What is the best marriage advice you ever received?

Wedding receptions have a fun dance that is called simply “The Longest Married Couple Dance.” The DJ asks all married couples to get on the dance floor. He then asks those married less than 5 years to sit down, then less than 10 years and so on until the oldest couple is left dancing alone. It’s so cute (until Judy and I become that couple). But the great part is when they ask the couple who has been married the longest to give the newlywed couple some advice. It’s precious.

I had some friends share some marital advice:

  • Do what you did before you got married after you get married in order to stay married.
  • Communication is the single most important part of your marriage.
  • Learn to fight fair! Settle conflicts in a godly way.
  • Whatever is true, good, lovely – think upon these things regarding each other.
  • When the grass seems greener on the other side, it is a sign that you need to water your own lawn.
  • Never lay your heads down to sleep angry with each other. Forgive easily and often. Don’t keep a record of wrongs.
  • We have not been madly in love every day but have fallen in love with each other over and over again. Always be wiling to take a fresh look at he awesome person you married and fall in love all over again.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how your spouse feels or thinks. If you’re not sure about something, ask them. And never criticize your spouse in public.
  • Learn to love what your spouse loves.
  • Be best friends. And most importantly pray together.
  • Don’t show up to every argument you’re invited to.
  • It takes three. You and your spouse centered on Christ.
  • You can’t change the other person but God can change how you see them.
  • Falling in love is a feeling but staying in love is a choice.
  • Don’t expect good things to just happen automatically. True love is usually the result of loving intentionality. It takes a little bit of planning and a lot of hard work.

Here’s mine: A wife should respect her husband. A husband should love his wife. The deepest need of a woman is to be loved. The deepest need of a man is to be respected. A woman will not respect a man who doesn’t love her. A man will not love a woman who doesn’t respect him. 

I discovered this principle from Emerson Eggerich in his book “Love and Respect.” He is a Christian marriage counselor.  In his counseling business, the major problem her heard from wives was, “He doesn’t love me anymore.” Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Many husbands failed to deliver. 

But as he talked with the husband about loving his wife, he heard this complaint. “She doesn’t respect me anymore.” Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect. Many wives fail to deliver.

The result is what he called the Crazy Cycle. Without love from her husband, the wife loses respect. Without respect from his wife, the husband reacts without love. Around and around it goes until 5 out of 10 marriages end in divorce court.  

There is probably nothing that a man wants more from his wife than her respect and admiration. There is probably nothing that a woman wants more from her husband than his attention, treating her with love and care.

Though I learned this marriage advise from Emerson Eggerich, he discovered it in the Bible – Ephesians 5:22-33. Notice the last verse:

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

1 – A wife who respects the Lord respects her husband.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

A wife who really respects the Lord will respect the Lord enough to obey this command. The wife is to obey the command to respect even if her husband does not obey the command to love. When a wife feels unloved, she has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband. Perhaps that is why God had to command a woman to respect her husband.

A wife usually has no trouble grasping the concept of unconditional love. They are wired that way. But when it’s mentioned about unconditional respect, it’s a harder concept. The wife feels her husband doesn’t deserve respect. How can I show respect when he is so unloving? The same way that he is supposed to love you unconditionally after you are disrespectful.

2 – A husband shows love to his wife by sacrificing everything for her well-being.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)

The husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey the command to respect.  The example for the husband is Jesus’ love for the church. Jesus loved first.

When a husband feels disrespected, he has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife. Perhaps the command to love was given to him precisely for this reason. Men are commanded to love because they don’t love naturally and women are commanded to respect because they don’t respect naturally. Actually we love and respect one another out of love and respect for Jesus.

When a wife says her husband will have to earn her respect before she gives him any, she leaves him in a lose-lose situation. Now he’s responsible for both love and respect. He must unconditionally love his wife and he must also earn her respect. 

The opposite is true. When a husband demands respect before he shows love to his wife, he leaves her in a  lose-lose situation. Now she must both respect him and entice him to love her.

When husbands love and wives respect, it becomes a wonderful experience. The more he is respected, he responds with love. The more she is loved, the more respect she shows him.

For men, respect is so important. For women, love is so important. The best way to picture the differences between men and women is imagine the woman looks at the world through pink sunglasses that color all she sees. The man, however, looks at the world through blue sunglasses that color all he sees. They can both look at the same situation and see it differently. To carry it further, women have pink hearing aids and men have blue hearing aids. They may hear the same words but get much different messages. Women see and hear everything through the pink sunglass and hearing aids of love. Men see and hear everything through the blue sunglass and hearing aids of respect.

If a marriage is typical, after a year, a husband will know his wife loves him but will feel she neither respects him nor admires him. She will spend her energy trying to change him by her loving criticism and complaints. Typically, the wife is still in love with her husband and admires all he is doing for her and knows that he can reach his potential with her help. But he no longer shows his love to her.

It is rarely the content of the fight in a marriage that causes the most trouble but the manner of delivery that causes problems. It’s usually not the event, but the reaction to the event that leads to the battle. He doesn’t show love and she doesn’t show respect – and the crazy cycle continues.

3 – The union of husband and wife provides the best picture to describe the union of Christ and His church.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)

I want to close this article, by emphasizing what is really at stake. The whole relationship of a marriage is a living illustration of Jesus and the Christian. Having a good marriage isn’t just about having a happy home. A good marriage is a testimony of Jesus.

DL Moody used to say, “If I wanted to find out whether a man is a Christian, I wouldn’t go to his minister, I’d go and ask his wife. If a man doesn’t treat his wife with love, I don’t want to hear him talk about Christianity. What is the use of talking aobut salvation for the next life if he has no salvation for this? We want a Christianity that goes into our homes and into everyday lives.”

Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenager, relates about how she felt on her wedding day. I hope her words will give you a glimpse of how Jesus, the Bridegroom, feels about you.

I felt awkward as my girlfriends strained to shift my paralyzed body into a cumbersome wedding gown. No amount of corseting and binding my body gave me a perfect shape. The dress just didn’t fit well. Then, as I was wheeling into the church, I glanced down and noticed that I’d accidentally run over the hem of my dress, leaving a greasy tire mark. My paralyzed hands couldn’t hold the bouquet of daisies that lay off-center on my lap. And my chair, though decorated for the wedding, was still a big, clunky gray machine with belts, gears, and ball bearings. I certainly didn’t feel like the picture-perfect bride in a bridal magazine.

I inched my chair closer to the last pew to catch a glimpse of Ken in front. There he was, standing tall and stately in his formal attire. I saw him looking for me, craning his neck to look up the aisle. My face flushed, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to be with him. I had seen my beloved. The love in Ken’s face had washed away all my feelings of unworthiness. I was his pure and perfect bride.

How easy it is for us to think that we’re utterly unlovely—especially to someone as lovely as Christ. But he loves us with the bright eyes of a Bridegroom’s love and cannot wait for the day we are united with him forever.