“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” — Genesis 2:18
Last year, my wife Tamela and I were at a friend’s wedding, where we met up with a bunch of other couples who are friends of ours. As we were talking, we were moved with the idea that we need to get together more often, in a more intentional and meaningful way. That day, we decided we would hold an annual marriage retreat with a small group of couples who were focused on the mission of maintaining a healthy and God-honoring marriage.
My wife and I have always been passionate about marriage. We feel like God has called us to encourage and challenge other couples in their marriage. So last year, we and a handful of couples went to Nashville. This July, we headed to Orlando during my wife’s and my anniversary. We could think of no better gift to give each other than to celebrate our union as well as encourage others in theirs.
During this retreat, we and five other couples come to hang out, spend time in fellowship with one another, and we also spend a day focusing on reading God’s Word and what it says about marriage. We talk about struggles we’re facing and how we can honor God in our marriages. Each of these couples is eager to live out their lives and their marriages in such a way that brings glory to the Kingdom of God.
One thing we really press into is the idea of self-check. A lot of times it’s easy for us to point the finger at our spouse, focusing on what they are doing wrong. But marriage really works as a mirror of self-awareness, pushing us toward holiness. The only way to grow in holiness is to recognize and admit where you are not holy, so you can then become holy. When we look at our spouses, we often see where we are being selfish and foolish; it’s reflecting right back at us and we don’t like it.
Fruit comes from understanding where you are and where you need to be. A healthy marriage relationship begins when you move from being just lovers or co-parents to being friends. With as much time as you spend together, you need to be able to find ways to effectively communicate with each other.
Tamela and I have found strategies to implement to make sure we are speaking to each other in a gentle tone, keeping criticism at bay. To do this, we set aside one day a week where we have a date night, and we talk about this over dinner. We ask each other how we can be a better husband or wife, and offer criticism of the other person in a loving and honest way so we can work it out.
It has become a safe zone because we know we won’t be attacked or constantly criticized each day. This has developed a strong friendship and accountability within our marriage. During these times, we’ve been able to drum up some really meaningful conversations, massaging out issues that need to be worked on.
Often, we upset our spouse without even knowing it. It’s easier to be in critique mode, accusing your spouse instead of taking responsibility for your own behavior. But that’s not what God has designed marriages to be like. By lovingly finding ways to care for and communicate with each other, we’re able to live in union with the one God has blessed us with. This helps us keep our own expectations in check, without disregarding how my spouse may be feeling. It takes time to adjust old habits, but it’s worth the effort.
If you are currently working out a behavior of your own, let your spouse know that you’re a work in a progress, but you want to honor and please them as you serve them before the Lord.
— Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints linebacker
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.