that he is not saved.

It does not mean that he is not godly.

It means that he is human with a sin nature.

All men –and all women– sin.

It just is this way –and the way it will continue to be until we are given our new bodies when Jesus returns, bodies free from this sinful nature.

Hopefully, the longer we know Jesus the less we sin — that’s how it’s supposed to work.

You don’t know what God is doing in your husband’s life.

The reality is that He is working.

Even if you can’t see it.

If your husband is saved, God has promised to complete what He began –but it won’t happen in your timing or in your way because our preferred timeline rarely lines up with God’s timeline. See Philippians 1:6 and 2 Peter 3:8 for more about that.

So, about that nagging thing: we wives are tempted to nag, but we need to refrain from doing so.

The Bible has some harsh things to say about a nagging wife.

Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife. Proverbs 21:9

Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife. Proverbs 21:19

So, if not nagging, what recourse does a Christian wife have?

1. Prayer

Prayer is first and foremost your weapon and should be your weapon of choice. We do not battle against flesh and blood according to Ephesians 6:12. It is not a battle you fight against your husband. It is a spiritual battle for your husband’s heart, your marriage, and your family.

You are fighting for him with your prayers.

Unlike some people, I cannot in clear conscience recommend that you go around rebuking Satan for the spiritual battle that wages unseen around you. If Michael the Archangel wouldn’t even rebuke Satan (Jude 1:9), what business do we humans who are a lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7) have in rebuking him? That’s treading on some pretty thin ice.

So, pray that God would soften your husband’s heart, give him the strength to do the right thing, give him the wisdom to lead, and give you the wisdom and grace to follow.

2. Biblical rebuke

Your second weapon is a Biblical rebuke from you, a trusted friend, or the church. According to scripture, if your brother is in sin –and it doesn’t say that your husband is excluded from this– you can address that sin with him in gentleness and love.

I would recommend reserving this for habitual sins that are significantly impacting your life.

You are not supposed to do the Holy Spirit’s job, convicting you husband of every little sin. Pray for wisdom about how you handle this so that you won’t overstep.

Make sure it is actually a sin and not just something you think is a sin. If you and he disagree about whether or not it is a sin then this method will not work. He will not listen to you because he doesn’t agree with you. See this post about Christian Stewardship.

If you both agree that it is a sin —and he is in this sin habitually and unrepentantly– then you can follow the pattern in Matthew 18:15-17.

I have given this advice about Biblical rebuke before, but I thought it was important to mention that you probably wouldn’t use this for a small issue. I recommend getting the church involved when the issue is big enough that it has the potential to break up your marriage –otherwise, discuss it with him yourself and learn to trust your husband to God’s timing.

Getting other people involved in your personal life –in the intimate parts of your marriage– is not something to take lightly. If you can resolve it without getting people involved, that is even better. For more information on this, see this chart I made.

But, it also is a step that most people don’t take. They just move straight to separation and divorce, whereas, I believe many marriages could be salvaged if we followed the Bible’s instructions about correction.

No marriage is perfect.

I am sure he looks at you sometimes and thinks you weren’t quite what he bargained for either. (I know my husband does –I can be a handful.)

Don’t look at the speck in your husband’s eye and ignore the plank in your own: you also have sin that you need to deal with. (Matthew 7:3-5)

You are not better than he is: you are both just sinners saved by grace. For verses that might help your marriage, see this post.

3. Love him anyway.

Bear with me: this isn’t the same as doing nothing.

Loving each other even when the other person isn’t loving makes us a reflection of God’s love to those around us.

Especially when we aren’t perfect.

Especially when it is hard.

God loved us when we were yet sinners, right? He doesn’t ask more of us than what He already did.

You would not have to love sacrificially like Christ if your spouse was always completely and 100% likable and loveable.

By loving your husband like Christ, you become more like Christ.

It is in those moments when our husbands are unlovable and imperfect that we have the option to show the love of Christ to them and to the world around us. See more about that idea about how marriage is supposed to work in this post.

It is not easy, but scripture says that a wife’s conduct has the ability to bring even an unsaved husband to the Lord. See 1 Corinthians 7:16 and 1 Peter 3:1.

Imagine how much Christ’s love through us can do for our saved husbands!

If you are married, you have an imperfect husband.

This is a reality.

If you are saved you have Christ living in you Who gives you the power to love him anyway.

These three things –prayer, rebuke, and love– are tools we can use to build better marriages.

At the end of the day, may the Lord be glorified by our lives and our marriages.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

charts, faith, marriage

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce and Separation? A Chart with References

More than once recently I have been asked: “What does the Bible say about divorce and separation?”  

The last time I was asked this, I’d just had dental work done, was still a little high on Novocaine, and was not altogether able to express myself well. This topic has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind because I know more than one lady facing this situation right now.

