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Guarding and Growing Your Marriage

by Kelly Crawford


If you’ve read my blog long, you know I am (along with the rest of you) deeply grieved about the rate of divorce among Christians.  It really hits home when you hear of it among your friends and acquaintances.

On a broad scale, marriage is supposed to reflect the picture of Christ and the church; so every divorce among believers is an ugly mark on that picture.

On a personal level, divorce always creates a new set of problems, and rarely “fixes” the old ones.  Hearts are torn, children are permanently affected, extended families are damaged, and the “curse” of divorce reaches into the next generations.

And something we must not forget: none of us are immune to a weakened marriage.   Marriage is commitment, choosing, work and cultivation.  I pray Christians would understand the gravity of cultivating their marriages!

How do we protect ourselves?  How do we grow our marriages?  How do we cultivate them to resemble more and more of Christ and His bride?

Choose. It seems overly simplistic, but I truly believe that commitment in marriage begins with a resolute choosing of love, fidelity and covenant-keeping.  As believers, we have to remind ourselves that despite what the culture screams all around us, marriage is for life, and we should never allow our minds to entertain anything different.  Jesus demonstrated the ultimate gift of love and sacrifice “while we were yet sinners”…before we ever showed Him a smidgen of love or devotion, and continues to love us though we don’t deserve it.  Can we commit to love our spouse that way?  Even when he or she doesn’t deserve it?

Cultivate. A garden is a great analogy for a lot of things.  I’ve used it as a picture of raising children, but it’s also great for the picture of marriage.  You CANNOT plant a beautiful garden, no matter how perfect it looks at first, and then walk away and expect it to stay beautiful.  (Believe me, we’ve tried it.)  Weeds don’t take long to crop up.  At first they’re manageable.  But left for very long, they will overtake the garden and make it almost impossible to salvage.  We have to keep the weeds out as they crop up!

What are the weeds?  An unkind word here, a sarcastic look there.  A kind gesture left undone, a need overlooked, a priority misplaced.  It must be deliberate.  If we let life take so much of us that we don’t have time to cultivate the marital relationship, we simply have to stop something, and regain our priorities.

Protect. It should be no secret that Satan wants to destroy your marriage precisely because of what it does to the picture of the church, and because He loves to see people destroyed.  Knowing that should make us bristle up with vehemence against anything that would threaten  our marriages.

Does anyone speak ill of our spouse?  This often happens within the family.  Don’t stand for it for a minute.

Are we watching or reading things that cause us to compare our spouse unfavorably?  Stop it.  (“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”)

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I have a few “rules” to help safeguard our fidelity.  Too many couples play with fire in allowing themselves to become too close or friendly with people of the opposite sex.  Don’t underestimate the subtle power of temptation.  No one ever had an affair who started out with that intention.  It always “just happened before they knew it”.

Protect your marriage from the thief of time.  “Not enough time” is probably one of the main culprits of divorce.  Little by little, we let other things choke out our conversations and expressions of love.  If we have to schedule time on the calendar to converse or be together, so be it.

Protect your marriage with you MIND.  Our thoughts are so very powerful.  If we dwell on our spouse’s shortcomings, eventually, we can only see him in a negative light, and his faults will grow until they become bigger than they actually are.  (And our attitude will become more sour, reflecting in our behavior, weakening the bonds of affection.) But if we “take every thought captive”, choosing to think on his positive traits, those traits will grow even stronger, (and our attitude will be sweeter) while the weaker traits diminish.  The battle begins in the mind.

Nourish. Besides pulling the weeds, it takes more to grow a healthy marriage.  It takes deliberate acts of nourishment.  I think the most basic, healthy act between couples is remembering to be courteous.  We all know how difficult that can be when we take each other’s affections for granted, but if we can remind ourselves of this most basic human need, it would make a world of difference.  Courtesy is respect.  “Let each esteem others better than himself”.  That’s it in a nutshell.

What speaks love to your spouse? Find out and do it!  Ask if you don’t know.  “What really makes you feel loved?” Take the time to love your spouse in tangible ways.  It could make all the difference!  How many people have quietly walked away from a marriage because they “didn’t feel loved”?  Don’t assume he knows the depth of your love.

Understand the purpose of marriage. I’ve hardly ever heard someone describe their divorce experience without prefacing it with, “I just wasn’t happy”. Granted, it’s easy for someone who is happy in their marriage to tell someone who is not to “get over it”.  But honestly, happiness is only a by-product of a godly marriage, not the purpose.  Don’t allow yourself to think that your happiness is superior to the command to be faithful to the sacred covenant you made.  (I’m not talking about truly abusive marriages here.)

