Recently, a young couple emailed me and asked an insightful question about their relationship. Several years into their marriage, they are discovering how “opposite” they really are in many areas. And that realization scared them. They asked if this discovery should worry them, or if all couples experience this.
It occurred to me that most couples face this sort of realization, so perhaps sharing a perspective might encourage others. Here’s what I wrote in response to the question:
“The key question is ‘are you good friends?’ Do you enjoy spending time together? Do you like to go out to eat, talk, walk, and just hang out together? As for specific interests, Dana and I share a few but not many really—but WE LOVE to hang out together, and we LOVE to do what the other person LOVES to do. We have learned to enjoy making the other person happy.”
Honestly, that’s a critical component to a wonderful marriage—loving to please the other person.
Whether you realize it or not, God gave you the keys to your spouse’s heart. He gave you the ability to truly please your spouse. Staying in love is all about discovering the joy of preferring your spouse—finding joy in your wife’s or your husband’s joy. It’s not about having your own way, it’s about enjoying the delight that you create in giving your spouse his or her way.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another…” (Romans 12:10)
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
How often do we miss the joy of giving in, because we can’t stand the idea of giving in—we would call it “losing.” We fall for the bait that “not getting our way” means we lost something. Wrong! That self-centered thought process kills a lot of marriages. While we are focused on fighting for our own way, we are missing the great delight of making the other person happy. In my experience, when our marriage is strained, it’s usually because I lost perspective on this and grew selfish.
Other than Jesus, my greatest teacher in this area is Dana. She is exceptional at this. She humbles me—and convicts me. She’s one of the happiest people I know, but her joy is derived from making her family happy—both me, and our kids. The joy she radiates is a product of her desire to serve and please others.
Bottom line, every marriage goes through ups and downs—seasons of strength and struggle. In the midst of the daily chaos of raising kids, managing life, and serving God; it is critical that you nurture your relationship with time together. And during that time, pursue understanding. Seek to discover “what delights this person?” Ask your spouse, “What are some things that I could do that would REALLY please you?”
You’ll probably be surprised at how very simple and accessible your spouse’s list will be. (It will most likely be made up of simple things that you could easily do from a heart of love, with little or no real cost. But the benefits will be overwhelming to your home!) Deep love is usually made up of simple delights done from a selfless heart.
Once you discover it… do it.
Of course, all of this is made possible when Christ is the center of your marriage and His Holy Spirit is growing you into His likeness. For it’s only by His power and His Spirit that one would even desire to love selflessly.
As you yield to the Holy Spirit, you will find a new level of love in serving one another. You will discover a spouse who will quickly find your love irresistable. And you will probably find a spouse who responds in kind. Selfless love always compels a response.
One key to a great marriage? Decide to enjoy serving and pleasing your spouse. Get a kick out of putting a smile on his or her face.
Now, think of one thing you could do today that would really please your spouse, and plan to do it. (And if you need help thinking of ideas, just ask your spouse…)
Remember, you hold the keys to your spouse’s heart—so use the key! By God’s grace, you have the power to make your spouse fall in love with you over and over and over again. Go build an irresistible marriage by love, serving one another.