1. Listen without interrupting

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” –Proverbs 18:13

Many times we interrupt someone because we are more concerned about “winning the argument” instead of really listening to understand and work together for a resolution. Interrupting is a mechanism many use to keep control of the conversation. God has not called us to control; He has called us to love. We are seeking peace and resolution with our spouses. Therefore, be patient and listen to the full matter. Lay aside any pride and work together on the issue, instead of winning the debate. 

2. Speak without accusing

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” -James 1:19

Scripture tells us that the “accuser of the brethren” is the role Satan took when he chose to rebel against God (See Revelations 12:10) and was cast out of Heaven. When we lend our mouth to accusation, we invite Satan to use our life for his evil purpose. Avoid partnering with the enemy in your speech and speak from the position of grace and forgiveness, which is the seat Jesus gave us authority to sit in as His representatives. Remember that we were forgiven when we were still sinners, so treat others how Jesus treated you. Don’t accuse and shame. Forgive, rebuild trust, and move on.

3. Give without sparing

“Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” -Proverbs 21:26

God’s nature is giving, and as His children, we ought to reflect Him in generosity. Many times we are tempted to withhold from our spouses because we fear they will take advantage of us. However “perfect love expels all fear” (See 1 John 4:16) and in order to really love, we must trust first. Instead of spending time worrying about a spouse’s motives, give because that is who you are—refuse to allow fear to rob you of the joy of giving. A giving heart is a greater treasure than any material thing here on earth.

4. Pray without ceasing

“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” -Colossians 1:9

I once heard a story of a husband and wife who came to see their pastor for marriage counseling. When they arrived at the church to meet the pastor, he greeted them at the door on a Monday afternoon and then walked them into the empty sanctuary of the church. The pastor said, “Both of you spend one hour in prayer for your marriage, and then I will meet with you to council you.” The couple was a bit upset, as they just wanted the pastor to tell them what to do. However, they obeyed his request and began to pray. The pastor returned an hour later to find the husband and wife embracing one another, weeping, and apologizing to one another. The pastor never had to said a word to the couple. Through prayer, they rediscovered the power of God’s love, wisdom, and peace. Remember that prayer gives us access to the Holy Spirit and all the power to walk in God’s ways (See Galatians 5:22).

5. Answer without arguing

“If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.” -Proverbs 1:17 NLT

An argumentative person is a trap that most people will quickly learn to avoid. Be mindful of your tone and your motive. If you are upset, that is okay. But before you speak, be wise and take time to make sure your heart is in the right place and your motive is rooted in love. Agree to take some time to pray, cool off, and recalibrate your approach to how your loving Savior and Lord would have you respond.

6. Share without pretending

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” -Ephesians 4:15

I once saw a funny sign that read, “The first rule of passive aggressiveness is … you know what, never mind. It’s fine.” Marriage ought to be a safe place to express how we feel and not have to hide. “Speaking the truth in love,” means that we should not be afraid to say what needs to be said when motived by love and resolution. So share and speak without pretending. Be real, be genuine, and set aside any masks that hide who you really are and how you really feel.

7. Enjoy without complaining

“Do all things without complaining and disputing,” -Philippians 2:14

Complaining is the ugly offspring of pride and unbelief. As the people of God, we know that “contentment is great gain” (See 1 Timothy 6:6), and that thanksgiving is the very way we invite God’s presence into our lives and marriages. Stay thankful. Look for the good. Celebrate the small things and stay faith-filled and positive. I have heard it said, “to complain and compete is to live in defeat.” Be thankful and win with people.

8. Trust without wavering

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” -1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT

I recently read a study lead by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite that found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Furthermore, they went on to conclude, that in these cases, there was no evidence that unhappily married people who divorced were any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married! Could it be that the benefits of quitting on marriage has been oversold? Trust is a big part of love. Trust is also established in the patience and waiting for love to do what love will do … if given the proper time and effort. Don’t give up!

9. Forgive without punishing

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” -Colossians 3:13

This is huge! Let us never forget that our own salvation is in jeopardy every time we decide not to forgive. Jesus said, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). We enjoy God and the promise of eternal life because while we were still sinners God forgave us. God simply asks us to now do the same for others. In scripture, He gives us this beautiful picture of casting our sin into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), to remember them no more. If that is how He forgave our mistakes, then let us not continue to punish people for their past errors by bringing them up again and again. Forgive to the uttermost, because that is what Jesus did for you!

10. Promise without forgetting

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” -Proverbs 13:12

A promise plants hope in our spouse because of the inherit guarantee found in our words. That hope gives life to all sorts of plans, actions, and good things. However, if we continue to violate (or forget) our word, we will eventually trample all overe hope and its outcome. The result of breaking promises is the rotten feeling of disappointment, and the eroded integrity and character of the person who broke their promise. When making promises, ensure that it aligns with your true desires. Then be responsible to uphold your word without forgetting and without wavering. The nature of a promise is made valid by its guarantee.