I preach a lot about relationships. In fact, I am sure that marriage/family/relationships comprise about a third of my messages. Why? Because relationships are the only thing we can take with us to heaven, and because your life with never be healthier or happier than your relationships.
Perhaps the most powerful characteristic of enduring and satisfying relationships is selflessness. Certainly in the marriage relationship, selflessness is key to keeping our marriages strong and healthy and ensuring that we don’t end up divorcing one another.
A few practical steps can help keep us on track:
- Ask your spouse, “What are your 3 basic core needs? What are those 3 things that are BIG in your life, that REALLY matter to you in our relationship?” Then actually listen without criticism or defensiveness. It might have to do with being more involved in the kids’ lives, picking up your clothes, being financially responsibility and living within the agreed budget. It might be as simple as getting back messages and foot rubs. It might be as intimate as agreeing on the frequency of sex. But actually ask, listen respectfully, and then do your best to take action on better meeting your spouse’s needs.
- Ask your spouse every morning, “What can I do for you today?” When you come home from work ask again, “What can I do for you tonight?” Follow-through is vital, however. You can’t grow selflessness in your marriage if you don’t put hands and feet to your mouth and seriously supply the action that is requested.
No matter the status of your marriage, whether it is Strong, Good, Average, Poor, Sinking, if you are willing to ask these questions it will take your relationship to a whole new level and it will begin to thrive. Think why you got married in the first place. It goes back to you fulfilling these questions.
One thing I love about the Bible is that it meets us where we live. Here is an interesting Scripture that addresses the power and priority of selflessness in marriage by using the example of sexual relationships. Paul dives right in to the kind of struggle we have:
Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I’m not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence—only providing my best counsel if you should choose them. 1 Corinthians 7:1-6
Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. This one statement, if it were truly applied across the board in marriages, would run most marriage counselors out of business. Selflessness is a sacrifice that pays back in satisfaction, mutual respect, joy, and longevity. I wonder what would happen in your home if you paid more attention to selfless service than to standing up for your rights.