Charts always help me, so I made a chart hoping that it will help other women better understand their options. Marriage is hard –but it is especially hard if you have an unbelieving, backslidden, or abusive spouse. If you do not deal with these issues in your marriage, be thankful.

divorce and separation
Right click on image and open in a new tab to view it larger

 

Download the chart in PDF

About abuse:

Scripture never addresses this the topic of physical abuse, but the purpose of marriage is to bring glory to God. God is not glorified when sin and abuse are allowed in our midst. Nowhere is scripture does it say that we are expected to stay in a marriage where our lives are being threatened. Additionally, we have a responsibility to protect our children from violence. I believe that God will hold a mother accountable for violence done against her children if she could have prevented it and did not. A wise person gets away from danger.

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3

In Bible times, the law did not allow a wife to leave and divorce her husband, but our laws do. If you can get away from abuse without breaking the law, do it!

About unfaithfulness:

Jesus allowed divorce over unfaithfulness.

“He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’” Matthew 19:8-9

However, we know from the book of Hosea that God loves us even though we are unfaithful to him and calls us to love our spouses the same like Hosea loved his wife. That is how we are called to love and that is how we reflect God’s love to the world around us. That being said, Scripture does allow divorce for unfaithfulness, so this is a choice you will have to make for yourself. If you choose to not divorce but to try to reconcile, the love and grace required for that is indeed a reflection of God’s love.

“The Lord said to me, ‘Go. Show your love to your wife again. She is loved by another man. And she has committed adultery. But I want you to love her just as I love the people of Israel. They turn to other gods. And they love to offer raisin cakes to Baal and eat them. In spite of that, I love my people.'” Hosea 3:1

About separation:

The Bible is silent on the topic of separation. The absence of the topic in scripture does not mean that it is forbidden. It means that it is part of our Christian stewardship and that we are expected to act in wisdom.  Scripture does say that you shouldn’t deprive each other of intimacy, but that doesn’t specifically speak to separation if one person is an unbeliever –unless we stretch the verse which I won’t do. The command to not deprive each other was about believers as evidenced by the “devoting yourselves to prayer” part. That would obviously not be a priority for an unbelieving or backslidden spouse.

“Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 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 7:2-5

If you are married to an unbeliever or a backslidden Christian, separation may be necessary for your protection or sanity.

About sin:


Make sure you are familiar with Christian Stewardship (see the links at the bottom of this post) and what is actually sin and what is not. Also, remember that your husband’s sin is not about you; it is about his relationship with God and his own struggles. All men –all people for that matter– struggle with sin. Sin alone is not a basis for a divorce. If it were, then all of us would end up divorce. There will be sin in your marriage, but like with any Christian brother, you are allowed to discuss it with him in hopes that he will change. There is a pattern put forth in scripture about how to address sin in believers.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 

Many men seem to forget that they are specifically commanded in Scripture to not be harsh and to be loving.

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:19

Unloving and harsh is a common treatment of wives –even in Christian marriages, and I think wives should lovingly but firmly call their husbands on their sin. The command in scripture to correct a brother was not only given to men; you are not off the hook just because the man is your husband. In fact, who knows your husband better than you do?

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

When in doubt, pray for him. Remember, God is not glorified by sin, and He never ever wants us to follow our husbands into sin.  

About marriage to an unbeliever:

When you are married to someone who is an unbeliever and that person is being hostile or has asked you to leave, sometimes separation is the only way to go. I believe that separation should be made with the intent to try to get back together. I mean if you made vows before God –even if the situation is not ideal– you should at least try to make it work, right? Because, well, you made vows before God. That’s not something to take lightly. But, if the unbelieving husband is uninterested in getting back together, scripture is clear that you are able to move on and get remarried.

“To the married, I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest, I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases, the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.

About Christian stewardship:

Many times, husbands and wives disagree about what is right and what is wrong. Unless you as the wife can clearly cite chapter and verse in the New Testament that says that what your husband is doing is wrong, then you do not have a good defense of your position –what he is doing is not unbiblical– and you need to submit in this area. This sort of dispute is never a good reason for a separation or a divorce. There are many things which are not clearly lined out in scripture. These are part of our freedom in Christ –your Christian stewardship. When you are in doubt about what is the best choice, you need to make prayerful decisions. If everything was clearly written as black and white then God would have never told us to pray for wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

I know of more than one marriage that ended because the wife would not listen to reason and give up her false beliefs about scripture, about things she erroneously believed were sins –like not having more babies or not wearing skirts. God is not honored by our marriages when we twist the Bible and use it to destroy our marriages. May we be good workmen, studying the Bible so that we will not be ashamed.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy these posts:


The Wide Gray Line: Christian Stewardship and Why It’s So Important


Stewardship: Understanding Christian Freedom


Does the Bible Command Us to Keep Having Babies? An Argument Against the Quiverfull Movement


When You Don’t See Eye to Eye: a series on Biblical Submission


Debunking False Teachings About Submission


The Myth of the Perfect Husband


• Respectfully Disagreeing: Interacting with Your Husband When You Don’t See Eye to Eye


faith, marriage

How Did We Get So Lucky? 11 Things We Did That Helped Make A Successful Marriage

You may notice that I haven’t been posting as often. I have backed away from daily posting due to the condition of my adrenals: I am at high risk for Addison’s disease. I am still planning to post a few times a week but not daily.