Once again, when we become one with Christ through salvation, He doesn’t treat that covenant conditionally.  When we are purchased with His blood, He doesn’t leave a “divorce clause” just in case we don’t make Him happy.  His grace extends beyond all our shortcomings and He remains a faithful Groom through it all.

Dear sisters, let’s treasure our marriages.  Let’s choose to love, choose to grow, choose to stay, and choose to do our part to make our marriages a reflection of Christ and His bride.

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Michelle July 24, 2009 - 11:57 am

I wanted to thank you for your inspiring words. I have been reading your blog and am so thankful for the encouragement it brings.

Kelly L July 24, 2009 - 12:35 pm

Beautiful. I have heard comments directed my way that I don’t understand someone’s marital problems because our marriage or husband is “perfect.” NOW it is. At the beginning we were fighting the curse of what our parents showed us marriage was. It was only through Christ that we have a great marriage now. As each of us submitted more and more to Christ, we submitted or deferred more and more to each other. “Love overlooks an offense” is one of my favorite verses. It affords me grace and instructs me to give it back.
Thanks for the encouragment to not let our “perfect” marriage go untended. You are a blessing to me.

Kim from Canada July 24, 2009 - 12:38 pm

Good instructions! Sometimes I forget to follow the ones that build up my marriage – even if it is only for a short while, I notice a distance between my husband and myself.

God was gracious in opening both of our eyes after we were already married, so I am blessed with a husband who also wants to guard and grow our marriage. However, I think I have mentioned to you before that the next generation (my daughter) will be raised to understand the need to choose her spouse wisely and have a much better start in marriage than we did.

Kim from Canada July 24, 2009 - 12:40 pm

OOPS! I didn’t realize the first one published – just correcting my wording. I’l stop now!

Michelle July 24, 2009 - 3:56 pm

WELL SAID, friend! Wow, woman, do you ever miss a beat with your ability to convey truth so powerfully? Printed this and the last one up to read again. Thank you!!

Word Warrior July 24, 2009 - 5:15 pm


You’re sweet 😉 I felt like I struggled a little more with this post than usual, as far as trying convey my heart…but I pray God uses it.

Word Warrior July 24, 2009 - 5:15 pm


Mrs. Lady Sofia July 24, 2009 - 5:23 pm

I agree with you whole-heartedly that marriages are very important, and anyone who takes their marriage for granted is “playing with fire.”

I know that I have a LONG ways to go in being a better, godly wife and homemaker to my husband. I also know this will be a life long process. It’s difficult, but it’s well worth the sacrifices.

Thank you again for such encouraging words.

P.S. How is sweet little Ellia doing? Also, how is mommy? Is she feeling better also (smiles)?

Annette July 24, 2009 - 6:15 pm

What you have said is so very important. We have learned this the hard way as well. Thank you so much for your reminder and encouragement to nurture our marriages.

Guarding your marriage article - Jetgirls.net July 24, 2009 - 8:02 pm

[…] […]

jess in Peru July 24, 2009 - 8:03 pm

Very true, refreshing and inspiring! Thanks for the reminder.

Bethany Hudson July 24, 2009 - 8:06 pm

So much wisdom here, Kelly. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart. This perspective is VITAL to a healthy, godly marriage. If we even marginally absorb the world’s lies about love and marriage, we are sunk. We need to have a godly perspective and then work hard to cultivate marriages that are going to last and bring Him glory.

elizabeth July 24, 2009 - 9:28 pm

You are right on the money with this post.

When I was in Catholic school we learned that marriage had 2 purposes: procreation and “spiritual betterment” of ourself and our partner. Happiness wasn’t mentioned. And I’m only 33, so that’s not too old school LOL.

I think happiness is very good for marriage. But it’s not the main thing. We can’t expect someone else to make us happy – it’s an unrealistic expectation for Christians and non-Christians alike.

I remember hearning somewhere that we all have a feeling of being dissatisfied because it’s a hole that only God can fill. I know I’m not repeating that as nicely as I heard it – I hope you get the point 🙂

I also love the point you made about choosing. In marriage and all areas of life, we choose to either keep going or give up.

Another great post. Hope you and baby are doing great! 🙂


Sara July 24, 2009 - 9:59 pm

I have been married for 8 years and have 3 children, 6, 4, and 1. We had planned on having at least one more but now my husband is certain he does not want more. He is happy with the 3 we have and feels that that is all he can handle. I am incredibly sad about this and angry with him. I have committed to not saying anything about it to him and just praying. Any thoughts you could share?

