I’ve been asked at least a handful of times over the years what advice I would give to either a newly married husband, or soon-to-be-married husband, and I believe in every instance, I’ve given the same two pieces of advice that I make a practice in my own marriage. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a ten-part sermon series on marriage where the intricacies of men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities are drawn out in great detail. This isn’t a “5 steps to a healthier marriage” thing either. These are simply two simple things that I have employed because I believe them to be biblical, but also, they soften my own heart towards my wife when the days come where my own sinfulness and blindness rears its ugly head. They make me a more mindful husband to my wife, so I hope they will likewise prove to be of benefit to you.
This also assumes the recipient of these two pieces of advice is in Christ—otherwise my counsel to those who are not in Christ is even simpler: repent and believe the gospel, because a healthy marriage ought not to be your first prerogative. You can have a “happy” marriage outside of Christ—in fact, I know plenty of unbelievers who have a great, loving relationship with their spouse where they remain faithful to one another, never argue, and share the same life-long vision. That marriage, as peaceful as it may be in the worldly sense, is but a shadow of what it could be if it were brought under a heart of worship. More importantly though, that marriage will stand as a testimony against them on the Final Day, as all marriages portray the love Christ has for His church. Outside of Christ, your marriage, at best, is a pronouncement of woe upon you.
As a final word of caution: these two pieces of advice assume that you have a unified mind and a genuine desire to please the Lord in what He requires of you in your marriage. If you’re looking for cheap and easy advice to improve your marriage in a manner that is consistent with a functional atheism, these two things will only exacerbate the issue. Likewise, if you’re looking for something to do that won’t require additional thought, sacrifice, and action behind the scenes, these won’t help you either. They are principles and like all principals, they inform why you do something rather than simply how you do it. They presuppose you’ll do everything within your power to be at peace with all people, including your spouse. Likewise, they assume you love your wife and vicariously, that you respect your husband. They presuppose submission to the Christian worldview, born out of a love for God and the spouse He has gifted you with. As the title suggests, this is also primarily written to husbands, namely, because I am one and am speaking as such here.
With those necessary qualifications out of the way, here are the two simple pieces of advice:
- Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity (Eph. 4:26-27).
- Tell your wife you love her every single day of your life together.
The first piece of advice is fairly straightforward to apply, so I won’t spend much time here. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give room for the adversary to pit you against one another and for bitterness to fester. Instead, be quick to forgive, extend forgiveness, and reconcile. If you can’t do this, your marriage is likely to be in shambles in no time at all, and will be lucky to survive. The simple reason is bound up in the reality that we are not only commanded to forgive one another, but that we should have an intrinsic desire to do so because Christ has forgiven us. Likewise, it assumes we don’t want to make things more difficult on ourselves by giving our adversary room to sow discord in our marriage.
The second piece of advice though, I would like to spend a bit more time fleshing out. I don’t have an explicit bible verse that demands you tell your wife you love her every single day. I don’t have one that says you tell her you love her even once. If you’re looking for that for your basis in doing it, you won’t find a direct command that specifically tells you to do this. The reason I arrived at this as a principle is that I believe we do nonetheless find basic elements of biblical wisdom wrapped up in it. What I mean by that is simply that while not a command, and thus not something I can bind the conscience on, I would sincerely question the wisdom of one who finds this sort of endeavor foolhardy.
While space prevents me from giving a full exposition of Eph. 5:25-33, the idea largely stems from this passage, in that husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. The rather obvious conclusion is not that mere words will do—especially when we find the crystal-clear means by which Christ demonstrated His love for the church on the cross, which was the culmination of His love for us. By virtue of Christ’s incredible sacrifice, the demands placed on the husband are high, so mere words will not do in the least bit.
