41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 1)

Several years ago, I posted a list of a number of things I have learned about marriage from my own experience and observation. The following is an updated list. Hopefully you will find these helpful.

The following is the beginning of a list of 41 things married people ought to know:

1. Married people are called to move away from self-centeredness and toward self-lessness. The “self” has a way of getting in the way of a good marriage.

2. Jesus can be disruptive to a marriage and family. Why? One reason for this is because he challenges both husband and wife to pursue something larger than their individual happiness. Sometimes, a wife or husband will desire to pursue this larger vision (such as the kingdom of God) while the other person chooses to dig in his heels.

3. Married people can become very lazy with one another. As a result, the husband and wife may no longer cherish one another. Tenderness slips away.200911091414.jpg

4. Every marriage has some kind of atmosphere. Some marriages are marked by laughter and the enjoyment of life. Other marriages are marked by the deadly poison of negativity. This couple might spend large amounts of time griping and finding fault in one another. This creates a heavy, cloudy, joyless atmosphere.

5. Something is very wrong when a married couple claims a commitment to Jesus and belongs to a church, but they have never allowed Jesus to have any kind of practical impact on their marriage. Consequently, these people may be perceived as “spiritual” while at church, but in fact they are quite ungodly in the way they treat one another.    

6. Resentment and deeply held grudges are like a cancer. This relational cancer has a way of eating away at the very fiber of a marriage.

7. The bottom line in marriage is not personal happiness. The bottom line is holiness. (Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage) Christ followers allow God to use their marriage to help them become more like Jesus.

8. Marriage needs to be based on grace, not performance. A performance – based relationship is under great pressure. People feel they must perform at a certain level or they will not be loved by their spouse. As a result, many go through life feeling like they never measure up in the eyes of their mates.

9. Married people need to come to grips with the reality of the sin they are inflicting on one another. For example, consider these behaviors: harshness, rudeness, impatience, self-centeredness, pride, willfully inflicting pain, etc.

10. How utterly foolish for husbands or wives to run down their mates just to get a cheap laugh from friends.  What about the second most important commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Is this the way mature men and women treat one another?

What would you add to this list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

41 thoughts on “41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 1)

  1. Great start, Jim. I’d add:

    Invest in yourself as if you were dating. It’s a trend for people who get a divorce to join a gym and buy a new wardrobe. Why not make that investment now?

    • Tony, I’m glad you mentioned this. It is interesting that so often married people will invest very little in their own care and then REALLY begin to invest after a divorce. You make a good point about needing to do this during marriage.

    • Thanks for that. I recently go married and am fighting for time to join a gym. Thought about what you wrote and it makes alot of since. Again, thanks.

  2. Welcome and encourage godly friends and family for mutual edification. Don’t be a an island unto yourselves. Possessiveness, lack of trust, insecurities and petty jealousies have no room in a healthy marriage.

    Keeping absolute confidences – ties in with #10 I think.

    Look forward to the rest. There must be more than 41, lol!

    • Karin, now you really do make a good point regarding welcoming godly friends and family for mutual edification. It is far too easy to live in isolation as a married couple. I like your other points as well, Karin. Thanks for this.

  3. Jim,

    Thanks for this. I find it both scary and encouraging. Scary because I can identify so much of the bad stuff you call out in my own selfish ways; and encouraging, because it reminds me that the only thing any of us have going for us is God’s grace, which is more than sufficient.



    • Rob, you describe marriage well. It is scary and encouraging. Scary because we can see our own sin and preoccupation with ourselves (and sometimes the damage that does). At the same time, as you say, we are reminded of our dependency on God’s grace through it all. Thanks so much Rob.

  4. Jim, have you ever sat down with a Christian couple for counseling where #7 was NOT the issue? That is one of the more overlooked truths of marriage for believers.

      • There is an idea going around that happiness IS the primary goal for the Christian… but only as he finds it in Christ. Then all else, including our marriages, falls in place. John Piper mentions this… how our passion should be to find absolute joy in God… and THEN, holiness follows naturally. Without the joy, holiness can be a heavy heavy burden. No, I would almost say it is impossible. Please comment/correct.

        • Jocelyne, yes Piper’s point that he has been making for many years is a good one. Consequently, marriage becomes a place we seek the face of God and desire to be shaped by him instead of being focused on personal happiness. I think that when God is the center of my pursuits and my heart, the natural result is to reflect his character (i.e. “Be holy for I am holy). When he is not at the center, marriage, work, children can quickly become pursuits that focus on my own happiness.

  5. Jim, you always have timely comments. In our leadership meetings we’ve been talking about marriages and how we can encourage better behavior. Thanks. Peace to you.