Word Warrior July 24, 2009 - 11:15 pm

Lady Sophia,

Baby and Mom are doing SUPER! Taking it slow, but feeling really great emotionally 😉 Thanks for asking!

Word Warrior July 24, 2009 - 11:21 pm


My first thoughts are, “take it (anger) to the Lord in prayer”, and only express your heart gently to your husband. Allow time for the Lord to speak to him. Then, work on being diligent to train your children so that he doesn’t worry about the “handling” part in terms of behavior or obedience. Try to cultivate a joyful attitude as a mother. I would probably try to share literature/messages from others with him if he was open to that and not resentful. Prayer would be at the top of the list, though. I wish grace for you during a time of disagreeing.

Kim M July 25, 2009 - 1:00 am

Great post Kelly!

Mrs W July 25, 2009 - 8:58 am

Praying just makes things worse, and it’s not a tangible thing you can actually DO. I know praying doesn’t work because the more I pray about my own marriage the WORSE it becomes.

What are you supposed to do when your husband wants to be intimate with you, but as soon as you are done he turns plain old mean since he has already gotten what he wanted for the day? It’s like he has no reason left to please me since he got what he wanted so he can treat my like his own personal piece of trash. Makes me feel like a sex slave.

Word Warrior July 25, 2009 - 12:00 pm

Mrs. W.,

I feel for you if you are in a situation that is hurtful, but to say that “praying doesn’t work” is a little of a slap in the face of God, don’t you think? Since praying (in this sense) is “making your request be made known unto God” and we are also commanded to do it, then I wouldn’t say prayer makes things worse.

I don’t know your situation but I can sense heavy bitterness in your “voice”. I wonder if your husband can too?

Amy July 25, 2009 - 12:15 pm

Mrs W. ~

I have a question for you…
What do you mean by “he turns mean”?
Also, have you tried talking about this with your husband (at a neutral time)? If, so what was his response?

Mrs W July 25, 2009 - 1:56 pm

What I mean by him turning mean is, everything from that point onwards that I do is wrong, and he gets mad, even if its stuff I do all the time that he likes. Like, if I cook chicken, because earlier he wanted it, he now wants turkey instead (only after it’s already been cooked). If he was going to help me with a project around the house, he no longer does. Everything he says is critical and mean.

I’ve talked with him about it at neutral times…he doesn’t see it and doesn’t care. Apparently I’m supposed to “deal with it”.

Mrs W July 25, 2009 - 2:18 pm

Amy, a classic example…

I’ll put peanut butter on a slice of bread each for my boys (both toddlers) and cut it in half. Right now I am not supposed to lift said toddlers (until Wednesday…we’re trying to keep a baby in…I’m at 9 months). So I’ll ask him to put the boys in their chairs because I made them sandwiches, he’ll say “a sandwich is two pieces of bread with stuff in the middle, stupid. Everyone knows that. That’s only a half sandwich. You always lie and exaggerate”.

Caren July 25, 2009 - 3:49 pm

God listens to all prayers; just because HE doesn’t answer the way you wanted, doesn’t mean HE didn’t answer what was best for you. You are in a tough situation, but maybe HE just wants you to rely on HIM more. If you pray only for what you want (your will) and not what is going to help you bring you closer to God, then of course, you probably think prayer is useless. If you pray for GOD to give you the patience and guidance to do HIS will, then you will be surprised at the results.

Caren July 25, 2009 - 3:53 pm

Oh, I would also recommend the Fireproof movie to Mrs. W. All marriages go through tough times, but it is your commitment in working through those tough times through prayer and your actions that will help you.

Caren July 25, 2009 - 3:56 pm

I really enjoy your blogs, and especially this one. I asked my husband to read it too, and he agrees that we need to find out what makes each other feel loved. We have been married for 10 years, and I am just a couple of weeks away from having our 8th child. It’s amazing that through all that time, we have never asked each other what actually makes the other feel loved; we just assumed we knew.
Thanks, again, for such a good post.

Mrs W July 25, 2009 - 3:56 pm

I’ve watched Fireproof several times. Makes a great story and even seems real, but just because it happens in a movie does not mean it will happen in real life.

I’ve been working. I’ve done ALL the work. He sits back and does nothing because he thinks he doesn’t have any problems. Marriage takes the work of two people, not just one. It doesn’t matter how much I change, if he doesn’t change too it will not be what it could be.

Caren July 25, 2009 - 4:02 pm

Mrs. W,

I know movies are not typically real, but the movie does give a lot of good points.

