When my wife and I first got together over ten years ago, I thought that given how well things we’re going that married life would be a breeze. I should have known better given the marital difficulties I saw in my parents’ marriage and in that of others I knew. What I failed to realize then, but now do, was how much marriage is about my sanctification. Being married, I’ve learned it isn’t about me pointing my finger at my wife and saying, “Look how you need to change” in XYZ area of your life. Instead, marriage is about me addressing indwelling sin in my own life. Married couples are to display the beauty of God’s grace to a watching world (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Growing up I had a broken picture of marriage. My parent’s marriage was a rough one for most of my childhood. There were good times, but there were very low times. Unfortunately, I remember most of the low times. Marriage is designed by God to be between one man and one woman for life. Marriage is also a picture of Christ’s relationship between Himself and His church; Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:22-33. God has taken our hearts of stone and replaced it with a new heart, along with a new identity, new affections, and desires for Himself. Marriage is all about sanctification.

Christian, you have a new identity in Christ. This means you don’t have to succumb to old patterns of behavior/attitudes in your life. Instead, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can love as Christ requires by His grace (John 13:35; Ephesians 5:33). This is why you need to daily repent of your own sin before you attempt to minister to your spouse or others.

There have been many times in my own life when I’ve said things to my wife that I later had to repent and apologize to her for and sometimes even to others who may have heard my foolish words. In the past few years, I’ve learned to be slower to speak to an issue rather than speak in the heat of the moment. It isn’t that I ignore the issue it’s that I’ll pray about it and if needed come back to it after the situation is over. In this way, I’m trying not to be foolish (Proverbs 29:11), giving full vent to any misplaced feelings I have, and being slow to speak instead of quick to speak (James 1:19).

Most marriage counseling wouldn’t even need to occur if you, as a man, would learn to keep your mouth shut instead of opening it when you’re wife is venting. Take it from me, an experienced, seasoned married man, your wife isn’t looking for you to give her advice when she’s venting. Trust me when I say that if she wants your advice, she’ll ask. Don’t try to fix her when she’s venting. Just keep your mouth zipped shut. As men, we naturally want to fix everything. We want to fix our vehicles, improve our house, and the list goes on and on. Your wife doesn’t want to be fixed— she wants to be loved. Your wife isn’t a home improvement project—she’s God’s gift and a means of God’s grace to you. Your responsibility is to lead her in a manner worthy of Christ by speaking the truth in love to her and loving her like Jesus. This is where we venture into the realm of progressive sanctification—that is daily becoming like Jesus.

Through being given a new heart and a new identity in Christ, Christians are enabled to display the fruit of Christ-like character to a watching world. For example, Paul teaches that Christians are to have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23). By exercising restraint in your speech instead of giving full vent to your frustration/anger—you demonstrate to your wife you love her and have self-control. You also show your wife by your responses to her frustration that you are willing to overlook your own frustration with a particular situation and keep silent instead of giving full vent to it in the middle of her venting her frustration.

One thing I’ve found helpful is to give permission to my wife to share what’s really on her mind. During this time, I promise her I won’t react poorly to her, will listen to, and consider seriously what she’s saying. I also let her know I might ask clarifying questions. To me, these have been some of the most clarifying and helpful conversations my wife and I have ever had. They have also helped me to become a more godly Christian man for sure.

By God’s grace take seriously, your calling men to lead your home and love your wife (Ephesians 5:33). The home is a mini-church, a place where God desires to display His gospel work before a watching world. 

Marriage requires sanctification. It requires it because of the high cost that Jesus paid when He died in our place and for our sin and rose again. God calls us to not only be hearers of the Word but doers of the word by His grace (James 1:22). This is why marriage requires sanctification. God is using your marriage in your life today to refine and shape you men into the man He wants you to be. Ladies, God gave you this man to love and care for. Love him and speak the truth in love to him. Please pray for him and be honest with him about the issues in his life.

My prayer is that the Lord would raise up a generation of married men and women who love Jesus, one another, and His Church. Our world is watching us to see how our actions match our convictions about the gospel. I pray our lives and marriages will not diminish the beauty of the gospel, but by standing upon the glorious gospel, the light of Christ would shine through our marriages to a watching world to the glory of God.