I asked and you answered. The number one subject you requested I write about was a post on marriage!

To begin with, there is so much more to say than what can be put in one post. I am still growing and learning more deeply about marriage and what goes into making it the strong and lasting union God means for it to be.

Marriage needs constant attention. The book of Proverbs talks about the person who neglects his field and it comes to ruin (Proverbs 24:30). Not overnight, but over time. Neglecting our marriage can easily set in and when it does, things will eventually break down. This is true of all relationships, but none more significantly than in marriage.

New brides and young wives, may I offer a time-proven bit of wisdom? Continue to pursue your husband and make it a priority to learn what he needs and wants. We used to do that once upon a time when we were courting, right? Celebrate his strengths and find ways to leverage them to benefit your marriage and bless him as an individual.

And for us all, whether we’ve been married a few months or several decades, we must guard against passivity. We long to be pursued, and our husbands do too! A marriage that relies on coasting along instead of intentional pursuit can be so dangerous.

In the first years of my marriage, I came in with my own ideas of how it was supposed to be. And I’m pretty sure Greg did too. Of course, we both thought we were right!

To love anyone is to be vulnerable. Disappointment, hurt, or frustration will inevitably arise. But marriage is the closest human relationship we will ever experience and every flaw—his and our own—is exposed like never before. Like Adam and Eve who were naked and unashamed, but after the fall their eyes were opened and they covered their nakedness (Genesis 3:7).

Before marriage we may think that, given the chance, we will change him and cover some of those flaws. But I have found (maybe you have too) that it’s very hard to know the best way to address those things you see in your husband that you would like to change.

So here are just a few things I have learned (often the hard way) and truthfully, I am still in need of reminding.

Check your heart.

A good starting point for me is to examine my own motive in wanting him to change. I need to hit the pause button and look for the “log in my own eye before I try to remove the speck out of his” (Matthew 7:3-5). I try to understand the why behind what he is or is not doing.

I need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me, by examining in light of God’s Word, what fuels my feelings. So often He gives me a filter to run things through before I even go to Greg with an issue.

Choose a good time.

If an issue does need addressing, Greg and I try to manage when to have those conversations. Not when we are tired, or in a hurry, or hungry, or in the heat of conflict. By the way, that’s an important parenting tool as well.

Absolutely have those important conversations, but not while emotions are raging and tempers are frayed. Find a better time to sit together and talk it through. This doesn’t mean you avoid difficult conversations, but sometimes stepping back to give space and the opportunity to think before we speak is wise.

Choose your battles.

I admit that I tend to be rather nitpicky about certain things that matter to me. And I am sure that Greg can be a bit nitpicky on certain things that matter to him. But the worst thing I can do is nag. That never helps!

The same goes for giving the silent treatment, using verbal manipulation, or complaining. Maybe after praying about the issue, you simply ask, calmly state what you need. Don’t expect him to read your mind. And then, for goodness sake, be willing to negotiate. Most likely there are issues your husband has with you that he would like to see change. So show the same grace that you would expect to receive.

Allow for differences.

Greg’s family life was marked by multiple divorces and break-ups. My parents stayed married for a lifetime, loved each other, not perfectly but provided us a very stable home life. In my family, all of us girls passionately expressed ourselves—loudly! But we always understood that no matter what, we were staying together.

This was not Greg’s experience. Getting loud and expressing yourself passionately usually meant someone was leaving. So understanding how we communicated was crucial for me. I needed to be sensitive to his upbringing and speak to him in a way that was effective and constructive.

Pray. First and always.

I believe that my number one default should always be going to prayer first. Making prayer my first—and continuingcourse of action, keeps me in a place of depending on, and cooperating with, the Holy Spirit in my life and marriage. Greg is God’s man, His child. He belongs first to God and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change Greg, not mine!

Over the course of almost fifty years of marriage, Greg has often said, “I’ve been married to five women, a different one each decade—and all have been Cathe!” That’s so funny, but I would agree. Our marriage has been marked by growth, change and spiritual development.

Let this be true for all of us. The seeds of who we are and who we can become are still not fully developed, so continue to study and learn in each new season what marriage can be if we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit and love the way we are intended to love.

One more thing I have learned.

A husband (even an accomplished man like Greg) can feel at times that they are not enough. As women, don’t we often feel like that? So let’s be wise, and tread carefully. Our attempts to improve or change them can be sending the message that you are not enough.

Those character traits that get on your nerves, that you would like to see change? Remember they are part of who your husband is. Those very things that annoy you now, when you think about it, may simply be the flip side of the qualities that attracted you to begin with.

So, can you love the whole package of who he is? Let your husband hear more about what you love, admire and appreciate in him. Find constructive ways to encourage him—without adding in a critique. A word of praise and a compliment (especially a public one) is a great motivator for change.

This has certainly been my story.

Scripture teaches us to not only think about our own needs, but the needs of others. We are told to esteem one another highly for Christ’s sake (Philippians 2:3-4). There is something so much greater and bigger in marriage that requires each of us to lay down our life in love for the sake of the other.

Ladies, the choice is ours. Let’s pursue our marriage for the glory of God.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8