Marriage Tip #1: Accept your God given needs for God and others.
If you want to have a better marriage, then you must reject forever the false teaching that God is all you need. He is ultimately what we need but not all we need. We must ultimately depend on Him as the source to meet our needs (Matt. 6:33), but He does not meet all our needs directly–He may sometimes want to meet them indirectly–through other people.
Adam’s aloneness proves we have needs. It was God who said in Gen. 2:18 “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Adam had an aloneness problem even before he had a sin problem (Gen. 3:6). He had a morally perfect relationship with God not marred by any sin; was living in a perfect environment (Eden, Paradise); had an exalted position as CEO of planet Earth (and no competition–every business man’s dream) but was alone and God said aloneness was “not good.” God’s solution was a person – Eve. Not more prayer or Bible study – but a person.
Common sense proves God is not all we need. A need is essentially something God has provided, declaring and validating that we need it. He provided air, food and water–therefore we need air, food and water. But notice our need for air, food and water are met with air, food and water (things outside Himself, contrary to what the pantheistic new agers claim) not a deeper closeness with Him.
The ‘one-another’ commands prove we have needs. If God commands us to respect, encourage and comfort one another, it must mean that we all need respect, encouragement and comfort. Otherwise, God asks us to do something irrelevant and He doesn’t do that!
God who could have created us any way He wanted, chose to create us with a need to relate both with Himself and meaningful others. Relational relevancy is lost when we misunderstand man’s need, claiming he only needs God. Denying needs leads to self-sufficient attitudes like “If God is all I need why can’t God be all you need . . . If I don’t need comfort or attention, then why can’t you do without comfort or attention . . . why do you have to be so needy?”
Tell the average Christian that you are feeling alone in your marriage (or in life generally), you are likely to hear: “you’re not alone, you have God . . .God is all you need . . . you just need to pray more . . . read your Bible more . . . you just need to get your eyes off yourself.”
If aloneness is not good, then make it one of your primary marriage and parenting goals to remove aloneness. A successful husband is one whose wife feels less alone this year than she felt last year. And a successful wife is one whose husband feels less alone this year than he felt last year. A successful parent is one whose children feel less alone this year than last year.
Certainly you daily consider the question “what must I get done today?” Add thoughts like “how can I remove my partner’s aloneness today?”
What other biblical truths prove that God is ultimately what we need but not all we need?
Marriage Tip #2: Accept God’s purposes for being made with needs.
Like it or not, God made us all with needs. Needs are not a sign of weakness. Desiring appreciation doesn’t make us insecure. Desiring support doesn’t mean we are weak. Desiring security doesn’t mean we lack faith. Desiring attention doesn’t mean we are self-centered. God created us with needs that could only be met through a relationship with Him and significant others (Gen. 2:18).
Needs are necessary for knowing, depending upon and loving God. God created us to know Him in all His greatness. Therefore, He created us with needs so that we might have to depend upon Him and trust Him to supply all our “needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phi 4:19). As we experience the wonder of His love and provision we experience a deep satisfaction and a resulting love for Him that evokes praise and worship.
Needs motivate us to become interdependent with each other. We cannot meet all of our own needs. Neither does God meet them all directly. God choses to meet many needs indirectly through His people. Therefore we cannot “say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you (1 Cor. 12:21)’” We need each other. Even Jesus expressed His need for human relationships at the time of His greatest trial: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).
Accepting the reality of needs helps to develop compassion toward others. A self-sufficient person often lacks compassion thinking “Why should I care about your needs, I don’t think you should even have needs.” If you don’t think you have needs, then you wont think others do either. If we do not have needs then why would the Scriptures encourage us to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted” (Eph. 4:32). Seeing needs, Jesus was often “moved with compassion” (Matt. 20:34).
Acknowledging our needs challenges us to both receive and give. Indeed, the deepest sense of joy is when we give to others and meet their needs: “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Yet, it is difficult to give what we have not received. As we acknowledge our needs, and receive from others, we are then better able to experience the joy of giving to others: “freely you received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Jesus first received from the Father and then gave to others: “Everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).
