Though brief and surface-scratching, if a man and a woman both agreed to sincerely and consistently carry out the things on those lists within their marriage, I believe it would alter their relationship for the better in amazing ways.
However, often it is the case that only one of the two partners work hard to do the things advised in those lists. In those cases, one partner is investing and sacrificing much in order to improve the marriage, while the other person remains clueless, dull, and unhelpful. If that is your situation, please don’t give up. Endurance is the key. Focus especially on #5 on this list.
There are no promises that your spouse will ever change or respond to your needs, but you are an individual before God who needs to obey the Lord no matter what. Even if your partner never changes, at least you will have done your part in the eyes of God. Your conscious will be clear.
For more on the topic of when only one spouse is trying, I again recommend Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, where he spends ample time encouraging people in that situation.
But for today, I want to provide a simple list of things that will happen if both partners are giving it all they’ve got. These are the results of a mutually loving marriage, and it is an extremely happy place to be.
1. Both partners are fulfilled in the ways they most need
When a man provides the love his princess wife needs: listening to her, providing emotional support, not trying to “fix” her, being her spiritual leader, loving her kids on a high level, and so on, that woman will likely be fulfilled in the marriage. And when a woman authentically respects her husband, admires his work and talent, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with him as a friend in some of his favorite activities, is regularly and joyfully intimate with him, and so on, that man will likely be fulfilled in the marriage.
There is no guarantee of this, since our sin natures will often hinder our joy and fulfillment no matter what another person does for us. Our darkness always seems to get in the way of this working out just right. But the chances of true joy and fulfillment are much, much higher when this mutual love and respect is flowing between spouses. Without it, marriage is drudgery at best.
That is why it is even more important that both spouses are seeking to find their deepest fulfillment in their relationship to Jesus Christ. When both partners find their greatest joy in Christ alone, and they are willing to give their spouse great love, admiration, and respect, then (and really only then) you will have an example of a truly wonderful marriage.
2. The home is filled with an atmosphere of joy and gratitude
In many homes there hangs a cloud of darkness and dread. Couples and their kids are often on edge all the time, worrying about the next big dramatic blow-up. When married couples are not pouring themselves out for their partner’s joy, this is often the dreaded atmosphere of their home life, sad and miserable.
But when a man and woman learn the best practices of matrimony, and apply the principles of biblical marriage to their relationship, their home has a much better feel. It is a happy, joyful, and safe place. It is a place where the family can truly relax and enjoy one another’s company.
3. Both partners grow spiritually
I’ve noticed many married couples are so wrapped up in their problems and their spouse’s problems, that they have no time left for seeking God. All they can think about is how they have been wronged and how to cope with being married to someone they feel nothing for.
But when both partners are giving all for each other, seeking the best for their spouse rather than ways to get revenge, things lighten up. Time is not wasted in meaningless and unhelpful arguments. Days are not wasted mulling over hard feelings and attempting to find some way forward in the dark.
Instead, man and wife are fulfilled and happy, and so have more time and energy to devote to the things of God. There is more time for church, Bible study, prayer, and discussions about the Kingdom of God.
This positive spiritual growth then feeds their souls, giving them added energy for investing more into their marriage, striving to make their partner even happier. Which, in turn, provides even more joy, safety, and happiness in the home, allowing for even more spiritual growth. And so goes the cycle of marital sanctification which God designed.
4. Children learn best practices by watching
More is caught than taught. Your kids are going to learn their marriage techniques by watching you. If you set a poor example, don’t be surprised when your kids grow up and are miserable in their marriages.
Men, when you love your wife well, your sons will have a real-life example of the benefits of setting self aside and investing all into another person. Ladies, when you respect your husband and show him patience and support his endeavors, your daughters will see the good plan of God unfolding before their very eyes.
Having a happy marriage is good for you, but it is also good for the next generations. Following the principles I’ve listed out the past two days is one of the best ways to truly love your children (though they are not the direct focus of the principles).
5. God is glorified and the gospel is demonstrated
The most foundational reason marriage exists is not for us to be happy or fulfilled. Deeper to the core of the world’s oldest institution is the reality that God designed marriage for his glory, and when people strive for godly marriages, God is exalted.
When a man lays his life down (as though dying on a cross) so that his princess can be fulfilled and happy, he is showing the world what Jesus did for his bride, the church.
When a woman willingly and joyfully submits to her husband, respecting him on the highest possible level and supporting him in all areas of his life, she is showing the world how the church should respond to her husband, Christ.
Marriage as designed to preach these gospel truths:
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
If your purpose for being married is anything short of demonstrating the gospel of Jesus Christ to a watching world so that God is glorified, then you are married for the wrong reason.
The reason we invest in our spouses joy is not merely so they will reciprocate. Of course, we hope they do. But the real reason we invest in their joy is so that through their joy, the gospel will be vividly portrayed to them, to our children, and to the watching world. This is why we don’t give up if our spouse does not return our love. We keep at it with great persistence, because with every act of self-giving, sacrificial love and respect for our spouse, God is being exalted, honored, and praised.
When both spouses in a marriage are striving to glorify God and demonstrate the gospel, that marriage will be the highest type of covenantal union, and there will be untold joy and energy that flows between them.