The Advice We Shouldn't Give (and the thing marriages need most)

Raise your hand if you know someone who’s been divorced. Now if you know someone who’s had struggles in their marriage. Now if you know anyone who’s married.

Kudos to those who actually raised their hands. Double bonus points if you did it in a public place.

We all know people who are married. We all know married couples who have struggles (because we all struggle). And it’s more than likely we all know someone who has been through a divorce – maybe you’ve been there yourself.

Even though we’ve been married for almost four years, I still consider my husband and myself to be rookies at marriage. I know the things we wrestle with and, trust me, we still have so much to figure out. We still fight and slam doors and scream sometimes. Our personal sins put a temporary wall between us at times, like when you hold two magnets the wrong way toward each other and they refuse to stick. At times like that the one thing I want to do is run to a friend and complain and vent. I want validation for myself and maybe a little “yeah, that was a dumb thing for him to do”.

Sometimes our wants aren’t in line with what we need. And what my marriage needs at that point is what I think all marriages need…

Loads and loads of encouragement.

Marriages today get lots of advice, but not a ton of encouragement. I came across an article recently about a celebrity couple – before you roll your eyes and stop reading, just hear me out – going through some serious marital strife right now. The comments on Facebook ranged everywhere from “advice” for her to leave him, to saying she knew what she was getting into when she married him so she deserves this, to it’s none of people’s business and let them be.

Gotta love the “sound advice” from the general Facebook community. And it’s not helping.

Now I know…

It’s “Hollywood-life”, not really “real-life”,

I don’t know the full story for this couple,

that it’s Facebook comments.

Still. Real people make up the people we see on TV. And I think to a very real degree people’s Facebook comments reflect what’s going on in their hearts. The fact remains the “advice” people give is often less than helpful, online or in person.

What does this have to do with encouraging marriages?

On our wedding day something magical happens. We promise to devote our lives to the person across from us no matter what life brings us. We promise to stay married until we die. We make those promises to each other, and God, with our family and friends as our witnesses. Those words matter. Something I’ve come to learn recently about this gathering of people who love us is that they have a responsibility to us after we make our vows to each other. They’re to hold us accountable and encourage us to stay faithful and true to those promises, because let’s face it, marriage can be really hard. We need people around us who are willing and brave enough to tell us the truth.

And I don’t mean things like “yeah, you probably shouldn’t have married her”. Add these comments to your list of “Things Not to Tell My Married Friends”. Other things to add to that list might include suggestions to divorce or invitations to gossip about or bash their spouse. Once the “I do’s” are said it’s Support City. There’s enough stuff out there to encourage couples to end their marriages. We need to stop giving this toxic so-called “advice” and start actually helping each other. 

How do we do that? We have to go against a current cultural norm that tells us to keep our noses out of peoples’ business – to a point. I believe that we need to learn to distinguish between when people’s lives are or aren’t our business. It can be a fine line and we need to approach it wisely and lovingly. When we’re dealing with people we don’t know personally, I think we can be more hands-off. Hopefully they have family and friends who know their situation and who are willing to help them in ways we just can’t.

However, if we’re dealing with personal family or friends, especially fellow Christians, their marriage actually is our business. Their relationship with Christ is our business. We are accountable to one another in the church family and we in the church need to grab hold of that great responsibility a little tighter. I’m not suggesting we point our fingers and get in faces and push people out the doors until they get it together. What I am suggesting is that we take the time to invest in each other’s lives and that we can have the compassion and grace necessary to see our own struggles in other marriages.

There are six more specific (and Biblical) ways to encourage marriages I’ll focus on in future blog posts. In the meantime, God tells us this in Romans 12:2-5,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

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