9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage

9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage

How to Build a Marriage that Lasts

I still remember the moment I saw my husband, Wayne, for the first time. I was a lifeguard, wearing a sweatsuit with a whistle around my neck at a church camp in upper Michigan. He rolled into camp on a motorcycle, and I had to smile at his windblown hair and pink cheeks. I was 17 years old and I wasn’t thinking about marriage.

Wayne was the camp pastor for the week, in charge of spiritual enrichment for the junior high campers. We filled those seven days with long walks on the beach and hours of fireside talks about our life’s dreams. In that short time, we developed a strong attraction for one another. I had never met a man who loved Jesus more than I did.

On the last night of our week together, we sat by the fire and Wayne said, “I sense we have kindred hearts. I want to stay in touch.” My heart swelled as I agreed. I had already spent a night under the stars asking God to confirm what I was sensing.

At first, we wrote letters and cards and talked on the phone. We were able to spend more time together when he started semi- nary close to my college. Soon, we were ministering side by side as youth pastors at a church. As I grew closer to Wayne, I also grew closer to God. And the more time I spent with Wayne, the more I knew he was the one for me.

Do you remember the zing of attraction you felt when your relationship with your spouse was brand new? Being in the same room brought both comfort and butterflies. You felt empowered by the looks of admiration. Chills ran down your spine when your hands brushed together as you walked or reached for the popcorn.

9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage

Do you still have those feelings? Do you still get a rush when the love of your life walks into the room? Or has exhaustion, disap- pointment, or bitterness replaced the elation you once felt? With the starry eyes of new love, we all fantasize about how life could be together. We want to feel that same sense of excitement, joy, and fulfillment all the time. But that isn’t reality.

If you have been married for more than a week, I’m certain you’re aware that your marriage is not perfect. No marriage rela- tionship is. And regardless of how wonderful or terrible your mar- riage may seem right now, I’m also certain that you are aware of ways it could be better, healthier, stronger, and more loving. We all desire to see positive changes in our relationships. We all want to be built up, encouraged, and empowered to live life to the fullest. Whether or not you use the exact words, what we want are life- giving marriages.

Unfortunately, so many marriage relationships limp along at less than life-giving; worse yet are the relationships that actively drain the life out of one or both partners. You may know someone in a hurting marriage; you may even be that person. And maybe, fearful of what others will think of your imperfect life, you’re hid- ing that pain from your family and friends. You think to your- self, “Suck it up,” or “Hang in there until the kids are grown,” or “Nobody’s marriage is perfect; this is just the way life is.” You think, if you try harder, you can just make it work. Or, maybe you’ve reached the breaking point and are wishing for a way out.

The problem is that all wedded unions consist of two fallible, sinful, prideful, selfish human beings. But here’s the good news: God is with you, too. With His help, you can improve your rela- tionship with your spouse by being transformed into the person God created you to be. You are not alone in your desire to trade a boring or painful marriage into one that is full of joy, passion, and love; God wants all that and more for your relationship.

No matter the current state of your relationship, I am con- vinced that you can benefit from taking time to think, pray, and focus on your marriage. If your relationship is good, honing the nine traits of a life-giving marriage can make it even better. And if you’re in a desperate place, uncertain if you can last one more night under the same roof as your spouse, please know that, with God, there is hope for a happier life together, when you develop the traits that reflect His likeness and character.

What are the nine traits of a life-giving marriage? Let me start by saying the following list isn’t all-inclusive, rather, these traits provide a foundation for a strong, vibrant marriage. And after thirty-one years of being married to Wayne, I’ve learned that my commitment to living out these characteristics keeps my perspective pure and my priorities in place, and life is better. More importantly, our marriage is better. Here are the 9 Traits of a Life- Giving Marriage:

Acceptance—Acknowledging the fact that God made you and your spouse differently empowers you to honor each other’s unique roles and characteristics. Remember, despite your differences, you both bear the Creator’s likeness.

Friendship—This is the bedrock upon which most relationships are built. Reinforcing this foundation can help you grow together, rather than apart, and keep your marriage stable and fun.

Safety—Emotional walls often feel like physical barriers that cut off feelings of happiness and security. Learn to recognize the warn- ing signs and heal the wounds caused by an emotionally unsafe marriage.

Honesty—People who feel they can’t express themselves honestly to their spouse often travel down a dangerous road to find someone who listens and understands. This chapter will help you set the ground rules that open the lines of communication between you and your mate.

Intimacy—A connection that includes, but goes far deeper than, sex, intimacy knits marriages together. To strengthen your bond, it’s important to recognize and honor each other’s differences and be intentional about meeting your spouse’s needs.

Passion—It is possible to rekindle physical passion even if the fire- works in your relationship seem to have completely fizzled out. This chapter is a transparent discussion of one of our most basic and natural needs.

Endurance—The stress of life can push our emotions and our rela- tionships to the breaking point. Well-placed faith fuels our endur- ance. But please know, this race isn’t about survival; it’s about experiencing God’s best for your marriage.

Restoration—Understand this: Satan wants your divinely ordained marriage to fail. His battle tactics can cause injuries that, if left unattended, can certainly end in death. Restoration is a process of healing and building reinforcements to prevent future attacks.

Expectancy—Marriages typically begin with a healthy measure of hope and big expectations. Sin, in a variety of forms, can dash those hopes. Committing to a godly standard for your life and rela- tionship will set you on a path to a strong, life-giving marriage.

Speaking of expectations, as we start this journey, I want to be clear about my intentions. If you’re looking for a quick fix to heal wounds caused by years of hurts and bad habits, you may be disappointed. This isn’t like a fad diet meant to get your marriage in shape in six weeks or less. A good, strong, healthy, life-giving marriage will take work—for life. With that understanding, you’ll discover that this book is for you if:

  • You want to be honest about your struggles and overcome obstacles.
  • You want to gain greater intimacy with Jesus and your spouse.
  • You are willing to own your part and make changes in your approach to your relationship.
  • You are willing to forgive your spouse for his or her part.
  • You are willing to turn away from destructive patternsand cycles in your marriage.
  • You want the light of God to shine through you, as youare transparent before Him. xvi

I pray that the message will help you to look up. Let it be a signpost to invite the Lover of your soul, Jesus, into the intimate issues of your heart and marriage.

Jesus was talking with His close companions when he said:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5 (NLT)

Being connected to Jesus is what gives us life. He is the Life- Giver. The life-giving joy, power, and purpose for marriage flow from the One who created us to be in relationship with each other. Apart from Him, we can’t do anything.

As you journey through 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage, I hope you’ll surrender freshly in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Allow the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into your mar- riage. Embrace the creative power of God to turn any mediocre (or miserable) place in your marriage into a masterpiece of His design for you as a couple.

1 reply
  1. Sue Detweiler
    Sue Detweiler says:

    A life-giving marriage is used by God to make a difference in the world. It’s a joy to be able to release this resource for marriages that will make a difference in people’s lives.


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