Fight for a Stronger and Deeper Marriage

By Erin Smalley
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
©Thinkstock Images

Let Erin Smalley's 10 tips on fighting for your marriage help you strengthen and deepen your relationship.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

I have learned that even after 23 years of marriage, I must continue to be intentional about keeping my marriage strong. Here’s a story of one surprising way I have learned to breathe life into my marriage.

Recently my husband, Greg, our older kids and some out-of-town family decided they wanted to watch a scary movie. Since I am not into suspense, I decided to go to bed early. But on my way upstairs, I realized I had a golden opportunity to strengthen my marriage with something Greg always appreciates: an unexpected laugh. So I decided to play a practical joke on him.

Laughing to myself while I prepared to startle Greg, I found a black ski hat and a pair of preschool blunt scissors (because I didn’t want to trip and land on anything sharp) and headed outside and down the back stairs. I pulled the black ski mask over my face and stood very quietly while I peered through the open screen door at my family — all of them engrossed in the intense movie. All of a sudden, someone inside noticed a dark figure holding what looked like a sharp object — and began to scream. Hilariously, Greg got up from his seat and ran from the room. When he looked back, Greg soon realized the dark figure outside was me! Now, I realize this may seem like a strange way to strengthen my marriage, but each time I take the opportunity to make Greg laugh, it reignites the love in his heart!

We must be intentional about strengthening our marriages by fighting for them. Amid the fast pace and chaos of our lives, we often push aside our marriage relationship while other things, such as children, work and chores, take precedence.

Marriage is a lifelong adventure filled with triumphs and defeats, and all married couples will experience different seasons in married life (1 Corinthians 7:28). Cartoonist and author James Thurber wrote, “Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.” In other words, it’s the journey of doing life together — the fun times, hard times, joyful times, painful times, exciting times — that deepens and grows our love for each other in a marriage relationship.

As paraphrased in The Message, Malachi 2:15 says, “God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. … So guard the spirit of marriage within you.” But how do you guard your marriage?

First, we need to understand that the word guard means to watch over in order to protect.

So what is it that you can do to “watch over in order to protect” your marriage? Couples can often look back to their dating days or engagement to see all they did to build the foundation of their romance. They need to start doing those things again, because a marriage relationship needs care, protection and, in essence, it needs to be “watched over.”

If playing practical jokes doesn’t work to strengthen and nurture your marriage, here are a few other suggestions that may help to keep your love relationship strong:

1. Value your marriage. You will never guard something you don’t value. Take a few minutes to consider what you love, like or value about your marriage relationship:

Having fun and laughing with each other (Obviously, I would list this one first!)
Synergy — doing more together as husband and wife than as individuals
Sharing a spiritual relationship
Raising children together
Making memories to share with each other
Having someone to celebrate with
Sharing the deepest levels of intimacy with each other
Enjoying sex together
Serving together
Loving and being loved
Being married to my best friend
Sharing the adventure of riding life’s roller coaster together

2. Have a deep conviction that divorce is not an option. Take the word divorce out of your vocabulary. The word decide comes from a root word meaning “to cut.” You cannot make a commitment to something without deciding to cut off other options that compete against what is most important. Make this your attitude: I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to make this relationship work.

3. Stay alert. 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) clarifies that we have an enemy working against marriage to destroy it: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” So guard your marriage against spiritual attack.

4. Carefully observe. Take note of the state of your marriage. It’s easy for couples to get so busy that they forget to observe the health of their marriage. Proverbs 27:23 (NIV) exhorts us: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” Consider taking the Couple Checkup. Also, take time to notice your spouse. Keep learning about what he or she needs to feel loved throughout the different seasons of life.

5. Regularly invest in your marriage. A great marriage is made of two people making sacrifices for their relationship every day. However, you can’t control what your spouse does or doesn’t do; you can only control your own choices. So, what have you done for your marriage today? According to one study conducted by psychologists at UCLA, the couples in which both people were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the marriage were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages. Jesus reminds us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Sacrifice every day for the sake of your marriage.

6. Protect your marriage. What can you do to protect your marriage? Part of the “Oath of Allegiance” that must be taken by all immigrants who wish to become U.S. citizens says, “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” How are you protecting your marriage from those who could potentially be considered “foreign invaders”? (Are there in-law issues or opposite-sex friendships that need addressed?) How are you protecting your marriage from “domestic threats? (Consider whether busyness, exhaustion or unhealthy conflicts are interfering with your relationship.)

7. Guard your marriage. Thousands of years ago, King Solomon warned of the little foxes that ruin the vineyards. “Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” (Song of Solomon 2:15, NLT). It’s usually the little things that creep into your marriage and become issues that damage your marriage. With that in mind, don’t sweep your problems under the relational rug. Keep short accounts and don’t allow resentment or bitterness to take root in your marriage. Deal with the small conflicts, wounds, hurts and frustrations before they grow into bigger problems.

8. Reminisce about the good times in your marriage. Remember the good times and all the good things you have experienced together. When you are going through hard times, it can be easy to forget the good things. Reminiscing helps you maintain a positive attitude about your marriage. Take some time to remember that although you’ve gone through some hard times in married life, you’ve made it through and you’re pretty good together.

9. Pursue a shared dream. The French poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry described love in the following way: “Love is not just looking at each other, it’s looking outward together in the same direction.” As described in Genesis 2:24 (NLT), God unites couples to do together what they could never do alone — “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Dreaming together isn’t limited to creating common goals like buying a house, paying off school debt, having kids or going on a particular vacation. These goals are important, but I’m talking about a bigger vision that enables God to use your marriage for His purpose. Have you considered what God may be calling you, as a couple, to do together? Find a cause that you and your spouse are both passionate about — something that benefits others — and give yourselves to it.

10. Don’t go it alone. You need couple friends who will commit to doing life together with your family. You need people who will celebrate with you when things are going great. You need people who will fight alongside you for your marriage when things are difficult. Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) makes this point clear: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Who do you know that could become the kind of couple friends with whom you could share life, and what would it take to encourage that relationship to go to a deeper level?

Erin Smalley is the co-author of  The Wholehearted Wife  and serves in the Marriage and Family Formation department at Focus on the Family.

© 2015 Focus on the Family.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Erin Smalley

Erin Smalley serves as the Marriage Strategic Spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry and develops content for the marriage department. In addition to her work at Focus, Smalley is a conference speaker. She presents with her husband, Dr. Greg Smalley, at marriage enrichment seminars where they guide husbands and wives in taking steps toward enjoying deeply satisfying marriages. …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.