“Don’t Look to Marriage or Your Spouse To Make You Happy”
In my research with teens, I was fascinated to find that the happiest kids were not the ones whose parents put them (the kids) first. Instead, they were the ones who knew their parents loved them, but also knew their parents were looking higher and prioritizing their marriage even above the children.
I found an interesting parallel in the research with the happiest spouses. They loved each other, and enjoyed having a happy marriage, but didn’t put their spouse at the center of their life and weren’t looking to marriage for happiness. Instead, they looked higher. In large numbers, they said they put God at the center of their marriage and tried – however imperfectly! – to look to Him alone for fulfillment and happiness.
This wouldn’t have surprised me if I’d only studied people in churches-- but I purposefully conducted random interviews everywhere in order to include those who, statistically, might not believe in God. But the happiest couples kept bringing Him up! Whether it was someone next to me at the airport or in a doctor’s waiting room, those who were the happiest in marriage kept mentioning the importance of looking to God alone. Both because they relied on His power to be selfless when they didn’t want to be (!) and because looking to God took the pressure off their mate.
It can be so tempting to want our spouse to make us happy. But think about it: would we want the reverse? Do we want our spouse to depend on us for our happiness? No way! I, for one, know how imperfect and selfish I am, and I would fail miserably if Jeff depended on me to make him happy. We would both end up miserable.
Maybe you have seen that yourself. So how can you avoid looking to marriage (or your mate) for the fulfillment that only God can deliver? First, purposefully commit to God that you are putting Him at the center of your marriage. You can do this even if your spouse doesn’t. Ask for his help in leaning on him in tough times, instead of letting your happiness be tied to what is going on in your marriage. For example, in a difficult season, try not to let it throw you. Do what you can to make it right, but trust God to bring things around. Take your frustrations and needs to God, instead of taking them out on your spouse. (One wife told me she would say, “God, give me your love for my spouse, because I just ain’t feelin’ it right now! If divorce isn’t acceptable, would murder be okay?”)
And start praying for your marriage. In the research, some of the couples who became very happy said they started praying together. Other couples didn’t pray together very often, but would simply let each other know they were praying about something separately. No matter what they did, though, they had a sense of relying on God to carry their marriage.
And as a result, these couples found they didn’t have to worry about being “strong enough” to weather the storms of life. Because they knew their hope and strength ultimately came from God.
Lord, I want an abundant marriage. But help me to delight myself in You first and foremost, and trust you for the desires of my heart. Help me to never look to my spouse for happiness, and instead look to you as the only One who can give true fulfillment. I put you at the center of my life and marriage, and ask you to help my spouse do the same. Amen.