How to Make Marriage Last

I’ve been pondering lately what it takes to to make a marriage last and avoid the pitfalls of adultery, apathy, or complacency. Whether in the news or down the street, it seems like marriages are dropping like flies all around us. It’s easy to feel hopeless and wonder if a couple has a fighting chance to make it anymore.

At first, I wondered if the answer was to just be intentional about your marriage—date your spouse forever and that kind of thing.

As I dreamt about date nights, ways to nurture shared hobbies, or special trips Joel and I could take together, I realized those things weren’t enough, though certainly helpful in their own ways.

The successful, lasting marriages I knew of all had one thing in common: both spouses were sold out to following Jesus Christ, committed to sacrificing for one another, dying to their own selfish wants and needs and purposefully learning how to love and serve as Christ does.

What is the purpose of marriage?

In almost every affair or divorce I have witnessed, I have heard the same refrain, “He just doesn’t understand me anymore. He isn’t meeting my needs. I don’t [feel like I] love him anymore.” The assumption is that marriage exists to meet my needs first and foremost.

By and large, we have bought this secular view of marriage rather than a Christian one. Marriage doesn’t primarily exist to meet our needs, though it often does by God’s grace. Instead, God uses marriage to mold and shape and sanctify us evermore into the image of Christ. That perspective makes all the difference in the world.

What does martyrdom have to do with marriage?

In the ancient Christian tradition, and to this day in the Orthodox Church, the sacrament of marriage involved a “crowning ceremony.” The crows symbolize the glory and dominion a husband and wife have as king and queen over their domestic realm. The crowns also symbolize martyrdom as they recall the crown of thorns worn by Jesus himself on the cross as he laid down his life for us.

At first glance, the idea of martyrdom and death sound about as unromantic as it can get. And yet, the idea of laying down ones life isn’t as morbid as it seems.

Martyrdom, as it relates to marriage, is the willingness to die to those sins that promise in vain to give us “life” but can never deliver—our own urges, selfish desires and impulses—so that we might be free to experience true life in Christ and all that goes with it—real joy, intimacy, communion with one another, etc.

Why we need spiritual exercise

If we want our marriages to last, I wonder if the answer isn’t to stop thinking so much about our marriages and instead, pursue holiness as we pursue Christ.

We must learn to say no to ourselves, so when the moment of temptation arises, and it will, we have trained ourselves—spiritually speaking—to say no. To die to the flesh. This is why the church, in its wisdom, has always prescribed spiritual disciplines like fasting, confession and prayer.

Spiritual discipline is not about earning salvation or approval from God. Spiritual disciplines are like a daily exercise regimen for our hearts, giving us a reservoir of strength to draw from when we find ourselves under spiritual attack. We must ready ourselves for the fight because the fight is coming.

As we submit ourselves to the sanctifying work of Christ in our lives, the sins that entangle our hearts are cut away bit by bit. We are freed to love one another in the way God intended—selflessly and wholeheartedly—in marriage, and everywhere else.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot more encouraging (albeit, harder) than, “Ten Ways to Keep the Spark Alive” or “Five Strategies for Fighting Fair.”

What do you think it take to make a marriage last?

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17 thoughts on “How to Make Marriage Last

  1. You are so totally right Megh. I was married to the most wonderful, Godly man for 14 1/2 years. Everyone who knows us will tell you that we had a “fairytale” marriage. We never argued (yes it can be done, whether Ken Davis says so or not, and neither one of us was a carrot! :) We made a commitment in the beginning of our marriage that when issues came up, which they will, we would resolve them with prayer and discussion. That solution never failed. We both had Christ at the center of our marriage and our spouse second. I was privileged to spend his last year by his side, caring for him and helping him battle the brain cancer that took him away from my sight far too soon.
    There are several things that I told my husband everyday of our 14 1/2 years together.
    I love you
    I love being married to you
    Being your wife is the best part of being me
    You are the most wonderful blessing that God has ever given me.

    Those words, heartfelt each time I spoke them, encouraged the roots of our love for each other to grow deeper every day. We were more In Love with each other the day he died than the day we were married.

    Blessings Megh, on your journey to being united with your sons!

    • Shelley, what a precious story, even in the midst of your loss. Thank you for living Christlike love for all the years that God gave you. It gives those of us just starting out, hope that it can be a reality.

  2. Babe, I love this piece. Having failed here before, I think that you’re 100% on point — and think so from exactly the wrong kind of personal experience. Living for our own interests, even unconsciously, is how to erode the foundation of a marriage, the only real foundation of which is self-sacrificial love like Christ’s for us. Thanks for the powerful reminder.

  3. I am definately not a mom, but I am a Dad who found this post to be awesome. I read a lot of marriage blogs and facebook posts and I always find that my spirit agrees most with those that direct us to develop our Christ likeness over the other marriage tips we are given. Thanks for letting God use you.

  4. Hey Megh…I totally agree, 110%. My struggle right now is that my husband has given up on his relationship with Christ. He balks (sp?) at the idea of pursuing Christ in our relationship. In the midst of this, I have to continue to pursue Christ myself and pray that Rob comes back around. It’s really hard, though.

    • The most difficult part of the story, Kim, is the middle. That’s where you are now. But it’s not over. Like Max Lucado says, “It all works out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.”

  5. Thanks Megan! This was so well wrritten and so totally spot on for my daughter and son-in-law as they are struggling with exactly these issues. SIL says he does not need “any help” and daughter says What do we do? She does not want a divorce, and he is talking D-lawyer. Both are believers, though he much newer in his walk with the Lord. I shared your post with both ofthem and I am praying that God cause especially son-in-law to be unavoidably drawn to your words and to God’s OWN Words for his life. My daughter wants her marriage to work and be strong and healthy. My SIL wants to let his pride be his guide. My prayers are so focused on marriages right now. The enemy wants to trash them ALL and then mock those who succumb to his tauntings and temptings. That is not God’s plan at all!!!

    • Linda, I especially appreciate what you said at the end, about the Enemy and his designs on Christian marriage. I couldn’t agree me. Prayer is the weapon God gives us, and I am grateful for your reminder to use it!

  6. This is a good saying and worthy of all acceptance. Thanks Megan for this wonderful piece. We are having a young couple’s gathering at the weekend and I’m going to share with them. This is the kind of message we need today on wedding pulpit.

    • Thank you so much. The exciting thing is that it is being shared in wedding pulpits all over the world through the Orthodox Church. If you ever have the chance to attend an Orthodox wedding, I encourage you to do so. It is a profound picture of the Gospel.

  7. you are perfectly right. marriages all over the world are going through a crucial time, couples in it are ignorance of the purpose of which GOD institute marriage. its now business partnership or for selfish gain. God help us and kudos to you all. Jah bless!

  8. Great post! Marriage is meant for our holiness is a great perspective to have. Most people think it’s meant for our happiness, but then sin enters in one form or another. But when we each are pursuing Christ, our marriage will definitely last. Thanks!