Meeting needs expresses care, which produces oneness in the Body of Christ. If you want to decrease division, then increase care: “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another“ (1 Cor. 12:25).
How has acknowledging your needs enhanced your relationship with God and your mate?
Marriage Tip #3: Receive and give God’s acceptance.
The need for acceptance is met by receiving another person willingly and unconditionally especially when the other person’s behavior has been imperfect; being willing to continue loving another in spite of offenses or differences. Rom. 15:7 “Therefore, accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
Realize that your ability to accept others unconditionally is dependent on how much you personally experience God’s acceptance of you. The template for accepting others is “just as Christ also accepted us.” Matt. 10:8 says that “freely you have received, freely give.” As with all the needs, we receive from God (directly or indirectly through others) and then freely give to others.
Accept that you have intrinsic worth and value apart from your performance because you are made in God’s image. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). He lovingly moved toward us relationally and died for us while we were yet sinners. He did not wait for us to correct all the things about us that bother Him.
Ponder this. Think back when you become a Christian. Since that time have you done anything wrong? Probably yes. At the time God saved you, did He know that you would commit that wrong? Yes, because He knows all things past, present and future! And yet He saved you regardless! Knowing that we will betray him in the many ways of sin, He still established a relationship with us. Most of us do not love that well — but we should.
Look beyond faults and meet needs. The closer we get to our partner, the more we see their imperfections. Jesus accepted a thief on a cross (Lu. 23:39), a woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1), and Peter when he failed (Jn. 21:15) without condoning their behavior (“go and sin no more” Jn. 8:1). He loved all people unconditionally and forgave freely, even from the cross saying “Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing” Lu. 23:34.
Quickly forgive when your partner offends you. You married a sinner (as did they). Reject the false notion that “it is my forgiveness and I can give it to whomever I wish.” Forgiveness is a divine commodity, we receive if from God and then as good stewards we pass it along. To forgive does not mean we forget but that we are no longer holding the offense against them relationally. You can and should forgive even if your partner does not admit their wrong.
Love your partner with God’s unmerited, unconditional and unlimited love. God’s love is unmerited, we don’t deserve it and can’t earn it; unconditional, not based on what we do or don’t do); and unlimited, it will never run out or be depleted.
How have you given and received acceptance?
Marriage Tip #4: Receive and give God’s admonition when it truly is the “need of the moment” by “speaking the truth in love”
The need for admonition is met by constructive guidance in what to avoid; an exhortation; to warn; a gentle and friendly reproof. 1 Thess. 5:14 “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Receive God’s admonition. Consider how many problems would be absent if Adam and Eve received and obeyed God’s warning to not eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6). It was an act of profound love for Adam. It was not to limit Adam, but to keep Adam from pain and from being separated from God. Many couples could resolve most of their conflicts if they would simply abide by Matt. 7:5 which says “take the log out of your own eye, before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” The Bible is filled with practical wisdom to enrich our life.
Accept that God may want to admonish you through your spouse. Since we are commanded to “admonish one another” (Col. 3:16), it may mean that God may want someone to admonish us. It makes sense that God might want to use the person closest to us; the one who might more clearly see and feel the negative impact of our failures.
Before you admonish, make sure that it truly is the need of the moment. 1 Thess. 5:14 says to “admonish the unruly” and to “encourage the fainthearted.” You might do great damage to someone if you transposed these, or flip-flopped them (by admonishing the fainthearted and encouraging the unruly). Scripture is clear that we should speak only words that “meet the need of the moment”(Eph. 4:29 NASB). Realize admonition is almost always hard to receive, therefore make sure that you are the right person, with the right facts, and that you “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:17) having the right time, manner and motive.
Be receptive to God’s admonition as a means of God’s guidance. We often resist admonition because it reveals that we do not know everything that our way is not perfect. When we admonish our children it is because we see something they do not see and want to help them avoid problems in the future. Likewise, God admonishes and warns us to avoid problems in the future. Ironically, many children are more teachable and open to admonition than the adult parents!
How have you given and received admonition?