I can read the bitterness and hurt you feel with your husband, and I wonder if he hears it in your words too?

Please don’t give up on prayer though; it truly works.

Mrs W July 25, 2009 - 4:11 pm

Yes I loved the movie and still dare to hope that, eventually, things will work out like that for us. I tried to suggest to my husband that we do the study materials together…he always says yes but will not buy them.

Jennifer July 25, 2009 - 4:38 pm

You make a bit of a leap there Caren, at assuming what Mrs. W has prayed for and how.

I’m very sorry Mrs. W; I certainly don’t blame you for being upset and hurt, nor do I think you’re at fault for expressing this. Please don’t give up on prayer. I’ll keep you and your family in mine.

Caren July 25, 2009 - 7:50 pm

I hope you realize that I was not making any kind of leap, but just letting her know not to give up on prayer. She wrote to Kelly that “Praying just makes things worse, and it’s not a tangible thing you can actually DO. I know praying doesn’t work because the more I pray about my own marriage the WORSE it becomes,”

So, I honestly don’t know what kind of leap I was making about what she prays for and how…just letting her know not to give up on prayer and GOD.

Ashley July 26, 2009 - 11:26 am

Mrs W.,

For some reason my comment was deleted. I want to help you. I have been where you are. Please contact me before this is deleted. LAH2728@aol.com

Angela Cribb July 26, 2009 - 12:08 pm


God is truly using your blog. I see the hearts of all these women drawn to those who are hurting and reaching out to try and help them. God is truly amazing. Hope you and yours are doing well.

Deanna July 26, 2009 - 2:13 pm

Encoraging marriage in this day and age is a wonderful godly ministry! Kelly, awesome blog you witness on. 1Titus 4:6 If thou put the brethen in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

To encourage Christian marriages is a beautiful ministry.

1Titus 4:3 shares what’s going on in the latter times by some. We are in a time where forbidding marriage and abstaining from meats is looked upon favorably by many.

How sweet and comforting God will be to those who have suffered unwanted divorces when the injured party goes to Him for comfort. The injured party that was dumped, verbally abused, hit, belittled, ignored, abandoned, cheated on will need understanding and compassion from the body of Christ.

It’s possible to pray for the spouse that brought injury into their marriage/spouse. The one that’s in a difficult marriage or goes through a difficult unwanted divorce may be shackled by the stigma you didn’t do enough, you weren’t good enough, it was all your fault, you should of tried harder, you’re a failure, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re…

It will be God that truly comforts and straightens out the self destructive thoughts that are torturing the innocent ones. So don’t stop praying.

Concerning marriage…when both husband and wife long to remain married and are willing to work together in harmony within God’s boundaries, will nourish the union.

God Bless Mrs. W.

Shock of shocks Ladies…you as a wife can be doing everything right and the husband still rule with a heartbreaking critical spirit where no matter what you do, you can’t please them. Yes, the door can swing both ways.

Mrs. W keep praying. You are going to need God’s encouragement, guidance and strength to keep you going. Living with a narcissistic spouse can drain the energy right out of you. Do your best to not be angry at God…He is the one that will get you through this. He will be your best friend and shoulder to cry on. He will show you the way in which to go.

Audrey July 26, 2009 - 10:30 pm

Kelly, I think you wrote this for me. My husband and I used to have the best marriage, we truly cared for one another in our words and actions. It was beautiful. I never thought it would be different, but it is so different now. Distance, unkindness, rejection, abandonment, all have made my heart grow hard towards him. It is only beacuse I was tired of being hurt and the hardness helps to lesson that hurt. But it seems that we just continue to grow seperate lives. I do want our marriage to last, we have 8 beautiful children, all the more reason to fight for it. The Lord knows the end of this story and I hope it brings Him glory. Its a hard and very lonely path to walk.