Now, a tribute to my husband in honor of Father’s Day:


He held me tight and whispered, “How did we get so lucky?”

Nearly 17 years of marriage and not only do we not hate each other, we actually like each other.

A lot.

We love each other more today than we did when we got married.

This statement about us being lucky was made the after I had described friends of mine who have found themselves in very difficult marriage, divorces, nasty custody battles, or in the position of trying to decide if they should stay or leave over their husband’s infidelity,  alcoholism, or abuse.

Marriage is hard even in the best of situations.

So, what has made ours successful when others have not?

That’s not to say that we never have problems. We’ve had some really rough patches especially before we knew about our health and mental health problems.

But what does make a marriage successful?

Luck of the draw?

Sort of.

I mean, I am really blessed that the guy I married is sweet, kind and thoughtful.

But, I think it’s more than that.

I think it has a lot to do with the character of the people involved: it’s hard to have a successful, peaceful marriage if only one person is acting like a mature Christian, for instance.

Here are some things I think we did right:

1) We waited for the right person. I waited for the right guy. I prayed for a good husband for 7 years before I met my husband and prayed for another 6 months before he showed any interest in me. When I met Scott, I prayed that God would make him not like me if he wasn’t the right guy.  Later, I prayed that he would take my infatuation away if it was not a good match. I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry and didn’t settle for someone I didn’t think was a good match. I considered the kind of girl my ideal kind of guy would marry and determined to be that kind of lady. I did have an adjustment period when I realized that no guy is perfect, but I knew I didn’t want a tumultuous relationship,  so I waited for a guy I got along really, really well with. Scott was my first boyfriend, first kiss, first love. He had one girlfriend before me. Waiting for the right guy wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

2) We made sure the other person had good character before we got married. This was my motivation for choosing courtship. I wanted to court because I believed it would help me avoid many of the pitfalls common in conventional American dating including the ability to see the person for who they truly are. Having our friends and family involved allowed other people to weigh in on what they thought of the other person. If my brother came to me and said, “Hey, you know,  Scott’s flirting with Alyssa when you leave the room” I would have known his character (thankfully, that’s not the kind of guy he is, and that never happened). I once had a friend ask me how I made my husband be nice to me. My answer was that I don’t make him be nice to me: he was nice to me before we got married, and he’s nice to me now. You’re not going to change the person, so you need to make sure you can live with the person you see.

3) We were absolutely, completely honest with each other… about everything (unless it is unloving or hurtful, see number 9).  And, we still are. I can’t emphasize how important this is. Many, many problems are a result of dishonesty and could be solved with honesty. If you don’t think you can be completely and totally honest with your future husband or wife, you should not get married.  If you don’t think your potential spouse is being honest with you, you shouldn’t be marrying them.  This is vital. 

4) We didn’t “fall in love.” Don’t get me wrong, I was completely and totally smitten with Scott the first time I laid eyes on him.  Twitterpated, infatuated. Like I’d never been before.  But, there came a time for both of us when we decided we were going to love the other person. We didn’t just let our feelings determine everything.  Although I was crazy about Scott, if I had found out he was a complete jerk or deceitful, I would have called it off. If my dad had said “This is not a stand-up guy,” I would have called it off. Thankfully, that was not the case.

5) We accept each other. Real love is unconditional.  And while we don’t accept sin as normal in our marriage, things like personality, quirks, struggles, health problems, non-sin shortcomings, mistakes, etc are treated with love and acceptance. Isn’t that what we all ultimately want? To be fully known and fully loved. If you’re not fully accepted, is it really unconditional –real– love? We each want the other person to be what God made them to be –not just what we want them to be.

6) We are partners.  I choose to follow him, but he is not my dictator. I am not his mother, disapproving every time he doesn’t make me happy or makes a choice I don’t like.  I will not chide or scold him for doing what he thinks is best or for making decisions. I don’t try to manipulate or control him. This is key because wives often do not behave in a respectful way. If I want a better than average marriage, I am going to behave to than average.  He includes me in important decisions but knows I’ll defer to his opinion if we disagree because I know him and trust him implicitly. I follow him because I believe it is what God would want me to do.

