Ever found yourself smack dab in the middle of a frustrating moment with your spouse, wondering, Do I have a healthy marriage?
You’re not alone. We’ve all felt that way at some point. Wait ‘til you read a few lines down about how baking flour (of all things) caused major frustration between my wife and me.
On the other hand, just this past year, a buddy and I were sharing how beautiful life is with our wives. I mean, it’s awesome! But we both would also agree marriage is like an exciting roller coaster. It’s the best ride we’ve ever been on, but when we feel like we’re hanging upside down and gripping our seatbelt for dear life, we wonder … Is this normal? Is this healthy?
What’s normal in a healthy marriage?
During our first year of marriage, Olivia and I lived in an old Kentucky house with classic creaky floors. No matter where you stepped, it was a gamble if the floor would sound back at you. But we liked that house. We loved being together in it even more.
The first year of our marriage had a similar vibe to those creaky floors. It seemed like every other marital step we took was a gamble on whether or not we’d get frustrated with one another, sounding off in an argument.
Olivia and I laugh about it now, but I remember one day I opened the fridge and saw a bag of newly purchased flour. I thought, That doesn’t go there. One of us must’ve been busy or sidetracked. I took it out and put it in the pantry where I thought it rightfully belonged.
I rushed to share what I thought would be a funny moment with Olivia. But to my surprise, she mentioned she put it in the fridge on purpose. Immaturely, I thought, Why on earth would you do that? Flour doesn’t go in the fridge. I’ve never seen it done that way. But all I said was, “Hmph.” That, and my confused and slightly corrective face, said enough to make Olivia feel belittled and get our marriage floor squeaking in disagreement.
A conversation about flour quickly morphed into how we’d been raised differently and how we felt at odds on various household responsibilities from dinner to our dogs. That escalated to my way versus her way, spiraling into reports of other frustrations we’d recently gone through.
At that point, it was no longer about flour. It was a showdown of competing perspectives.
This kind of thing happens quite a bit, not only for us, but for many marriages. Many couples we’d hang out with while engaged would say, “Yeah, our first year was so hard … we got into so many arguments. In fact, we still do.”
Whether it’s the first year, the fifth year, or the 15th year, no one is immune to frustrations in marriage. Unfortunately, when the frustrations add up, it’s normal to feel like we’re drifting apart from our spouses.
But what if God doesn’t want it to be normal? Difficulties weren’t part of His original design. But now, because of sin, conflict is inevitable (see Genesis 3).
And I’ve got to admit, when Olivia and I found ourselves in arguments about flour, we were definitely wondering if stuff like this was normal. In a healthy marriage, does a couple get frustrated over things like flour?
What is normal?
I gotta go straight to the dictionary to share what Webster says about the word normal:
Normal is characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine (see Webster’s dictionary).
When I think of something being normal, I think of whatever is usual. What is the thing that always happens?
For example, it seems like I’m always losing a sock to our washer or dryer. That’s what usually happens. So in that case, I’d say losing a sock while doing laundry is normal. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. That doesn’t mean losing my sock while doing the laundry is the goal. The goal of doing my laundry is for my laundry to get clean.
In much the same way, it’s common for couples to find themselves bickering, having major conflict, and drifting apart in our world today. It’s been an inherited normal for every marriage since the first marriage (Adam and Eve) turned away from God. Even so, we can’t say drifting apart from our spouse is the goal we had in mind when we got married.
Whether its arguments over roles, chores, or even flour, what we consider normal for marriage may look differently depending on how we see marriages around us functioning.
Although the drift that occurs between spouses is a common and “normal” experience, it doesn’t mean that’s the goal for a healthy marriage.
Check out what Webster said about the word health:
Health is the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit.
At my recent doctor’s visit, all my doctor really wanted to know was if all parts of my body were functioning like they were meant to function. That’s what determines the state of my health.
Consider the same concept as it pertains to marriage. Are all the parts of your marriage functioning like they were intended to function? That’s what determines the state of our marriage health.
So, what is a healthy marriage?
Considering the definition of health I shared, we’ve got to figure out how marriage was intended to function.
To do that, you and I have to go to the One that designed the structure of marriage. After looking at God’s framework for marriage and how He intended it to function, then we can ask ourselves the big question: Do I have a healthy marriage?
When I look through the Bible on how God intended marriage to function, here are a few of the Scriptures I keep in my mental pocket:
- Genesis 2:24 shows us the unity and commitment in marriage.
- Ephesians 5:22-27 highlight mutual respect and roles within marriage.
- 1 Corinthians 7:2 reminds me how sacred sex is.
- Hebrews 13:4 underlines honoring your marriage.
- Proverbs 18:22 gives a glimpse into the godly value of my wife.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines love.
I’ll be honest, reading these scriptures reminded me how I definitely fall short as a husband. And don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, but I don’t always get it right.
- I don’t always make decisions that align with loving Olivia like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25).
- I’m not always patient like Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
- I don’t always walk in unity with her (Genesis 2:24).
These verses remind me that she and I are in the direct line of impact from each other’s imperfection. That’s what typically sparks the fire for many of us. And because we’re all imperfect, do marriages even have a chance at being healthy?
I think about it this way. Do healthy people exist? Sure they do. But, more often than not, they have health-care specialists in their lives who they regularly consult to maintain their well-being and address any potential issues that may arise.
Jesus is the health-care specialist for our marriage.
Jesus has to lead for a healthy marriage
My doctor told me that if I wanted to meet some of my fitness goals, I had to look at sugar differently. I had to let him lead and see my diet from his perspective so I could eat in a way that would be beneficial for my health goals.
With the goal of having a healthy marriage, Jesus is our marriage physician. He’s asking to lead us each day so we can see marriage differently—from His perspective—and live relationally with our spouses the way God designed.
Look, I’m listening to my doctor about the sugar. But I want to share a few ways Olivia and I are both deciding to listen to Jesus about our marriage moments. I just pulled a few, but there are so many more:
- Pray: Olivia and I try to remember to pray and verbally ask for God’s guidance through His Son Jesus when facing challenges and decisions (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Communicate: We’re reminded to speak to each other openly and honestly in compassion as we read in Ephesians 4:29.
- Find community: We’ve been thankful to find a new church home after recently moving. This is important because godly kindness, guidance, and support are things we all need to give and receive. (Proverbs 11:14; Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Love well: Olivia and I put 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 up on our wall as a reminder for us of what true love is so we actually remember to be patient and kind even when we get frustrated.
God designed marriage to be a reflection of Him, and the only way to be healthy is through the guidance Jesus provides. Just like we go to the dictionary to define terms, we need to go to the Bible to define marriage. As we seek God’s guidance for our marriage throughout the Bible, we can navigate the challenges and joys of married life in a healthy way.
Olivia and I have had many wild ups and downs. But we’ve learned it’s not the absence of problems that define a healthy marriage, but how we handle them. When we let God be in control of our responses, we can throw our hands in the air and enjoy the ride.
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Ashford Sonii is a writer for FamilyLife. He enjoys ministry, learning, and communicating practical life applications of God’s Word within marriage, family, and how to walk with Jesus. Ashford and his wife, Olivia, currently live in North Carolina with their twin girls, Ivey and Oakley.