6 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
For some reason, I seem to be drawn to write about things I’m not very good at. Marriage is a prime example.
In 2010, I wrote a book entitled “What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage”. But to say that Paul Tripp is a marriage expert or that I perfectly live what I write would be untrue.
My love of self still gets in the way of my love for God and for Luella. There are still times when I have greater trust in my instincts than I do in God’s wisdom.
Our marriage has suffered the consequences of my selfishness and foolishness. I am required to confess each day that I am a work in progress as a husband.
I must also confess that I am a work in progress as an author. Today, I can see and write things that I didn’t see and couldn’t communicate ten years ago. So, I have decided to retitle “What Did You Expect?” with a new name: “Marriage: 6 Gospel Commitments Every Couple Needs to Make.”
This renamed edition is not a marketing ploy to find a wider audience for an existing book. Instead, it is the result of my growth in understanding my material. The Lord, my Helper, is still patiently teaching me, not only as a husband but also as an author.
This revised title brings the six gospel commitments contained in the book to the forefront. While it is still absolutely true that misguided expectations lead to marital difficulty, my marriage book is ultimately about six commitments that result from looking at your relationship through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what are these six gospel commitments that every couple needs to make?
1. We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness. This is the only way that a marriage grows. Regular patterns of forgiveness give us the courage to continue to confess, and regular patterns of confession allow us to experience the joy of the restoration of forgiveness.
2. We will make growth and change our daily agenda. As sinners, we have the perverse ability to be all too easily satisfied. Don’t be satisfied with anything that falls short of God’s wise and beautiful plan. But this requires a daily investment of pulling weeds and planting seeds.
3. We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust. We simply cannot have a healthy, God-honoring, mutually satisfying marriage without trust. In a fallen world, trust allows couples to weather the discouragements that every couple faces.
4. We will commit to building a relationship of love. You may be shocked at this, but I am convinced that many Christian marriages are devoid of real love. Yes, there may be some respect and appreciation, and, yes, the couple may have learned how to avoid daily battles, but many followers of Christ don’t practically incarnate Christ’s love to their spouse.
5. We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace. The Creator puts very different people next to each other. The striking beauty of a marriage is when this couple learns to celebrate and benefit from their differences, shielded from their weaknesses because of their spouse’s strengths.
6. We will work to protect our marriage. There are few things more dangerous to a marriage than the feeling of “arrival.” When a couple loses a healthy sense of need, they start coasting, and patterns of laziness and inattention grow. The best protection for a husband and wife is humble prayer and diligent attention.
I don’t know what your marriage is like today, but after 50 years of a beautiful relationship with Luella, ours can still be better.
God continually invites us to a daily lifestyle of reconciling grace, where problems are faced, where change occurs, and where we no longer repeat the same mistakes again and again.
So sit down with each other. Make time. Open your heart and humbly reach out your hands for help. Stay needy and hungry.
God is with you, and he has something better.
Paul David Tripp
A note about the updated version, Marriage: 6 Gospel Commitments Every Couple Needs to Make:
The original 17 chapters from What Did You Expect? have not changed. We have retitled the book, changed the cover, added discussion questions for each chapter, and added two bonus chapters: The Gospel, Your Marriage, and Sex, and a question and answer chapter, Ask Paul Tripp about Your Marriage.
1. How has the Lord sanctified you in the last decade? Be specific. What are things that you see now that you didn’t see ten years ago?
2. Are you coasting in your marriage? How can you invest more time with your spouse to pull weeds that choke the life out of your marriage and plant seeds that yield a harvest of love?
3. What is one thing that you need to confess to your spouse that you are delaying to confess?
4. What is one thing that you need to forgive your spouse for that you are struggling to forgive?
5. How is your spouse different than you? Do those differences create a more profound unity or create separation? How can you appreciate and encourage your spouse in their strengths that are your weaknesses?