7) We address sin. If my husband is in sin, I’ll discuss it with him and encourage him to address it. I do not believe in being a passive wife who follows my husband into sin. However, I also do not take his sin personally. All people sin, even me. I have been forgiven so much more by the Lord then my husband could ever dream of wronging me. I do not want to be like the unforgiving servant in the parable. I have been forgiven much and am expected to pass that forgiveness along to others. Even if he cheated on me (which hasn’t been a problem in our marriage), it wouldn’t be about me. His sins are about his issues and his walk with God, not about me. Yes, if he was unfaithful, it would be a sin against me but greater than I have offended a holy God? No.

8) We forgive each other.  Even in the best of relationships, there’s plenty of opportunities to be bitter (she is overweight; he doesn’t do enough around the house; he didn’t get her anything for Valentine’s Day; she doesn’t keep the house clean; etc). It is a daily choice to love and not be bitter, to forgive and give undeserving unconditional love to the other person. No one deserves unconditional love but it is how God loves us and how we are called to love others. It was actually Scott who introduced me to this idea of not just saying,  “I’m sorry,” but saying, “Please, forgive me” and waiting to receive the forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard, but it makes us more like Jesus.

9) We each want what’s best for the other person. A counselor once told me that she’d never met a couple who each wanted the other to be happy more than we do. I heard a quote a long time ago that said: “A happy marriage is where each thinks they got better than they deserve.” I like the sentiment, but I think that falls into spousal worship too easily. As a Christian, what do I deserve? Nothing. I’m a sinner and deserve hell, but the problem with thinking your husband is better than you is this: he’s a sinner, and he’s going to disappoint you. He will –absolutely without a doubt, and then you’re not going to feel like he’s worthy of your love or like he deserves your acceptance. So, don’t put him on a pedestal. This is why marriage needs to be about living a life that’s honoring to God reflecting the unconditional love of Christ. What did Jesus require of me for Him to love me? Nothing. And I love my husband regardless of what he has done just as Jesus loves me.

10) We choose to love each other. Love is a choice. A daily choice to accept the other person and be kind no matter what the person does that day.  Is it easy? No. But that’s what we’re commanded to do in scripture, and the Holy Spirit in us empowers us to live lives that line up with scripture. Do we sometimes fail to love each other perfectly? Yes, of course, because there’s no perfection this side of Heaven. This is why forgiveness is so important. Husbands often fail to love their wives with a godly love which is why husbands are commanded in the Bible to love their wives. I honestly have seen a lot of situations where the marriage could be a lot better if the husband would love the wife as he should –in the husband’s defence, I have seen women try to manipulate and control their husband to the point that the husband has a hard time loving them (not that this is an excuse). How much better it would be if we Christians followed scripture!

11) We’re in it for the long haul. When we said “I do,” we meant it. And we plan to be together until death parts us. With my health issues, that could be sooner than we both hoped. But, as much time as we have, we’ll take. Divorce is not even on the table. We never talk about getting a divorce. I never secretly think about it or wish for it. It’s not thrown around as a threat.  I remember one time in our marriage when I thought he might leave me –not because he said he would leave me but because many men would not stay with a woman who was always sick for no apparent reason. Divorce is simply not in the options. My Great-Grandfather Louis told Scott before we married that if Scott didn’t plan to stay with me forever, he shouldn’t marry me. Great-Grandpa Louis and Great-Grandma Katie were married for 72 years. I plan to beat them –if I live that long. It’s me and Scott, together forever, no matter what.

Let’s be honest: why relationships work or don’t work is really complicated.

I’ve known people who thought they did all of these things above and their relationship still fell apart and ended in divorce.

Why would that be? Why would a relationship fall apart when the couple was trying to do what was right?

I think there are at least a few possibilities:  

1) The sinful nature. There’s no way to get around the fact that we’re selfish and sinful creatures. The Holy Spirit helps us with the sinful nature, but if one person is unsaved or backslidden it makes a huge impact on the relationship.  If both people are not completely invested in making the relationship work, it’s not going to last.

2) Strengthening character. God uses things in our lives to make us more like Jesus and develop our character.  Just like God has used my illnesses to strengthen my faith and trust in Him, it is not hard to imagine God using a marriage in this way.  I think He uses all marriages this way in one degree or another. Some much more than others.

3) God’s confusing ways. We can’t always see what God’s doing –often we simply cannot,  and many of the things we go through in life will not be explained this side of Heaven. I choose to have faith and believe that it will work out for good in the end like He promises in the book of Romans.

It never ceases to amaze me that after all these years and everything I’ve put him through that Scott still loves me, still wants to be with me, still comes home to me every night, and still thinks I’m beautiful.

I’m blessed with a truly wonderful husband, and I know that’s very rare.

I’m never letting go.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

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When Your Husband Isn’t Everything You Thought He Would Be