Marriage Tip #5: Receive and give affection
The need for affection is met by expressing care and closeness through physical touch. It can also include endearing words like “I love you.” Rom. 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Mk. 10:16 “And they were bringing children to him so that He might touch them . . . And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”
Realize God gives affection indirectly vs. directly. Though God may choose to meet many of our needs like comfort, encouragement, and acceptance directly; He chooses to meet physical affection (hugs, sexual affection) indirectly through others. Though others can legitimately meet most needs like attention, encouragement, and comfort, some aspects of affection (sex) should only be met in the context of marriage. This partially explains why sex can be so problematic for couples. If you are not meeting your partner’s need for sexual intimacy it’s a big problem because God won’t do it and no one else should either.
Affection communicates worth and value. Jesus could have just used words to heal others but He showed care and concern by touching a blind man’s eyes (Mk. 8:23), a leper’s skin (Matt. 8:2) and a woman’s hand (Matt. 8:14).
Affection can communicate comfort. When Jesus announced that “one of you will betray me” (Jn. 13:21), John did not try to fix the problem, give advice or pep talks. Gifted in mercy, he simply “reclined on Jesus bosom” (Jn. 13:23) communicating “I care and am here for you.”
Realize your partner may have differing desires for affection. It is often said that women have sex to have love and men just love to have sex. Some women complain that the only time their husband touches them is when they want sex. When men complain their wife is too frigid, she may respond that her husband is just a sex maniac. Realize these differences can increase when one person’s primary love language is affection.
Realize your partner may find it especially hard to give affection. There are many reasons some find it hard to give affection: past sexual abuse, an emotional wall of hurt between couples, not having received much affection growing up, unresolved guilt from past sexual sins that make sex seem dirty or wrong.
Tear down the emotional wall before initiating affection. Like it or not, it is hard to be affectionate (especially for women) when there are unresolved hurts between couples. Women say they feel dirty when offering sexual affection when there is unresolved hurt.
Use cards, notes, letters. If you have a hard time speaking affectionate, endearing words then buy and give cards that express what you feel.
How have you given and received non-sexual affection?
Marriage Tip #6: Receive and give appreciation
The need for appreciation is met by expressing gratefulness through thanks, praise or commendation. Recognizing effort or accomplishment. Col. 3:15 “and be thankful.” 1 Cor. 11:2 “Now I praise you because.”
Appreciation is saying “thank you.” It gratefully recognizes effort using feelings and words. Jesus voiced appreciation to the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:28), Mary of Bethany (Mk. 14:6), a Centurion (Lu. 7:9) and John the Baptist (Lu. 7:28).
The Corinthian church was full of problems: factions, immorality, drunkenness at Lord’s supper. Yet, Paul found specific things they were doing well to commend them: “for I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings” (1 Cor. 11:2). Like all of us, they probably needed some appreciation in the midst of all the correction.
Be meek. The key to meeting appreciation is to be grateful, and the key to being grateful is to be meek. A meek person is someone who has yielded their rights, needs and expectations into the hands of God. Expectations kill gratefulness. If you expect something and receive it, you are not really all that grateful. You simply received what you expected. But if you are not expecting anything and you receive anything you are grateful.
Satan’s first strategy is to first get us to lose a sense of gratefulness. God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of every tree of the garden except one (Gen. 2:17). Satan then came and said “Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?” It is as if he is saying “He is withholding something good from you, what kind of God is He?” There focus shifted from gratefulness for what they could enjoy, to the things they could not.
Gratefulness is the goal. A golf pro once told me if you keep your head down, every thing else will fall into place. Years of experience has taught me that if I can get a couple to be truly grateful to God and each other, everything else just falls into place.
Nothing meets as many needs as quickly as praise. Praise automatically meets 8-10 of the 12 needs and it only takes 15 seconds to praise. Even sex takes longer (or at least it should).
Go on a praise hunt vs. a sin hunt. Quit trying to catch people doing something wrong, and try to catch them doing something right. What were the things that first attracted you to your partner? Start by praising those things. Remember and praise for the things that first attracted you to your partner. Failing to praise causes pain. Start a gratefulness journal.
The things that most irritate you about your partner might be the things that should most appreciate. Why? Because opposites not only attract but balance out one another.
How have you given and received appreciation?