Despite premarital Christian counseling, my husband and I dove right into our marriage with the deep-seated, albeit hidden, belief that the other partner existed to make us deliriously happy. And we had a miserable first six years as I focused on all the things my husband wasn't doing to usher in the wedded bliss I expected. Little did I know he was doing the same.
After some desperately needed counseling from our pastor, who kindly didn't say, "I told you so," we finally understood what he tried to tell us before we got married! Turns out, God's plan for a husband and wife hasn't changed.
Having been married nearly 24 (mostly happy) years, I love to search the Bible to see how it applies to my marriage. Not long ago, I was studying the 12 "one another" verses in the New Testament. Applying them to my marriage has greatly benefited our relationship, drawing us closer to one another—and closer to God in the process.
As husband and wife, I learned that we are to be …
Members of one another (see Romans 12:5). Paul used a unique human-body illustration to help us understand that we need one another to function effectively (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). No member of Christ's body is more important than another. Proper marriage fellowship works the same way and creates unity.
My husband and I are learning to recognize how we truly do complement one another. We spend more time appreciating one another's gifts and talents. I am a better person because of my husband.
- Tackle household projects together as a team.
- Spend time getting to know your spouse better (trust me, there's always more to learn!).
- Recognize your spouse's spiritual gifts.
- Every day, encourage one another to use spiritual gifts.
Devoted to one another (see Romans 12:10). Most families are devoted to one another—the family of God should be no different. This "family" concept that Paul talked about gives us a greater appreciation of what the church—and marriage—should be.
My husband regularly expresses his love for me, even in front of his boss. Recently his boss commented, "I can't believe people actually talk to their wives that way." I found the comment very sad, considering this person is married.
- Recognize your spouse as a fellow believer in Christ.
- Don't exclude the other from personal hobbies or interests.
- Look out for each other—put your spouse's interests ahead of your own.
- Be a loyal, faithful friend—let your spouse know, "I've got your back!"
Honor one another (see Romans 12:10). Shortly before his death, Jesus honored his disciples by washing their feet. This wasn't just a lesson in serving each other—it also had to do with honor. God will exalt husbands and wives who truly honor one another.
- Express sincere appreciation for your spouse—daily.
- Point out the strengths you see in one another.
- Compliment one another regularly.
- Celebrate your spouse's successes.
Be of the same mind with one another (see Romans 15:5). While every little detail of a marriage doesn't need to be agreed upon, we do need to be of one mind regarding the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Satan seeks to cause division because there is power in "one-mindedness."
- Major on the majors and minor on the minors—it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things if your spouse prefers the beach to camping.
- Seek to be a peacemaker.
- Know what God's Word does—and does not—say.
- Discuss your common goals and work together to meet them.
Accept one another (see Romans 15:7). It is so sad to see spouses criticizing and excluding one another. I once witnessed a Christian man call his Christian wife an idiot. Not cool. Jesus accepts us as we are; can we do no less for our spouses?
- Do not judge your partner; forgive freely.
- Practice unconditional love.
- Live by Jesus' standards, not the world's.
- Stand up for your spouse, even if you don't completely agree.
Admonish one another (see Romans 15:14). Depending on the version you use, this verse may use correct, instruct, or warn among other words. It's not easy to confront our spouses about sin, but it is biblical. I've made more than one course correction due to the admonishment of my husband. He would say the same about my words to him.
- Speak the truth in love.
- Make sure your motives are pure.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit's help.
- Include words of encouragement.
Greet one another (see Romans 16:16). Don't let your spouse walk into the home and never receive so much as a "hello." Because I am usually home when my husband arrives from work, I try to be at the door to greet him with a hug and a kiss. It's something he really appreciates, and he misses the welcome home when I'm not there.
- Welcome your spouse home each day.
- Take the initiative—don't wait for the other to greet you, do it first.
- Go beyond a simple "hi"—hug or kiss!
- If you can't be there, place a love note on the counter before you head out for the day.
Serve one another (see Galatians 5:13). We are part of one another, so we should also serve one another. Jesus Himself said that he came to serve, not to be served.
When my husband and I were first married, we were looking out for number one. It's no surprise we had a miserable first six years. Only when we got serious about our walk with the Lord and following biblical precepts did our marriage do a 180. Serving one another is now a regular part of our lifestyle.
- Step out of your comfort zone; don't be afraid to serve in a new way.
- Serve freely, not to receive something in return.
- Ask your spouse how you may help him or her.
- Serve in love as you follow the Holy Spirit's leading.
Bear one another's burdens (see Galatians 6:2). It's easy to ignore our spouse's problems—we've got enough of our own, right? But the whole point of bearing one another's burdens is to help one another through them. It's much easier for two people to carry a physical load than it is for one to do it alone. The same applies spiritually to our marriages.
- Ask specifically how you can help when your spouse is experiencing a problem.
- Pray, even if you don't know what to say—the Holy Spirit does.
- Be available to listen.
- Ask God to open your eyes to your spouse's needs.
Show tolerance for one another (see Ephesians 4:2). Patiently enduring others—especially our mate—is no easy task. Doing so, however, builds and strengthens our marriages. And not only are we to be patient with our spouses; we're to do so in love.
- Ask Christ to help you love your spouse as Christ loves you.
- Forgive freely and quickly; don't hold grudges, and don't keep a record of wrongs.
- Remember that no one is perfect.
- Find good even in the bad.
Submit to one another (see Ephesians 5:21). This can be a loaded topic, but generally speaking, in a marriage submission means to yield to another's admonition and advice. Mutual submission brings glory to God as we put "self" aside for the betterment of the other.
- Wives, respect your husbands. Husbands, don't lord it over your wife for your own purposes.
- Don't demand respect—earn it.
- Be an example to one another.
- Be teachable.
Encourage one another (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Who doesn't like to hear a word of encouragement? Yet so few of us hear such words. And fewer still offer a word of encouragement to their spouses. Paul knew how important encouragement is to keep us running the race set before us—and marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Encourage your spouse each day. Be specific.
- Memorize encouraging Scripture verses so you can share them with your spouse.
- Remember that actions can be as encouraging as words, and when combined, even more so.
- Smile a lot.
Although our first six years of marriage were a real-life nightmare, my husband and I hung in there, determined to make it work. What we found out is that God's way alone truly works; everything else will leave us floundering, gasping for air as we tread the sometimes murky waters of marriage. Our relationships with God and with each other will be exponentially deeper as we follow these 12 "one another" Scriptures.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.