©2020 Gladly By Karissa Barker

  • Karissa

7 Rules For Marriage

My husband and I celebrated our 7th anniversary over the weekend. So obviously, we are TOTAL experts on the subject of marriage.


[Ahem]


Ok, maybe not experts. But we both feel that every year has gotten better and better, and our best days are ahead of us. We have learned so much, and gone through so much. Blessedly, the hard things have pushed us closer together and closer to God.

Both of us together wanted to share a bit of what God has shown us in marriage (mostly learning the hard way) over the past seven years with 7 Rules for Marriage:


1. Know the Goal of Marriage.


In sports, there is a goal and purpose to each game, and the strategy follows for completing that goal. Same goes for career (or should).


We think in marriage oftentimes people miss out on the goal. We have seen many couples with the goal of getting married. Or having a wedding. But after the wedding, after the ring is on it, then what?


Marriage is a covenant with each other and God, saying that a husband and wife will become one in their pursuit of God. If the purpose and goal of marriage is to glorify God together, it will be the most splendid testament of God’s love and faithfulness to the people around us and the generation after us.

The “little” things like money, cabinet doors left open (Karissa), and socks left on the floor (Colin) will be held against the light of eternity, and won’t seem so big anymore.

When our focus together and apart is growing in holiness and Christ-likeness, only good things will come of it.

2. Seek Accountability


One of the best things we have discovered for our marriage is accountability. I (Colin) have a group of men I meet with regularly to talk about purity and integrity. We are transparent with each other and regularly bring up topics like pornography, integrity in the workplace, and how we are treating our spouses.


I (Karissa) have a group of women that hold me accountable. We focus on seeking God, running our homes well, growing in our faith, and honoring our husbands.


3. Talk to Each other with care


Unless you are a total butt head, you talk to your co workers in a nice and professional manner, and people you barely know in a kind way. So why is it, at home, you talk to the people you love dearest with a mouth like you are part of the Trump extended family?

The answer, of course, is because they are safe people, but those are the people you should be loving with your words the most.


Pay attention to your body language, tone, and the words that come out of your mouth and use them for love. Use them to build each other up. Even if right now is a really tough season in marriage, heck, even if your marriage is practically non-existent, use kind words. Refuse to be rude, and treat your spouse as if they deserved all the kindness in the world.


4. Talk like you are married to Beyonce. 


One of the things we learned early on is how we wanted to talk about each other. We spent time around a lot of people wiser than us, and a lot of people in the same stage. For married couples, we started to notice a pattern. The ones that seemed happiest were the ones that talked about their spouses like they were the best things since the internet. Or Beyonce. Or sliced bread. You get the picture.


Some of the couples that seemed unhappiest, when they were separate from each other, complained about all of the bad things about their spouse, and rarely said a good word.

Now women, I’m (Karissa) looking at you. In my relatively short, compared to a lot of people, experience of being married, women  seem to struggle more with this. And I’m talking to myself here as much as you.


The Bible says out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Maybe that’s why the happiest couples talk like they are married to Beyonce, or whoever the male equivalent is (is there even one?).


But it can work in reverse, too. James wrote a horse is controlled by the bit in their mouth, and huge ships are steered by a small rudder. “So also the tongue is a small member, but it boasts of many things.” When we refuse to give in to the urge to talk bad about our spouses, it steers our heart in the right direction.


When we promised not to talk bad about each other, all that was left was the good things.

There is a time and place to talk to trusted people (AKA not the prayer group gossip) about hard things in life and marriage, but there is a way to do it that honors your spouse.


5. Have Sex Like you mean it.


Colin just told me (Karissa) if we wanted to practice this rule right now we could. So that’s helpful.


What we really mean by this one is to not treat sex as a chore. Women, I know, I’m sorry, I’m probably looking at you again (because I need to hear all of these words regularly too). Sex should be enjoyable for the man and the woman. And there are benefits for both the husband and the wife in a thriving sex life.


If you need to go to counseling to work through trauma or hurt, go to counseling. If you need to have an awkward conversation, have a blunt and awkward situation. If you need to ask or direct or explain, do it (no pun intended).


A silly way to break the ice on this conversation is by reading The Song of Solomon together. It’s a book of The Bible and it will make you blush, and laugh, and bring down barriers.


Pray and talk about the hard stuff (not just sex: money, extended family, work-home ratio, social media, etc.), because your marriage is worth having uncomfortable conversations.


6. Face Trials Gladly


If you’ve been here a while, you know we have had a hard several years, and our new “normal” is a challenge. The most unexpected good has come of our hardship (just like God promises), and one of the most amazing is that our marriage has flourished.

We can’t believe the lie that life should be good all the time, and if it is hard you’re doing it wrong. Most of the most beautiful things are born from the hardest situations.

The secret to flourishing in hard times? Go re-read rule number 1.


That’s it.


Jesus is sufficient. We can live gladly through trials, and thrive in our marriage, when we are both on the same team aiming at the same goal. A life lived Gladly in Christ, because His grace is sufficient in our weaknesses, and His promises are greater than our circumstances.


7.  Don’t Stop Growing


OK women, Karissa has thrown herself (and you, sorry) under the bus enough. Now men, I (Colin) am lookin at you and when I say don’t stop growing I’m not talking about growing out. I could work on that one.


I remember looking forward to being married, and not to just have sex like I meant it! I was looking forward to everything that came with marriage and I worked hard and focused on making myself better in lots of different areas.


My physical health, mental health, spiritual health, you name it I was thinking about it and focusing on it. When I look at my own walk, and I would imagine other guys struggle with the same things, over time it has been easy to stop growing in those areas.


It's easy to compromise and give up growth and to settle for the status quo.


I'm not talking about cheesy self improvement mumbo jumbo. Self-improvement feels so exhilarating, so hopeful, so liberating — at least in theory (or in Nike ads). Well, we better stay away from Nike references these days.


The reason I was seeking to improve all of those areas in my life before we got married was so that I could be more like Jesus, and in being more like Jesus I had the opportunity to be like the husband Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”


If we all seek to continue our growth to become more like Jesus daily, things will fall into place. And the best way to change your spouse is to change yourself. Stop seeing the sliver in your spouse’s eye when you’ve got a plank in yours.


Be an example to your whole family of a person who seeks Christ and is always improving in life.


We hope you have a marriage founded on living Gladly in Christ. Like we said, we’re no experts, and we are only 7 years in, but we are sold on living a life of impact and meaning through Jesus. Bless you and your marriage.




If you enjoyed this, please share it! Share it in every possible way, and let’s grow this community of people living Gladly for Christ. You can also follow along on social media (social media links in top right corner).