A key to the problem guys face is that we don’t understand the North Star of relationships. It’s the gold standard of selfless love, the blueprint for building a family and blessing your children. What’s that North Star? Knowing Jesus Christ and His purposes for marriage, and trusting in His strength to make a lasting relationship possible.
Marriage needs to be re-explained. It needs to be re-branded as an awesome, noble, and challenging adventure. Our manhood, our happiness, and our children’s future depend on marriage—yours, mine, and everybody else’s.
In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, it’s important to understand what marriage is about. As you read through the following list, ask God to remake you and help you understand what it means to be a man and a husband. Let’s value marriage and relate well to our wives, whether we’re married yet, or preparing for that woman.
1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage. It’s the union and oneness of man and woman in lifelong covenant. It’s the team that anchors a family. It’s a bonded relationship that mirrors God’s sacrificial, unconditional, lasting love for his children (those who by faith have accepted His sacrifice and adoption into his eternal family).
2. A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships, and in marriage. Don’t let an advertising-saturated, consumer society make you act like a consumer in relationships. Decide to add value to a wife, not take value.
Just like great quarterbacks serve receivers, and great receivers serve quarterbacks, we need to be investors, not childish consumers, takers, or complainers. We are to model ourselves after Jesus, the ultimate relationship Investor. He is the definition of a man: responsible, initiating, courageous, self-sacrificing, healing, peacemaking, justice-doing, others-centered rather than self-centered, loving others in ways that add value and nobility to them.
Before he is married, a great husband will be a relationship investor who will build friendship that adds value into the life a young woman, her self-esteem, and her potential to serve God. He will channel his sexual desires and expression into devotion to God and commitment to one wife for life. He will marry and be sexually exclusive—only having eyes, imagination, and sexual intimacy with one woman.
We should be asking ourselves this question daily: “Would I want to marry me?”3. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their Maker. God is the authority. He provides the blueprints for marriage and the power source of love, wisdom, and health. God can heal any marriage if the husband and wife will submit themselves to God and let Him change them.
4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature him and develop Christ-like character in him. It can help conform him to the image of Christ, reshaping his will and identity into union with, and deference toward, his wife. This is like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who honor, defer to, and glorify each other.
The friendship of marriage helps spouses become better versions of themselves, closer to what God designed and redeemed them to be. They must face the truth about themselves—their strengths and their imperfections. They will face conflict and difficulty and must grow empathy and teamwork. Selfishness must melt away if they are to become healthy, strong, and mature together.
5. A man needs to know the meaning of love. God defines love not by how much you want to receive, but by how much you are willing to give of yourself—your will, your freedom, your time, your emotions, your forgiveness, your resources. The model is Jesus, who demonstrated love for us by dying for us while we were yet sinners.
A husband does this by choosing his wife as a priority in his life over all other pursuits, possessions and distractions—regardless of whether she is kind, lovable, or respectful. Love brings out the best in her. A man initiates love, rather than waiting for or demanding respect or kind treatment. Love is not dependent upon feelings. Decisions and choices to love can regenerate the feelings of love.
6. A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband, and lover. He is to be an investor in his wife, and he sacrifices himself for her best. He defines his manhood as pursuing purity in Christ, chastity before marriage, and enthusiastic fidelity in marriage.
7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits. He understands that sexuality makes sense in the context of union to God and the union of marriage. Outside that context it’s often reduced to moralism, rules, suppression, secrecy, illicit imagination, temptation, and shame. Or, commonly it’s reduced to a consumer experience—materialistic self-interest, physical gratification, entertainment, techniques. This causes shallow, stunted human bonding, untold stories of abuse, damage, abandonment, and fragmented families.
8. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity. Our modern world tricks a man into thinking that more sources of sexual stimulation will satisfy him. But like a drug, they thrill but do not satisfy. Sexual entertainment, images, and illicit sex erode rather than enhance sexual joy in a marriage.
They way to become a great lover is to practice with only one woman for life. It is to be generous, exclusive, and serving—not greedy, distracted, and taking. A great relationship and great sex are connected in marriage, and that only happens when a man’s sole target of sexual affections, imaginations, and enjoyment is his wife.
9. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one- or two-year “honeymoon era.” This is a period of semi-blind euphoria that makes the relationship magnetic and easier. It’s as if our Creator gives that to us humans to get us jump-started in marriage. Couples should know that when the euphoria wears off and they eventually settle into normality, the different feelings they experience do not indicate that they married the wrong person or are not “in love” anymore.
10. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. It often causes the onset of reality to begin almost immediately after the wedding, depending on how long the couple had been living and sleeping together. Research shows that divorce and issues of mistrust are more common for those who cohabit before marriage than for those who do not. Cohabiting is not “good practice” for marriage.
11. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in a relationship with a woman. One way of defining commitment in marriage is never considering divorce. If you know that you won’t be leaving or divorcing, it forces you to face differences and problems and work through them.
In marriage it is the security of commitment that allows a woman to feel peace in the relationship. The assurance of a husband’s commitment helps a woman entrust herself to him emotionally and sexually.
12. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy. Marriage is not automatic, and it’s often difficult. The euphoria of romantic infatuation in the first years of marriage fades, requiring the mature resolve to behave lovingly and invest relationally to build a deeper bond than infatuation. Marriage will take intentional and continual effort.
13. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy. Now it’s true that a good marriage to a good woman can make you happier than most anything else on earth. But if your goal is to be happy, then you will be focused on yourself, and you will damage your character and your relationships.
If you aim to be holy—like Jesus, not like a monk—you will invite God to change you. You will allow your marriage relationship to change you and crush your selfish will and defensive pride. You will experience true oneness in your marriage—you’ll be deepest friends, intimate allies, generous lovers, caring providers, complementary partners, spiritual enhancers. (Thanks to Gary Thomas for the idea)
14. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last. He is to steward and shepherd himself and his wife’s union. He is to be proactive at assisting God in healing her past wounds, creating oneness in their bond, and assuring her (and their children) of his love for her.
Women are natural responders when men initiate in love, prayer, and humility. Men must not be passive, arrogant, distracted, or controlling. A man will not point the finger at his wife’s behavior or shortcomings, but will examine his history as a husband and ask God to change him. His heart, his care, and his initiative is the key to his wife’s response and the health of the marriage.
15. A man needs to know that he can change his marriage by changing himself. He can make himself a better husband by making himself a more consistent and devoted follower of Jesus. If he wants to improve any aspect of his marriage—family or parenting—the solution lies in deepening his daily commitment to God. The path to build a great marriage or to heal a marriage is for him to humble his will, to let the Holy Spirit take control of him, and to obey Christ.
16. A man needs to know that romance is created and sustained intentionally. Thinking about what she likes, remembering what is important to her, setting things up the way she prefers … these are all critical. In dating and various stages of life, romance can spontaneously happen; but for the long term, it must be deliberately planned and created. If a man wants to be a leader, this is an area in which to lead. And it leads to good things.
17. A man needs to know that divorce is avoidable. He understands that nothing is impossible for God, and he humbles himself to admit and repent from the ways he fell short in loving his wife in the past, so he can excel at loving her from this day forward.
18. A man needs to know that he can recover from a wife’s affair because he has the power to forgive. Jesus forgave all his sin, and he is called to do the same with his wife. Furthermore, he seeks to understand what led his wife to be unfaithful, even if it means admitting his own failure. Usually a man breaks his vow to choose, love, and protect her before a woman breaks her vow to be faithful.
Note: If you have an affair, you don’t have control over whether you can recover because you can’t force a wife’s forgiveness.
19. A man needs to know that even the worst things can be redeemed for deeper purposes. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us to rejoice and find value in tribulation, loss, and suffering because tribulation brings perseverance, and perseverance brings proven character like that of Jesus, and proven character brings hope, and hope does not disappoint because God’s love is poured out to us by His Holy Spirit.
Face crises and trials and suffering straight on with Christ and a few close teammates. A man steps up, by surrendering to Jesus Christ and persevering in making Him the center and Lord of his life.
20. A man needs to know that humbling himself to his wife is the gutsiest and most successful way to heal her heart and the frequently-compromised relationship. A man with courage and wisdom will never overlook his wife’s hurt feelings. And he’ll seek to overlook the disrespectful words she blurts out in reaction to how he hurt her feelings.
When you are in conflict, don’t wait for things to blow over. Don’t try to point out her fault. Don’t try to minimize the situation. And don’t defend yourself. Instead, be a leader. Start the apology. A great starting point is, “I was wrong. I hurt you. Please forgive me?”
21. A man needs to know that a wife wants him to lead her, but will tend to lead and control him if he doesn’t lead and initiate. Leadership starts with your character and your devotion to Christ. Your walk with God determines the quality of your love and leadership as a husband.
Seek God. Read His word in the Bible. Pray for Him to shape and lead you. Humble yourself before Him. Seek a mentor or group to help you grow and become a good husband.
Leadership of a wife is humility before God, initiating teamwork with your wife, praying with her every day, and praying for your family. Most guys I know well are like me in this: If you’re frustrated with your wife and your marriage, the solution lies in getting back into Jesus and His Word!