Yet just as I am not arguing for words divorced from action, I am not arguing for action divorced from words, which we see most clearly in the person of Jesus. Christ Himself spoke openly of His own love for His disciples (Jn. 13:34, 14:21, 15:9, 15:12-13), the love the Father has for His children (Jn. 14:23, 15:10), and the care only a loving Father could show (Matt. 6:25-34, 7:7-11). Likewise, the gospels are replete with examples of the evident love that Christ had for people during His earthly ministry (Mk. 10:11; Jn. 11:5, 13:1, 13:23). In the mind of the apostle John, there was no question of Christ’s love for him (Jn. 19:26, 21:7, 21:20).
It is likewise important that we do not underestimate the value of words, especially when we consider that the Lord gave us words, sentences, paragraphs, and books as the very means by which He communicates His love to us. The biblical writers overwhelm us with a sense of what it means to love and be loved by God, so much so, that the essence of God Himself is equated with love, meaning quite simply that genuine love is not known apart from God. While there may be a semblance of this love as a means of common grace given to all, it remains a pale, dim shadow of the boundless, eternal love of our Lord which culminates in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It is this ultimate expression of love that leads the apostle Paul to say with regard to our victory in Christ over various sufferings, trials, and besetting sins:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The argument I am making here is quite simply that Scripture speaks over and again toward the undeniably beautiful reality that God loves us—and if this is the case, why would we not affirm the same with our wives? It is a logical argument bound to the preponderance of evidence that the Trinitarian God we profess has both verbally professed His love for us and demonstrated it in action. The Father expresses His love and care through the sending of His Son; the Son expresses His love and care through the giving of His life for us; the Spirit expresses His love and care through the helping, indwelling, and sealing of all God’s children. In perfect Trinitarian unity, the Godhead expresses His love for us in the Divine writ, preserved for us for our continual benefit so that we might behold Christ, who is the source of our life. Surely, God has proven Himself faithful to His Word, yet that nonetheless necessitates His Word being given to us.
Yet even it this argument falls flat for you, I might simply ask: why would you not desire to regularly remind your wife of your love for her? The answer to that question may be more revealing than we’d prefer, but I believe a consistent expression of love both in word and deed can only stand to be of benefit. After all, pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Pro. 16:24). At the heart of what I’m trying to express is a delight in one’s wife (Pro. 5:18). It is akin to the flowery language found in the Song of Solomon, where a sense of abandon is felt in a state of enraptured marital bliss—where out of the abundance of love in the heart, the mouth speaks. What I’m plainly saying is that every husband should be able to speak to his wife in a manner that is only for her and conveys his love for her.
I know for many men this is a difficult thing simply because the prevailing cultural dogma is either one of two extremes: any display of emotion and intimacy is either perverse or womanly. For many others, they find themselves married to a woman who is difficult to love. I would be remiss if I did not remind the reader that God has not only described love in terms that are neither perverse nor emasculating, but arise first and foremost out of His great love for us, irrespective of our initial love for Him (1 Jn. 4:19). Our obligation to love our wives, indeed, even to express our love, comes from the overflow of our heart towards them. You need not express it in Shakespearian sonnet (though I doubt your wife would complain). You need only express it, and express it often.
It is easy to wrap things up under the auspices of not being good with words, not being an overly emotional person, nor being a person who feels the need to say, “I love you,” all that often. To that I simply say it doesn’t truthfully matter how you feel, namely, because this isn’t about you nor is it for you. It is especially easy to slip into this mentality if your wife is a contentious woman or a “continual dripping” (Pro. 19:13, 21:9). Yet even in this, we go right back to the profound mystery of the gospel as revealed in marriage. The church has often proven to be a rather difficult bride to Christ, yet the continual example we have set before us is one of love. In all of these things, love does not seek its own interest, nor is it the oft romanticized feeling of butterflies that fades with time. Instead, it is an objective affection born out of the desire for a person’s ultimate good. It is desiring their flourishing. It is a laying down of one’s life, yet also, in a manner of seeking after God, using words to describe the reality behind the laying down of one’s life.