Secrets to a Vibrant Marriage:
God’s Surprising Solution for Lasting Intimacy
by Leslie Ludy
When my husband Eric and I were first married, we heard all kinds of “doom and gloom” predictions about our romantic future. “Sure, you are in love with your husband right now,” a cynical older woman told me, “But just wait a few years. Pretty soon the romance will die, and he’ll start getting under your skin.”
Eric and I were disturbed by this dismal forecast over our marriage. But having only been married for a few months, we weren’t exactly sure how to avoid becoming one of the statistics. We could only hope, pray, and believe that things would be different for us if we kept our eyes on Christ.
Now, twenty years later, I can honestly say that we haven’t become a statistic. Eric and I have certainly had our share of arguments, misunderstandings, and communication challenges over the years. But in spite of the many trials and pressures we’ve faced in our ministry and child-raising, our marriage has only grown stronger and more beautiful as time has gone by. I’ve often asked myself why this is the case. In an age where marriages – even Christian marriages – are falling apart left and right, why is ours still going strong?
Is it because we have stumbled on some brilliant communication techniques or read loads of helpful books on marriage? Are Eric and I unusually gifted in the art of sensitivity and romance? Are we simply fortunate enough to be among the rare few who, just by chance, happened to side-step the dismal-marriage epidemic?
No. In all honesty, the secret to our marital success is surprisingly simple and it really doesn’t have anything to do with us. Eric and I have chosen to keep Christ at the center of our lives. Instead of looking to our marriage to meet and fulfill the deepest needs and desires of our hearts, we have each looked to Him as our ultimate source of joy and security. Making Jesus Christ our “all in all” is what has kept our marriage thriving. Instead of putting unhealthy and unrealistic expectations upon each other, our deepest needs are met by Christ. This enables us to look to each other not with a selfish perspective (i.e. what can I get from this person?) but a selfless one (i.e. how can I give to this person?)
C.T. Studd wrote, “Marriage can either be a taste of Heaven on earth or a taste of hell on earth, depending upon where you place the Cross.” Eric and I have found that statement to be absolutely true. It is only when we die to selfish whims and desires, learning to love each other selflessly and sacrificially just as Christ loved us, our marriage thrives. It really is that simple. Marriage conferences, marriage books, and marriage counseling certainly have their place, but unless Jesus Christ is in His rightful place between a man and a woman, the relationship can never truly succeed as God intended it to.
God intended marriage to be the cornerstone of a healthy family. Unless our marriages remain strong and thriving, our families cannot thrive as God intended them to. If your marriage is struggling, here are some practical ways to cultivate a shift of pattern.
- Find your Fulfillment in Christ
When we fail to cultivate our daily relationship with Christ, we can easily start looking to our spouse to meet needs in our life that only He can truly fulfill. This only leads to frustration, disillusionment, nagging, complaining and arguing.
If you are frustrated with your spouse’s shortcomings, be sure that you are making your relationship with Jesus Christ a top priority. Beware of adopting the attitude that says, “I won’t be happy unless my spouse changes in these areas!” Remember that in Christ, you have everything you need for perfect happiness and contentment right now – whether married to Prince Charming or Joe Deadbeat.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray for your husband’s shortcomings and help him rise up to God’s standard for his life. But it does mean that you can avoid a lot of marriage frustration and disillusionment by keeping Christ in His rightful place, and finding your ultimate fulfillment in Him. Take time to be in His presence each day. Worship, meditate on His Word, and pour out your heart to Him. Ask Him to fill you and meet your needs where human love falls short. He is the only One who will never fail you, never disappoint you, and never act selfishly toward you.
Instead of putting your happiness “on hold” until your spouse finally becomes more sensitive, learn to find your happiness right now in the One who will never leave or forsake you. No marriage counselor in the world can accomplish what He can.
- Ask a Different Question
During my second year of marriage, I decided to stop asking the question, “Is Eric meeting all of my needs?” Instead, I decided to ask a new question – “Am I loving and serving my spouse as God intended me to?” As a result of this attitude shift, there was a noticeable change in our marriage. I was no longer so concerned with what Eric was or wasn’t doing in our marriage or if he was performing perfectly as a husband. I became more focused on faithfully fulfilling the call that God had placed upon my life to love, serve, honor, and help the man He had chosen for me.
Amazingly, when I took this approach, Eric became a better husband – more sensitive to my needs, more caring and considerate. Why? Because instead of feeling nagged and criticized, he felt loved, respected and appreciated. He wasn’t constantly on the defensive and feeling like a failure. Rather, as I loved and served him, he became stronger as a man and more able to meet my needs. My decision to ask the right question (i.e. “what can I give?” rather than “what can I get?”) literally transformed our marriage in those early years. And even now, whenever I feel a strain in our marriage, that is the question that God always brings me back to.
That is not to say that I never communicate about my needs to Eric, or that I never help him become a more sensitive husband. I am certainly not a silent, mousy, martyr-complexed wife who never shares her needs or concerns! But I have learned that when I approach my husband with a selfish, needy, critical attitude, only concerned with getting my own needs met, I am setting my marriage up for disaster. On the flip side, when I approach him with a loving, patient, outward-focused attitude, I build him up instead of tearing him down. And as a result, I build my marriage and family up, instead of tearing it down.
Proverbs 14:1 says, “A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish pulls it down with her hands.” The enemy often fools us into thinking that complaining and criticizing will help us get what we want out of our marriage. But when we tear our husbands down with our words and critical attitudes, we not only tear down his strength and morale, but we pull down the very fabric of our family.
When shift from asking the question “what can I get?” to asking “what can I give?” everything changes. As counterintuitive as it seems, taking a selfless approach instead of a selfish one usually causes our needs to be met far quicker and more effectively than the other way around.
When our marriages are strong, our families are strong. That is why marriages are under such massive attack. The enemy knows that if he can destroy our marriages, he can destroy our families. By God’s grace, let’s refuse to let him win.
Leslie Ludy is the wife of Eric Ludy, the mother of six exuberant kiddos, and a bestselling author and speaker. She is passionate about helping women bring Christ into the center of every area of their lives, including motherhood. Leslie’s bestselling books include When God Writes Your Love Story, Authentic Beauty, The Set-Apart Woman, and Set-Apart Motherhood. Leslie is the founder and director of the Set Apart Girl Magazine—a beautiful resource that inspires women of all ages toward Christ-centered femininity. Visit our sister site, www.setapartgirl.com to learn more about Leslie’s ministry. And for more of Leslie’s powerful articles on Christ-centered motherhood, visit www.setapartmotherhood.com!