By Lori Hatcher, Crosswalk.com
Every few months I trotted my daughter to the doctor for a well-baby checkup. As a nervous new mother, I appreciated having a healthcare professional evaluate my baby’s health.
She listened to my concerns; peered into my baby’s eyes, ears, nose, and throat; and listened to her heart. After she measured her height and weight, she asked me questions about her eating and sleeping habits. Then she made helpful suggestions.
Regular physical checkups are important if we value a healthy body, and regular relationship checkups are important if we value a healthy marriage.
If you’d like to evaluate the health of your marriage (without having to step on a scale or say "ahhh"), consider these 5 signs of a healthy marriage.
1. Healthy Couples Put Christ at the Center of Their Marriage
Although it’s possible for non-Christians to have a healthy marriage, a marriage centered on Christ has a far greater chance of success.
My husband David and I came into our marriage from vastly different backgrounds.
He was the youngest of four children living in the South in a single-parent household. I was the oldest of three girls who’d grown up in the North in a two-parent family. He was a spender. I was a saver. He wanted a dozen children. I wasn’t sure I wanted any.
David surrendered his life to Christ at 17, and I came to faith two years later. When we met several years later, we discovered we shared a common goal—to love and serve God all the days of our lives. We studied the Bible and committed to live our lives based on its principles.
We prayed together and separately about important decisions, sought biblical counsel, and took each other’s opinions into consideration.
Our commitment to God and His Word gave our family direction and purpose. It helped us decide how to spend our time and money, which activities to pursue and which to avoid, and how to prioritize. As we matured in our faith, we grew closer together as a couple.
We learned to love each other sacrificially, serve each other unselfishly, and yield our rights and privileges for the greater good.
Matthew 6:33 became our plumb line: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” As we submitted ourselves to Christ, and then to each other, God brought unity, purpose, and direction to our lives and to our marriage.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/mictian
2. Healthy Couples Support Each Other’s Dreams and Interests
God called my husband David to the ministry at age 18. His commitment drives many of the decisions we make as a family.
When he realized he needed more education, we agreed to spend time and money to send him back to school at age 42. I typed his papers, helped organize his research, and looked the other way when the grass needed cutting and a paper was due. When he accepted his first youth minister position, our family followed him to a new church and joined him in ministry.
Similarly, when I graduated my last child from homeschool high school and felt God leading me to pursue a writing career, my husband enthusiastically supported me.
He encouraged me to attend a writers conference, join a critique group, and take classes. He never begrudges the time and money I spend pursuing my craft because he wants to help me develop the gift God has given me.
In a healthy marriage, spouses encourage each other to pursue the things that bring them joy. Each partner supports the other’s dreams and interests--not only do they have shared dreams, they take time to develop their own gifts and passions individually, and cheer eachother on.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:3-4, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
There is something so special about helping eachother be all that God created you to be.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
3. Healthy Couples Become Students of Each Other
When we begin to date, no one has to tell us to get to know each other. We spend weeks, months, and sometimes years discovering the complex and fascinating nuances that make our spouses unique.
He’s passionate about history. She loves sports. He likes his coffee hot and his pizza cold. She loves iced tea and a warm beach in the winter. He receives love through acts of service, and she craves words of affirmation. He’s an introvert who needs silence. She’s an extrovert who thrives on social interaction.
We dig deeply into each other’s personalities in the early years of our relationship, but then we get lazy. We assume we know all there is to know about each other and stop asking questions. Instead of listening actively and continuing to learn, we rely on past observations and cruise through our days.
But people grow and change. In a healthy marriage, a couple never stops studying each other. They discover their partner’s love language and practice it. They learn their preferences, aversions, and passions. They value what’s important to the other. They recognize, as Love and Respect author Emerson Eggerich says, “Your spouse’s preferences aren’t wrong, just different.”
Instead of fighting and lamenting over our spouse’s differences, healthy marriage partners recognize God often brings dramatically different people together. While we might be tempted to criticize (or worse, mock) our spouse’s differences, God calls us to study, embrace and respect them.
Missionary Amy Carmichael once said, “In acceptance lies peace.” This is certainly true in marriage.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Luis Quintero
4. Healthy Couples Spend Time Together and Apart
Jack and Sally do everything together. They share friends, hobbies, time off, and ministries. If they can’t do it together, they don’t do it. If Jack doesn’t like Sally’s friend Marcia, Sally doesn’t hang out with Marcia. If Sally hates tailgate parties and college football, Jack kisses those Saturday afternoon games goodbye.
In contrast, Tom and Sue live like orbiting planets circling the same sun. They seldom spend time together. He has his interests and friends, and she has hers. They pursue vastly divergent careers and leisure activities. When children came into the marriage, they divided and conquered, not just out of necessity, but by choice.
Neither couple has a healthy marriage. We place an unrealistic burden on our spouse when we expect them to meet all our needs for companionship, entertainment, and emotional support. Guys need guy friends, and girls need girlfriends. We need to spend time alone and with others who enrich our lives.
But we stunt our marriage when we seldom share activities, hobbies, and heart-to-heart moments. We fail to connect in emotionally rich ways. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” morphs into, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Healthy couples find the balance. They serve the Lord and the community together, make date nights a priority, and share, as much as possible, each other’s passions. They also cultivate healthy friendships and activities apart from each other.
She goes to the beach with the girls, and he goes hunting with the guys. Each comes home refreshed and eager to spend time relaxing on the back porch or hiking their favorite trail together.
Finding the healthy balance between spending time together and spending time apart is an important key to a healthy marriage.
Photo Credit: © iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jelena Danilovic
5. Healthy Couples Forgive Each Other
Even the best marriage has its rough patches. One partner hurts the other and the relationship suffers.
Forgiveness acknowledges that marriages are made up of two flawed human beings who need grace, not judgment. Healthy relationships model forgiveness to a watching world, and we are most Christ-like when we forgive.
Our children, extended family, and even outsiders see Christ in us when we extend forgiveness, especially when our spouse doesn’t deserve it. But forgiveness doesn’t mean overlooking offenses that need to be addressed, putting yourself in harm’s way in an abusive relationship, or turning a blind eye to sin and unmet needs.
A healthy marriage recognizes that unforgiveness leads to bitterness, and bitterness poisons the heart, mind, and soul. As Lewis B. Smedes observed, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
A marriage characterized by forgiveness doesn’t to use the silent treatment or the cold shoulder to punish. Instead, it talks through the issues and forgives. Forgiving spouses remember how Christ forgave them and extend the same forgiveness—seventy times seven.
They refuse to keep a list of wrongs, hurts, and disappointments. As a couple, we seek to follow the principles of Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
On December 28, 2020, David and I will celebrate our 36th anniversary. Our journey hasn’t always been fun, easy, or conflict free.
As we put Christ at the center of our home, support each other’s dreams, study each other, spend time together and apart, and forgive as Christ forgave us, our relationship has grown healthy and strong—a beautiful testimony of God’s grace.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Kyle Bearden