alix July 27, 2009 - 3:47 am

I agree that we should do our best to make marriage work. But we shouldn’t avoid divorce at any cost. Sometimes divorce can be the best thing for a family. I’m speaking from experience, since my parents are divorced. My childhood was very happy, apart from the atmosphere at home due to the bad relationship between my parents. I don’t have one single positive memory about them together. On the other hand, I vividly remember the constant fighting, bickering, reproaches, verbal and sometimes physical abuse. I remember one particular fight, when I was 3 years old, they both became violent and started throwing things at each other. I was so scared that I tried to call the police. That was my first phone call. I also remember our holidays as a family, ruined by fighting and tears as soon as they started. By the time I was 6, my father was a husband and a father in name only. He spent his money, free time, weekends and holidays with his mistress and her child. He came home late at night and went to work early, so I barely ever saw him. Our home had become a kind of free hotel, where he had his laundry done and sometimes ate his meals. Did I mention that he never gave any money for our expenses, despite the fact that he had a very good salary? Finally, my mother had enough and divorced him. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Suddenly, my father became interested in me and started acting as a father. I spent more time with him after the divorce than when we actually lived in the same house. For the first time in my life, I no longer lived in an atmosphere of constant terror and fighting. I would love to have a lssting marriage, but I won’t compromise. I pray to God that, if our marriage no longer works, my husband and I will have the wisdom to end it before our feelings degenerate into animosity and hate. Staying together for the kids, or for any other reason besides mutual love, is the wors thing a couple can do. I’ve seen a lot of unhappy marriages and I’d rather divorce ten times than grow old in a marriage full of mutual anger and resentment.

Kelly July 27, 2009 - 5:57 am

I’m new here – just found you last week. I appreciate your heart for lifetime marriage. This is a topic that my husband and I cover on a very regular basis, and I wanted to share a thought from our conversations with you: if marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, then what picture does it paint? Is it merely commitment, the fulfillment of a covenant? Or is it something far deeper, far more appealing to the question that resounds in all our hearts – “Can I really have a relationship where I will be safe?” As Jesus prays for us His Bride in John 17, He notes that eternal life is knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. Paul says that Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God, thereby bridging the gap so that we could have relationship with a holy God. While we were yet sinners, God commended His love toward us and drew us to Himself through His Son’s sacrifice.

Pete (my husband) and I have come to believe that the entire purpose of Christ’s coming was to reconcile us in relationship with God the Father. (Again, see 2 Cor. 5) With this picture in mind, we’ve found a much more solid ground for our marriage, something based first not in commitment, but in relationship with one another. I think too many times, the emphasis on commitment first kills the relationship in marriage, kills the relationship in our walk with God, because we’re so busy living out our end of the bargain that we often miss the heart of the other who is sitting there, loving us.

It’s just a thought, and it’s incomplete, and it’s a book already! I just thought I’d share! Thanks for putting this out there!

Word Warrior July 27, 2009 - 7:53 am


My heart aches for you, and I just pray that God will (because He certainly can!) restore and revive the relationship in your marriage. May He give you a renewed vigor to pour out love on your husband, and may your husband’s heart be softened to return it back to you. This is my prayer for you!

Danielle July 27, 2009 - 10:38 am

My heart is heavy. I just returned from my haircut and learned that my stylists husband is leaving her. I have been praying for her and we have been trying to find ways to minister to her family. I know God will glorify Himself in this situation. Yet, my heart is still burdened for my friend and her family. Please keep them in your prayers. God is in the restoration business….so I cling to His sovereignty and grace for my friend. Pray that I also rely on God for His wisdom and never ending source of love to point her to Him through this intense trial!
Thanks sisters!

Rachel Falaschi July 28, 2009 - 9:07 am

Mrs. W,
Prayer does not accomplish greater works, it IS the greater work. God wants us on our knees crying out to Him, communicating with Him. So whatever brings us to our knees in desperation before Him is right where He wants us (as backwards as that may sound). It is often because of our deep communion with Him that we are able to discern His will for us. Don’t give up on prayer.
I’m thinking of the blind man calling out to Jesus as He was passing by. Everyone around him was trying to shut him up, but in his desperation he only called louder. Jesus finally called him over and asked him what he wanted (like he didn’t know!) He wanted this man before him communicating with him. He wants you there as well. Go to Him. Yes he already knows your needs, but he also wants you to TELL him about them.


Lori July 29, 2009 - 6:04 pm

Rachael, the more I encounter you here, the more I look forward to your comments. Do you have a blog? I’d love to read more, as time allows. Thanks.

shannon August 4, 2009 - 2:56 pm

Amen sister, I couldn’t agree more with all of that! I love your metaphor of gardening!

Terry June 29, 2012 - 8:10 pm

Dear Mrs. W,

I was touched by your comments. The book I have used as a “marriage/life source” is the book, Fascinating Womanhood. I have a very good marriage as I have followed the advice for over 25 years. It gives you tips on how to respond to men when they are mean so that you retain your self respect. The author, Helen Andelin, was a Mormon, but the advice. for the most part, retains Godly principles. It is not only about marriage but about how to be happy in life. It also has a website by the same name. Feel free to contact me at terry.brackney@knology.net


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