Friday, November 9, 2012

The Biggest Marriage Killer

I recently got to officiate my first wedding of a former student of mine. It was a really great experience to walk along side this couple in the months leading up to their wedding and an honor to perform the ceremony. The biggest pressure I faced was putting together the homily. What do I tell them about marriage in ten minutes? How do I pack such a big thing into a short and concise talk? It left me thinking about what is the most important thing when it comes to marriage. And this is what I came up with:

A little over a year ago when I was doing some research about what the Bible says marriage is all about I discovered something I thought was pretty interesting. Not once within the Bible does the Hebrew or Greek language ever use a word that literally means “marriage” or “married.”

Instead, you have three different verbs that meant “to take a wife,” “to bind or unite” and “to give in marriage.” They more described the process of becoming married. The other references to marriage actually referred to the man and the woman. After a man took a wife, he was no longer referred to as a man but instead a husband. The same thing for the woman, when she was given in marriage, she was now called a wife.

Names and titles were extremely important in Jewish culture. For a man to not be called just a man anymore; for a woman to not just be titled a woman, but for the two of them to now be called a husband and a wife is crucial to understanding marriage. Marriage was not just an act or something two people did; instead it was something two people became and it changed their entire identity.

The change in this identity exposes the key to any healthy marriage, which is selflessness. Being called a husband and a wife rather than just a man or a woman indicates that you are not your own anymore. Your decisions, your dreams, your goals, your actions all have to take into account this other person that you are uniting yourself to in marriage. Selfishness will kill your marriage faster than anything else. Your ultimate goal now in your relationship is to consider the needs of the other above your own, to serve one another, to love one another unconditionally.

Now the catch will all of this, is that this is actually impossible to do 100% of the time. It takes practice and a lot of trial and error along the way. If there is anything that I hope you guys have heard me say in our time together it is that life, relationship and marriage are messy…and that’s ok. It’s the messes and the fights and the difficult times that actually beat the selfishness out of us if we let them. It is those things and the person we are with who help refine us to be a better person and a better spouse in the long run.

I have learned via my own marriage three important things to living selflessly. First and foremost, learn to listen to one another. Selfish people are quick to speak, defend and argue what they want. Listening and being slow to speak will help you truly come to understand one another and will you to consider their needs and wants and not just your own.

Second, don’t be afraid of asking for help. In the Garden of Eden when God told Adam it was not good for man to be alone, He wasn’t just talking about a wife in Eve. God is His wisdom of creating Eve gave them the opportunity to procreate and make more people because He knew that we need other people to really make it through life. When you hit a rough patch in your marriage seek out an older couple to get advice, be quick to go see a counselor or find trusted friends to talk with. Conquering selfishness cannot be done alone but we need a whole group of people to help us get there.

Lastly, constantly strive to be the first one to initiate the love you have for each another. A lot of times, relationships can be caught up in a tit for tat kind of cycle saying, “When my spouse does this, then I will do that.” Selfless love though gives without the expectation of being given in return and if you both learn to give in that way, you will both constantly get what you need at the same time.


  1. I feel like marriage is a long exercise in developing selflessness.

  2. You bring up a very interesting key to a happy marriage: selflessness, in a way that we acknowledge that we are no longer independent but dependent on our significant other. It’s true that my husband and I do find a unique pleasure in trying to do all that we could for the other. And by no means can we do this at every second of our time together; we need to be aware of the other’s needs and make every feasible effort to make the other person as happy as possible. By doing so, we are letting each other know that the most important person in our lives is our spouse. It’s pleasing and adds a specific sense of security, knowing that his thoughts are on me. I’m very impressed by the three tips you cite for a happy marriage. Listening, asking for help, and initiating love. We’re conscious of these three things and we make all the effort to make sure we live by them.

  3. Oh how I needed to read this tonight. I'm a newlywed (we celebrate 4 months on tuesday!) Marriage is like holding up a mirror to yourself and I'm realizing just how selfish I can be (add being an only child, living my own for 8 years, getting married at 31 to the mix- i can see why I'm selfish!). Selflessness is a beautiful thing but a long process. Love this post!


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Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.