Ephesians 5: 21-28; 32-33
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself… …This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
John 13: 34-35
A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Philippians 2: 5
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…
“Displaying God to the world is the purpose of the church, and it’s also the purpose of marriage. People should see the way I serve my wife and get a glimpse of the humility that Christ showed.…there’s more at stake in your marriage than just your marriage. The beauty of the gospel is at stake.” (Francis Chan)
If you are married, probably without even realising it, you entered matrimony with various expectations about your spouse, how they would do certain tasks and approach different situations. You had dreams and desires about what your future might look like. Many of these will have come from what you witnessed in your own family as you were growing up. What you saw your parents do, you probably assumed was the norm. It could be as simple as how you should stack the dishwasher or as significant as how you deal with conflict in the relationship. Other expectations might revolve around issues of money, children, romance, holidays, gifts, cooking, time spent with family, household chores and roles within the home. It doesn’t take long to realise, however, that your expectations of your spouse and the reality you experience are often poles apart. That gap between expectation and reality can be filled with any number of emotions and ways of communicating with one another.
From personal experience, I discovered very early on that my wife and I have very different methods of communicating feelings. In my family, as I was growing up, everyone shouted over one another to be heard and if there was an issue we thrashed it out and moved on. However, in my wife’s family, the house could be burning down and no one would raise their voice. Therefore, in our relationship, the first time I felt strongly about something and expressed it with vocal volume, my wife thought the world was ending! I have had to learn to control my voice when I’m expressing something important and my wife has learned that when I raise my voice it’s not something she has to fear or overreact about. Our expectation and our experience were different and we have had to fill that gap with better communication and greater consideration.
One couple I counselled years ago hadn’t communicated expectations around how much time the husband would spend on his favourite hobby after they were married. He was a widower and his first wife had apparently been fine with him being out 5 nights a week. His new wife was not so accommodating. The gap between her expectation and reality was filled with many negative feelings and emotions. Disappointment and poor communication about unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations lead to simmering tensions, resentment and even outright hostility towards one another.
The thing is, we do actually get to choose what thoughts, emotions and words we put in that gap. We can make a decision to believe the best or to assume the worst.
Probably the most important key is to stop focusing primarily on having our needs met and instead think about how we can serve our spouse. Take time to consider carefully how best to express our emotions. Instead of seeking to justify or rationalise our position, try to see things from the other’s perspective. Give them space to openly communicate what’s in their heart and listen intently to them.
The Apostle Paul talked about the importance of submission and how we serve one another in marriage. Our example is Jesus. He gave up his rights and surrendered his position of power to serve us. He laid down his life because he loved us. He didn’t just feel emotions or talk about his affection. He demonstrated it passionately, he actively pursued us, he forgave us when we least deserved it, he never stops loving us no matter how often we fail him, he believes the best about us no matter how frequently we fall short. I love how Francis Chan puts it:
“Beautiful people make beautiful marriages. Jesus is the most beautiful person to ever walk the earth. Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus.”