If you and I are honest, we’d admit we want our life and marriage to be all about ourselves. We’d want our spouse to serve us all the time, read our mind, pursue us when we want to be pursued, and have sex when we want to have sex. We’d want them to put our needs before theirs and we’d want them always to admit we’re right and they’re wrong. We certainly don’t want a marriage that puts their needs first, one marked by humility, characterized by us serving them.
I recently lead a marriage conference at Kiokee Baptist Church, located outside of Augusta, GA. I loved the theme of the weekend they gave me for the conference – You Before Me: Moving From Selfishness to Oneness.
While I joke (kind of) about wanting a “me before you” marriage, deep down you and I both know that’s not what we want. After all, if you’re a follower of Christ, then you know that we’re called to a “You Before Me” kind of life. We know that no one ever has and ever will model this better than Jesus. Philippians 2:3-4 says,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:5-11 then goes on to describe how Jesus put our needs before His own by dying on the cross for our sins.
As followers of Christ, we are to – get ready for it – follow Christ. That means when He zigs, we zig. When He zags, we zag. When He calls us to put the needs of others before our own, we put the needs of others before our own.
The problem is that so many of us want a “you before me” kind of marriage, but we’re not willing to do what God calls us to do to get there. It’s no surprise we see marriages break down all around us. If you’ve been married for more than one minute, then you know the “me before you” marriage just doesn’t work and the “you before me” marriage is just so hard.
No relationship provides more opportunities to put the needs of the other first than marriage. Over the weekend, I talked about a few areas where you and I can each have a “You Before Me” marriage.
One flesh marriage
A few weeks ago, I confessed to falling short in our marriage by placing my own needs before Kristen’s. I spent a lot of time working on my own projects. And, I spent even more time in front of the TV watching the NCAA tournament. None of it was sinful or hidden, but I wish I’d spent more time pursuing her and what we wanted to do with our weekend. Instead, I put me before her.
I’ve shared before five barriers to oneness as God intends. Selfishness tops the list as every one of us struggles with making life all about “me.” James writes, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).
A few questions to get you thinking and discussing:
- Are you living as though you are one flesh?
- Are you living out your marriage as teammates or opponents?
- What are some areas of selfishness in your life and your marriage?
- What do you need to address or confess to your spouse?
Communication and conflict
I once asked readers to share what they wanted me to write more about and to identify the biggest challenge in their marriage. The top answer on the board, in a landslide, was communication and conflict. Married couples want and need more help with this aspect of their marriage.
A “Me Before You” marriage seeks to speak first, listen last, and focus on winning. On the other hand, a “You Before Me” marriage seeks to listen and to put the needs of the other first.
Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Here a few questions to help you communicate about communication and conflict.
- Are you making time to communicate? When?
- Is the goal or your communication to win, or is it mutual understanding? What would your significant other say?
- Would others describe you as one who is quick to speak or quick to listen?
Sexual intimacy: Your body is not your own
God designed sexual intimacy for marriage. You are to be the only sexual partner for your spouse and vice versa. Pornography and infidelity are way out of bounds. And, God designed sex to be a covenant renewal act between a husband and wife.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
- How can you have a “You Before Me” mentality when it comes to sexual intimacy?
- Do you view your body as your own, or as your spouse’s?
- What would it look like for you to serve your spouse sexually?
Caution on this one. Often guys have this passage memorized and will demand sex from their wife based on these verses alone. Meanwhile, they forget that they are to love their wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-27) and to put their spouse’s needs before their own (Philippians 2:3-4). Husband: PLEASE do not treat your wife poorly and then demand sex from her.
Much more can be said on this topic, but if you’re struggling in this area (as many couples are), please open up and share with others. Talk to your community group and trusted friends.
Spiritual Intimacy: Growing together in your relationship with Christ
Besides communication and conflict, this is the area where couples most often struggle. It’s hard enough for us to grow spiritually as an individual, let alone as a couple, and rarely has someone modeled for most of us what this could and should look like in marriage.
Let’s look at a few examples: Maybe you and your spouse both read the Bible and have a quiet time. But do you make time to share with each other what you’re learning and how God is challenging/encouraging you? Do you pray together on a daily/regular basis? Do you know how to pray for your spouse? What’s their biggest prayer request?
Have you and your spouse ever fasted together? Maybe you’ve had a very important decision to make, so you decide to fast. Or maybe you fast simply because Jesus tells us to. If you’re like me, then you just experienced the sting of Holy Spirit conviction.
Read Matthew 7:24-27 (one of my favorite passages, by the way).
- What can you do to continue to build your marriage on the solid rock foundation of Christ?
- Who can you turn to to help you build your marriage on the foundation of Christ?
Relational Intimacy: growing your friendship with your spouse
This is one of the toughest for me. While Kristen and I did a great job in this area when we started dating and as newlyweds, when life started getting busier with kids, work, and life, we stopped putting much effort into relational intimacy. This part of marriage takes a large amount of intentional effort to grow.
What are some ways that your spouse is wired differently than you? What do they like to do that you don’t love? Maybe your spouse loves to work out. Maybe they want to take on a new hobby like cooking together. What can you do to help build the companionship in your marriage?
Live with your spouse in an understanding way
If you’re like me, sometimes you look at your spouse and think they’re crazy! Here are a few mild examples from my marriage:
Kristen is a saver; I like to throw it out (unless it’s a book). I want to throw away boxes. Kristen likes to keep them.
I have around 25 emails in my inbox. Kristen has 16,645.
Kristen likes to get places 20 minutes earlier than we need to be. I’m good with us getting there on time or a few minutes early.
And those are the small things. In a “You Before Me” marriage, you learn to put their needs first and honor the differences. You choose to study your spouse and appreciate the differences.
I love the way Peter says it in 1 Peter 3:7. He writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Talk with your spouse.
- Without picking on them, ask them about some of their habits or quirks. Encourage them for being different than yourself.
- Ask them where they see differences in your wiring or personality.
- Ask them what drives them crazy and ask them what differences they appreciate.
- When you talk, be humble, listen, laugh, and remember that you are one flesh with each other. As strange (aka different) as your spouse might be, they’re not your enemy! You are one with each other (Genesis 2:24).
Together, thank God that you’re not married to a clone of yourself. Discover, embrace, and celebrate your differences.
This post originally appeared on ScottKedersha.com and was republished with permission.