Four Choices in Marriage

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I was recently asked to share some thoughts on marriage at a bridal shower. As I mulled over the things I’ve learned the last 18 months, I kept coming back to a piece of general advice I was given. 

“Just as marriage is a choice, and love is a choice, every day you have choices to make that will either build up or tear down your marriage.”

Today, my sweet hubby, and I will have been married for exactly a year and a half. While I realize that is a blip in the radar, here are four choices I have learned that us wives get to make every day.

1. Choose your attitude.

People will tell you over and over how hard marriage is. Marriage is challenging because you are taking two independently sinful people and in the mystery of marriage, God supernaturally makes them one. So, now you have double the sin, fused into “one body”, and the temptation is to fight against one another every day of your lives. But you get to choose your attitude. Every time Tyler and I experience a point of tension, instead of thinking, “gah–marriage is so hard”, I can choose to see it as an opportunity for God to grow me and our marriage.

The Apostle Paul considered it all joy, right?!  It really is.  Marriage is so fun– you get to do life every single day with your best friend, you laugh a lot, for me– I experienced an ability to be fully myself in a way I never had before– super quirky, stupid humor and all. Marriage is awesome. But that perspective is a choice, and the world around you–even the Christian world, will tell you otherwise. So choose your attitude.

2. Choose to build him up over tearing him down.

My parents modeled this for me, and Tyler and I preach this to our friends. Don’t tear each other down inside your home, and definitely don’t do it in public. As women, we have so much more power than we even realize over the way our husbands perceive themselves.  If we criticize them, tear them down, and make fun of them (even shrouded in “just-kidding-sarcasm”– they will believe that is who they really are.  The world will criticize, make fun of, and tear our husbands down enough. We get to be their greatest fans, cheerleaders and advocates.  My husband will see himself through my eyes, and if I choose to only encourage and build him up, he will be the best version of himself that God created him to be.

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

3. Choose to put his interests above your own.

Philippians 2:3 says, “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” If you want a killer marriage, you just have to do that every day.  Every single day, I have a choice to be moved to treat my husband’s interests (Phil 2:4) as more important than mine. It doesn’t mean that they are more important, but it does mean that I am moved to treat him as such.

Tyler loves to drink out of those plastic reusable Starbucks cups– you know, the ones with the plastic straws.  I hate those reusable straws. They gross me out. Even with the long, skinny brushes that you can buy to clean them, I think they are sick and probably grow mold inside that you get to ingest every time you reuse them.

So when Tyler and I got married I quickly announced that he would no longer be using those reusable straws.  We would buy throw-away ones like civilized people.  However, he requested to keep his nasty reusable straws, which left me with no choice but to declare that I would never, ever, ever wash those straws for him.  If he wanted to drink out of them, he would have to wash them.

It didn’t take very long into our marriage, maybe three months, before those straws were turning me into a monster.  Every day, I would see a straw (or two or three) lying in the sink.  You see, I hate dirty dishes in the sink.  And I would get mad all over again– about the dirty straws in the sink, about the straws in general, and the mold-infestation that I was sure my husband was daily ingesting.

And then it dawned on me, if I’m actually going to be moved to treat Tyler’s interests as more important than my own, I am just going to get over it and wash the straws.  That decision did two things for me.  One, I stopped getting angry about something that was trivial and two, by learning to put his interests above my own every single day in very small ways–like a stupid straw, I’ve found it makes the big ways a lot easier.

4. Choose to have sex as much as womanly possible.

GASP. I know. I’m talking about sex– feel free to stop reading if this bugs you. 

Still with me?  Ok then. Part of this ties into “choosing to put his interests above your own.” Now, please don’t hear me wrong, sex is awesome– and it should be for both of you! But if you are like 70% of the world*, your husband is going to want sex more often than you do. Don’t be a wife that only gives her husband sex when you feel like it, or when you think your husband “deserves” it. Give it to him as much as possible. As my sister-in-law frequently says,

“Sex is a lot like working out or even reading the Bible. You don’t always feel like doing it, but you never regret it after you’re done.”

Having sex as much as womanly possible will do several things for you. One, it will keep your husband’s tank full. Sex is one of, if not, the easiest way to make him feel loved and cared for by you. He will be a better husband to you if he feels taken care of. Two, it will create continuous connection for you. Sex isn’t about cleavage, it’s about connection.

I was given advice by several different women, to have sex every single day our first year of marriage. You won’t be able to perfectly hit that goal but it’s a great goal to have, and if you know you are going to have sex every day, it forces you to deal with any emotional/communication issues you may otherwise be having. If Tyler hurts my feelings one morning, I have to talk it out with him before I’ll be ready to have sex. So, having sex often keeps you finely attuned to every other aspect of your marriage.

Finally, practice makes perfect. My youth pastor’s wife grabbed my arm just minutes before Tyler and I left for our honeymoon and whispered, “every four times it gets better.” She’s so right. The more you have sex, the better it will get. It’s worth the practice.

While marriage is a lot more than those four choices– those are the four choices I most consider on a daily basis. Four choices that have incredible power to determine whether Tyler and I have a fun, meaningful, rich day– or whether we have a super painful and difficult one. The world will bring enough challenges and difficulties to our life and marriage– but as wives, you and I can “control the controllable”, by making choices that set our marriages up for success.

*This is a real stat from "The Sexually Confident Wife" by Shannon Ethridge.