Marriage Week 2017: Protect your marriage

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We tend to protect things that are important to us. In the past, a wealthy man would build a castle to contain his wealth and his household. Today, we don’t do anything important (or expensive) without some form of insurance. The big purchases of our lives all require some kind of insurance. We get home and contents insurance for our houses, health insurance for our bodies, life insurance to help those we leave behind if we die—even travel insurance, to ensure we get our money back if something goes wrong when we travel. In fact these days there is even divorce insurance.

But what about marriage insurance? I’m not talking about wedding insurance. That’s probably a thing already. Yet in a day and age where some people are still paying off their weddings as the divorce papers are being processed, how can we protect and insure our marriages?

Because let’s face it—marriage is the biggest investment you’re ever likely to make. It costs a lot of time and money, and it can have eternal consequences. If it fails, it is likely to cost even more! When a marriage breaks down, it is not only the couple who are hurt, but their children, their families, their friends and even their church.

So is there a Biblical framework for what it looks like to protect my marriage?

In the Bible, marriage is often used as a metaphor for the relationship between humankind (or the church) and God. It is a relationship that God seeks to protect. He wants it to succeed and treats it as vitally important. So much so that the daily prayer the Israelites would pray, and what Jesus calls the first and greatest commandment, incorporates a formula to protect it: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The love that is referred to is a self-sacrificial love, an attitude of honour, respect and mutual admiration. Love is a choice and creates an atmosphere, an environment that helps marriages to thrive and prosper. However, doing it with all of those parts of yourself, will help to protect and keep alive the love that you experience.

Protect your heart

The heart is the seat of human emotions (not just the four-chambered pump that forces blood through your vessels and around your body). Protecting your heart means informing your emotions. I’ve heard many people say they love their spouse but they’ve fallen out of love. That means they are allowing emotions and chemicals to cloud their judgement. Yet most affairs don’t start with sex, they start with emotional attachments to someone who is not your spouse.

Emotions can be controlled. That is a sign of maturity and growth. You don’t roll on the floor and throw a tantrum if you don’t get your way anymore do you? That’s something a two-year old might be able to get away with. So set up boundaries around your heart. Don’t share intimate thoughts and feelings with someone who is not your spouse, especially in a one-on-one setting. It is different to doing so in a church group or something but even still, be careful what you share.

On the flip side, your spouse should share all your emotions, all the intimate details of your inner thoughts and experiences. This is what it means to be one flesh. You should be transparent with one another. Make a commitment today to be completely open with your significant other.

Protect your mind

The mind is the seat of your thoughts. Jesus showed us that thoughts and intentions were important when He spoke about anger being murder and lust being adultery. These “sins” often originate in our thoughts where we entertain and fantasise things that are not helpful in building up our marriages. This often begins with the eyes.

Where is your focus—the focus of your eyes and your thoughts? I heard a statistic recently that 100 per cent of young boys (around the age of 11) have now been exposed to porn. It is pervasive and invasive and can cause lots of damage to relationships. If one partner is addicted to porn, then they will not find their spouse satisfying. They will entertain fantasy and fiction above enjoying the real thing. So control your thoughts. [pullquote]

Thankfully I’ve managed to steer clear of online pornography, but that is not to say my eyes and my thoughts don’t betray me. Sometimes the shopping centre in summer or the beach is the hardest place to be. You have to discipline yourself to bounce your eyes. I’ve deleted the Instagram app off my phone. I never had an account but my wife followed lots of fitness models and celebrities who were always posting bikini pics or other revealing things. It was hard not focussing on that, as I scrolled through so I deleted it, to protect my mind and my eyes.

But more than just trying to stifle and suppress bad thoughts, make sure you train your thoughts on your spouse. How often do you go through your good memories in your mind? Do you focus on trying to think of all the good things they’ve done for you recently or all the blessings you’ve been given? It’s very easy to fall into patterns of negative thinking. Allow your mind to develop admiration and fondness for your spouse. Think positively of them and your interactions will grow more positive as you go. Train your mind and your focus on your spouse.

Protect your soul

This is important. The soul is the seat of your spiritual life. It is where your spirit and God’s Spirit reside. So, one of the best ways to protect your marriage is to cultivate spiritual oneness. That means having the same beliefs and practice as your spouse. Ecclesiastes says, “and if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

In other words, being together as a couple gives you strength. But what if God is the third person in your relationship? God provides a neutral third party yet He is also invested in your success. Your relationship can bring Him glory, if He is its foundation and basis. How? You and your spouse may have differences of opinion, culture and family of origin. In fact, after awhile married, you may find that nearly everything is different, even stuff that you thought was the same. But if you are both chasing after God, you are both heading in the same direction. Devotion to God will mean devotion to each other, as God is the great leveller. Paul says in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Our identities our likes and our purposes will all be challenged unless they are found in Christ. So protect your soul by making the choice to bury it firmly in God and let Him protect your marriage.

Make time to pray with each other and read the Word together. Have spiritual conversations to understand how you are both thinking and feeling about world events, things that happen in your family and in your lives. And consult God on big family decisions. Seek wisdom from His Word, prayer, mentors, pastors and friends who journey with Him as well, so that you can determine the best thing for your marriage and His purpose.

Protect your strength

Strength is found in our hands and arms. A man’s strength is often his actions. So what are you doing to protect your marriage through your actions? This means proximity and placement. Keep a safe physical distance from members of the opposite sex. If it can be helped, try not to go anywhere alone or private with anyone who is not your wife (or husband). Do not use your actions to be flirtatious or touch someone beyond appropriate physical interactions. A handshake or even a hug can be fine but don’t hug for too long and don’t go around giving massages or playful touching. If you make some of these rules of physical space, you will protect your marriage.

Use your strength to serve your spouse instead. Prioritise spending quality time in their presence. Massage them, do chores, cook for them, and make them gifts with your own hands. Use your strength to serve your spouse and you will find your love will grow and deepen.

Marriage has been shown to be the most stable relationship for good health and financial status. It is definitely something that is important enough to be protected. Setting boundaries around what is and isn’t acceptable is a good idea. Talk to one another. Find out what makes your spouse uncomfortable. Maybe there is a female friend that your wife doesn’t like you talking to. You may need to cut them out.

God gives us a guideline to protect our relationship with Him. The marriage relationship reflects that as in His image He made them (together). If we set boundaries around our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical interactions and thoughts, then we are not only investing in our relationships but we are protecting them—for ourselves, for our children and for all those who come into contact with us.

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