At church last weekend, an older man was observing our family in the hallway when he leaned in close and asked me when my husband and I find time for each other with all of our children. At first I was unsure what he was referring to. Did he want to know how my husband and I had time for each other (in the bedroom) to produce all of these children or how we still invest in our relationship? My face must have exposed my confusion, because he clarified that he wanted to make sure we made it a priority to still date each other. I smiled and proudly told him that we try to have a date night once a month. He frowned and quickly informed me that once a month is not enough. He launched into a five-minute speech on the importance of the marital relationship and how one date night monthly, especially with all of our children, isn’t nearly enough. After he finished, I walked away unsure if I was upset at him for not minding his own business or upset at our marriage because we don’t have frequent date nights.
There is a plethora of wise advice found in books, blogs, and the words of other people, but I firmly believe that sometimes wise advice also has the potential to be damaging to a marriage.
A couple of years ago, I banned myself from reading any Christian marriage books. As an avid reader who is passionate about marriage, this was an incredibly hard decision to make, but it brought me so much freedom. Since before I was married I have pored over the written words of others and have tried to implement every single formula they claimed was a “must” for all marriages that were going to last. I manipulated and molded our marriage so that it encompassed every single suggestion that any well-respected Christian author wrote about. By doing so, I became insecure and frantic while my husband became annoyed.
I became exhausted trying to keep track of everything the experts said was incredibly important. Were we getting enough quality time by having frequent date nights and a satisfactory sex life? Had we established proper prayer routines? Did we know our confrontational styles and our love languages? It seemed that with every book, I added to my ever-growing list of questions we needed to ask each other before bedtime. The more I read, the more I couldn’t keep up.
I became incredibly insecure and thought that our marriage wasn’t all that it could be. I assumed that if a pastor or friend recommended a book, then SURELY we HAD to live by its suggestions. If not, our marriage was doomed to be mediocre at best and to fail at worst. I would cry and ask my husband why we weren’t working harder on our marriage, pointing out that our effort was a choice, after all. When I would express a whole list of areas where we were lacking, he would lovingly respond, “Where is that in the Bible?”
Where does the Bible mention that you must go on a date more than once a month?
While the Bible does talk about sex being a vital part of a married couple’s relationship, does it mention a mandatory number of times per week or a certain level of creativity to obtain?
Where in the Bible are the questions that must be asked to one’s spouse each day in order to strengthen communication?
They don’t exist.
Can you tell me the chapter and verses that say we must implement every single piece of marriage advice we hear?
No, because that harms our marriages more than strengthens them.
I am not arguing the fact that there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that comes from listening to others. And I am not indicating that we should ever stop learning and improving in marriage. Marriage tips themselves are not bad, but the trouble comes when a wife makes each suggestion a commandment in her house, as I did. It is important for each one of us to remember that our marriage SHOULD look different from everybody else’s. We are not all created to be the same or to have the same needs. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to marriage advice, and that is a beautiful thing. The Bible lists a few specific formulas that are true for every marriage, but aside from those, God offers us freedom to discover what works for our unique family.
As a Christian marriage speaker, blogger, and author, here is the best advice I can offer:
Put down the books and pick up the Bible.
Stop worrying about human opinions and start caring about God’s outlook.
Quit trying to be who the experts say you need to be and start being who God created you to be.
Freedom and encouragement comes when God is the one who transforms your marriage. He will lay on your heart what advice you need to take and what advice you need to ignore. His opinions about your marriage matter most!
Has wise marital advice ever been toxic to you or your marriage?
Sharing with: Messy Marriage