Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Head In the Clouds
“You’ve got your head in the clouds.” This idiom is typically used by an older, wiser person to describe a younger person’s ignorance of the ways of the world. The origin of this idiom is not completely certain, but the phrase came into use when clouds were completely unreachable by humans, prior to the development of aviation. So, someone being insulted with this idiom was to ground themselves to more serious, realistic thoughts.1
Has anyone ever told you this? Or, have you ever actually experienced the sensation of having your head in the clouds? At 5:30am every morning, my watch wakes me up and I attempt to drag myself out of bed for a workout. At this time of year, the weather still cooperates enough for me to go outside and run or walk. However, I found myself amidst a dense fog one morning this week. I had my reflective vest and shoe lights on, and I remained on the bike path, so I wasn’t really in any danger. But I found myself panicking. I could only see 10 feet in front of me. The heavy moisture hanging in the air made it difficult to breathe. Being in this cloud was definitely not an experience I would choose again.
Often, newlyweds enter marriage with their heads in the clouds, blissfully unaware of the hard work needed to build a strong marriage. In a 2013 survey, Pew Research Center found that the top three reasons for marriage were love (88%), making a lifelong commitment (81%), and companionship (76%).2 Engaged couples are often deeply in love before the wedding and joyfully anticipate the day they can call each other man and wife.
So why do CDC reports show that in every year from 2010 through 2016, there was almost one divorce for every two marriages?3 A few months or years into the marriage, these happy couples may find themselves in a fog of expectations and challenges. Sometimes, it’s a light haze, but it may also be a dense fog. Through the struggles of parenthood, health issues, financial balancing, and careers, couples may have a hard time really seeing one another. The pressures around them are almost suffocating. And they’re not quite sure how they’ll make it home.
Thankfully, for all of us, God knew we would need support. He gave us each other to get through the hard times. And, most importantly, He gave us his Son, who sacrificed himself for our salvation.
Strengthening Your Relationship
Every relationship, including a marriage, takes time to build and effort to maintain. God provides us with several tools for strengthening your relationships. His Word gives us the guidelines, and His children (your brothers and sisters in Christ) give you love and support.
Understand Your Roles
The Bible clearly defines the roles of husbands and wives, but interpreting these roles accurately is key to understanding them. In his sermon series called Modern Family, Pastor Ben Kuerth explained the meaning of the marriage roles described in Colossians 3:18-21. Men are called to be loving leaders of their households: “Husbands, put [your wife’s] needs ahead of your own to such an extent that she will voluntarily and gladly want to submit to you because she is so convinced of your love that you want what’s best for her and that you would rather sacrifice yourself and die for her than to see her hurt in any way—whether emotionally, spiritually, or physically.”4
Similarly, women are not called to be submissive victims. They are to seek mates whom they can respect and love: “To ‘submit’ in a biblical context simply means to voluntarily yield yourself to another for your mutual good… God’s blueprint [for a woman] is to find a man who submits to Jesus and loves Jesus so she can submit to and love him as [her] husband.”4 With Jesus’ love for us as their guides, men and women are called to work together in their marriage to serve one another and love their Heavenly Father.
Talk it Out
Expressing your thoughts and feelings to the person you love most in the world seems like it should come as second nature, but clear communication in a marriage is often challenging. Different communication styles, life distractions, lack of time, and mismatched expectations about marriage are just some of the reasons that couples have difficulties communicating with one another.
Before getting into an argument or having a heated discussion, it is beneficial to discuss one another’s communication styles. Do you keep your thoughts in and expect your spouse to “figure out” what you’re feeling? Are you one to blurt out anything that comes to your head? Do you stay engaged in an argument, or do you typically walk away? Then, once you’ve discussed each other’s communication style, try to come to an agreement about how to communicate in tough situations. Marriage and family therapist Marci Wolff Ober explains, “If a middle ground can be achieved where each party can hear and be heard, then true communication can be achieved… In this way, partners feel validated (an all too rare experience), information gets shared and problems get solved.”5
Engaging in a shared reading with the purpose of building communication in your marriage is a great way to start to find this middle group. There are tons of self-help books related to marriage, but a few books that my husband and I have benefited from reading together are:
- The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman
- Two as One: A 30 Day Couple’s Devotion by Ryan and Selena Frederick
Join the Party
One area of a healthy marriage which is often neglected is the need for community with other married couples. Pastoral counselor Paul Giblin describes this need for community: “Couples need the support and challenge of other couples, families, and individuals. In sharing with other couples, partners find they are not alone, but are in fact “normal” in their struggles.”6 Just like it takes a village to raise children, married couples aren’t meant to exist in isolation. God places them in families, communities, and churches to learn from and lean on other couples.
Small groups, or life groups, are one way that couples can learn from one another. These church-based gatherings benefit couples in that the groups get to know one another over time, have an opportunity to discuss their marriages in safe spaces, and encourage spiritual growth. If you’re looking for a group like this, or if you would like to start a group at your church, schedule a conversation with your pastor.
The Third Strand
Understanding God’s intention for marriage helps a couple get a different perspective on how to interact with one another. Scripture teaches that marriage was instituted by God and, as Pastor Bill Limmer explains, “Marriage is designed to be a reflection of the saving love of God for us in Christ Jesus.”7 When husbands and wives understand that they are called to treat their spouses like Jesus treats the church, it can completely transform communication and priorities in a marriage. Ask yourself this question: “If God unconditionally loves my spouse for who he/she is, what does that mean for me? How does this shape my interactions with my spouse?”
Seeing Through the Fog
Most importantly, understanding the gift of forgiveness given to each and every one of us through Jesus helps us forgive our spouses when communication breaks down and fights start. “Christ has set you free and will continue to empower you to live a holy life. Just as Jesus has freely forgiven your sins, so he freely gives you power to be the person he has called you to be.” 7
On Earth, our marriages won’t be perfect. There will be times when your marriage seems perfect and you’re living on Cloud 9. Other times, you may feel like you’re suffocating, walking blindly in a fog, trying to find your way back to your spouse. Know this: God’s got this. Grow close to Him, read His Word, and see yourself and your spouse like He sees you: with love and forgiveness.
1 Head in the Clouds (2018). In The Idioms: Largest Idioms Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.theidioms.com/head-in-the-clouds/
2 Pew Research Center (13 February 2018). 8 facts about love and marriage in America. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/13/8-facts-about-love-and-marriage/
3 National Center for Health Statistics (January 2018). Marriages and divorces. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf
4 Kuerth, B. (28 May 2014). Picture perfect. Modern Family (sermon series). Sermon retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/picture-perfect/
5 Ober, M. W. (December 2009). Keeping marriages strong in challenging times. EP Magazine, 18-19.
6 Giblin, P. (2004). Marital health and spirituality. Pastoral Counseling 39, 43-57.
7 Limmer, B. (2018). Me first… or not. Family Matters sermon series. Sermon retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/husbands-love-your-wives/