There are hundreds of books written on marriage, each one containing truth and wisdom that you can use to apply to your marriage (some more than others obviously!). Maybe you have read one of these books and tried to implement the advice. People are often a source of counsel on this topic as well. Your pastor will likely preach on marriage from time-to-time or counsel a couple in his office. Your parents will likely have tried to advise you too.
Let’s assume that all the advice you will get is good. How does it work when you try to implement that tip or nugget of truth?
While I’m thankful for the wisdom given to me over the years through many sources, sometimes when I try to follow someone’s advice it flops! Have you been there too?
If the advice you were following was good, why didn’t it work? I’d like to look at a few reasons:
Not every couple is the same
This is one of those things that shouldn’t need to be said out loud, yet all the same, we need reminding. In marriage you will need to play the hand you are dealt. This is amusing since we get to pick our spouse, so also get to pick the hand we have to play. On your wedding day, you get to pick up those cards and use them in life. Each husband and wife will have their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own hangups, hobbies, and hurts.
This is the reason that different people will need different things from their spouse. Sometimes when we get good advice, we are getting that advice from someone who has seen it work in their marriage with their spouse. It might fail spectacularly in your case because you are different.
When the Bible gives advice on marriage, God recognizes that everyone couple is different by distilling the advice to a few basic principles. Act like Christians towards each other. Husbands love your wives. Wives respect your husbands. And so on…
The scriptures don’t indicate how often to go out on dates, who should take care of the garbage, or what to get your wife for her birthday. The answers to these questions will be different for each couple and good advice may not work in your case.
What you can do is go back to the scriptures and ask yourself, “How can I act like a Christians towards my spouse”, “How can I love my wife in this circumstance”, or “How can I respect my husband in this scenario”?
As you learn more about each other, the answers to these question will come easier every year.
Sin complicates good advice
This is a sad reality, but sin does occasionally creep into our marriages every now and then when we are not careful to guard against it. This is another BIG reason why good advice often doesn’t work out. Let me give you an example (not based on a real couple):
Imagine that a couple comes to the pastor for counseling. They have an issue regarding the finances and the pastor wisely counsels that they should have a budget, and to live on less than they earn, etc…. They both agree, but a month later they are both back in the office and the financial issue is worse than before. What happened?
Sin can destroy good advice just as fast as it can destroy people. In our scenario, let’s add a few details. The husband doesn’t trust his wife to follow the budget because she spends money whenever she wants. The wife feels that she’s entitled to do so because she doesn’t trust her husband due to past failures. Pride on both ends creates a vicious cycle of retaliation and blame and no improvement is made.
Letting sin hang around your marriage is a sure-fire way to see good advice fall to pieces. How can regular date nights improve your marriage when the husband or wife has explosive fits of anger? What good will a budget do for your relationship when you allow filthy images or entertainment in your home? How will a romantic evening one per month help when pride on both sides creates constant conflict?
These are all good things to do, but they will be as useless as a white crayon if sin has free reign in your home.
Keep getting good advice! Listen to preaching, ask wise men or women for direction, and read lots of books. Just remember that every couple is different and that will need to rid our home of sin before we can ever start reaping longterm fruits of happiness!