  6. Hey Jim,

    Great post. I’ve just been thinking along these lines myself. Number 5 in your list in particular. It seems that I can so easily compartmentalize my life in such a way that everyone else BUT my wife gets spiritual treatment. I’m thinking over it, praying about it and working on it.


    • Gary, thanks so much for your words and for some transparency here. I thought about my own relationship with my wife as I read your words.

  7. This is a great topic! I felt encouraged and refreshed reading each and every point. It’s a great reminder to constantly be fine tuning our marriages, and not to settle for mediocrity. Thanks for the encouragement and challenging words!

  8. Jim,

    Thanks so much for this. I’m engaged, and this means a lot to me as I prepare for my own upcoming marriage. It reminded me of the reality of what I’m about to do, and the commitment it takes in order to sustain a Godly marriage over the long haul. Gary Thomas’ book (Sacred Marriage) hasn’t been far from me; I bought it 3 months ago and it’s already dog-eared and falling apart!)

    I heard somewhere that there are 11 words that every marriage needs: I was wrong, Help me understand, I’m sorry, please forgive me. Being able to say, and really mean, those words, helps couples learn the grace of humility, of letting go of the need to be “right” and understand the need to be loving. It’s not easy, and it sometimes takes me a lot to say “I was wrong”, but saying that helps the relationship move forward, not stay stuck. (Sorry this is so long-winded!)

    • Alison, I am glad these were helpful to you as you prepare for your upcoming marriage. I also like Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage. It is outstanding and has been helpful to me in focusing on the meaning of marriage. I wish you the very best in your upcoming marriage, Alison.

  9. I wish I would have found this sooner. My sister and husband are going through a nasty divorce. I will still forward this to her. It’s not too late.

  10. Interesting post which I found today through Holy Experience. You forgot the most important thing. It is for Tom and me in our 38+ years of marriage. Have devotions together – reading the Word and praying. Oh, my! This is a real key! Time varies for couples. Ours was always before he went out to milk. Started at 4:00 a.m. and built up in time – at least an hour! Most precious time of day! Jesus, Tom and me! Who says you can’t get up that early? You can do it for a thriving marriage and your children (we have seven sons) and God gives you the strength, wisdom and joy for it to happen! Evenings might be best for some of you, but we are too tired by then! Give it a try. You will be blessed!

    • Bernice, thanks for your comment and for your words regarding the importance of a time together with the Lord each day. Thanks so much. 38 years of marriage–that is wonderful.

  11. I love your #7, and think that’s one of the most overlooked and under appreciated aspects of a marriage that prospers. Twenty-eight years of marriage, eleven kids, and five grandchildren later…..I would only add to your list the need to persevere and take captive any thoughts about ‘greener grass’.
    I just blogged about the part conflict plays in a good marriage “story”. I’d be honored if you read it. You obviously have some great wisdom being shared on your blog.
    I found you through Holy Experience.

    • Debbie, I would be happy to read your post. I will do so today. I like your additional thoughts regarding the need to persevere and to take captive any thoughts about “greener grass.” I am glad you mentioned both of these, Debbie, as I think they are very real for most of us who have been married for at least a few years. Thanks!

  12. The second point has been reality for most of my 30 year marriage. I have accepted that it is my “new normal”, but it is painful. I would love to hear comments from those of you that are in a spiritually “lop-sided” marriage.

    • Carrie, as you know, many, many people share this same experience. I hope that others sharing this same experience will comment today. Thank you for your comment, Carrie.

  13. Marital sex is a GIFT from God that gets better with time and experience – never stop celebrating it!! Sex is so important to the intimacy of a married couple…invest time in it, cultivate it, and cherish it.

  14. I just want to add that I know many women struggle with low libido and are ashamed to be honest and talk about it, but don’t be!! There is much that can be done for this problem. Start with prayer, a healthier diet and some exercise. Chances are if you feel better about yourself you MIGHT start feeling sexier. Also, there is pharmaceutical help if all else fails. Never stop trying to do what you can on your end to make your sex life it’s very best. I have been married for 22 years and my husband and I have gone through “dry periods” in this area. But just because you may be going through a dry time doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever, you might have to educate yourself and really work to pull yourself out the slump. But never give up…your husband will never stop thanking you 😉

    • What if the ‘shoe is on the other foot’ and the ‘dry time’ will be the status quo for the wife the rest of their married life? What advice would you give to couples like that? Working with seniors has certainly opened my eyes to many heartaches on both sides. That kind of situation can certainly be a very long good-bye!

  15. Karin – I have no advice. Certainly, a situation such as you describe is very sad and I am sorry for anyone who’d have to – or is going – through it because I do not believe such a model is what God intends. However, we live (and must operate) in a fallen world where things are not always as God intends. I would hope the wife would hold fast to the promises of God’s Word and that she would count the blessings she still DOES have in that marriage and dwell there.