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A Characteristic of a Great Marriage

By:  Donna Martin

John 13:12-14 “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.  ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.’”

As we were traveling to a meeting the other morning, I heard a man on the radio state that to have a great marriage both the husband and wife need to serve one another.

That does not sound very romantic, but it is so true.  If you think about the conflicts you have had in your marriage, most of them occurred because one of you did not meet the other’s expectations.    You or your spouse did not do something, or say something, or behave the way the other person expected him to do.  Those unfulfilled expectations sometimes led to lengthy “discussions”, hurt feelings, disappointments, and finally conflict resolutions!

On the other hand, when your spouse does something kind for you and serves you in some capacity, you feel loved, respected, appreciated, important, happy, fulfilled, etc. 

The problem is that we liked to be served.  We can get comfortable being served so much so that we begin to think only about our needs and wants and forget about the needs and wants of our spouse.  Like a child, we easily become self-centered and spoiled.  However, a great marriage does not happen when only one spouse does the serving.  A great marriage happens when we follow the advice of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4. "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." (NLT)

Selfishness is sin.  Selfishness causes us to focus on our own needs and wants and blinds us to the needs and want of our spouse.  In his book What Did You Expect? , Paul Tripp says,

“Because sin is self-focused and therefore antisocial, it dehumanizes the people in our lives.  They cease being the objects of our affection.  They get reduced to either vehicles or obstacles.” 

He goes on to explain that our sin of selfishness causes our spouses to become vehicles when we use them to help us get what we want, but if they do not help us get what we want, we treat them as obstacles that are in the way of our happiness.  Then we get angry and blame all our problems on them when really the problem is our sin and selfishness.

Proverbs 11:25b says “….whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”  Try serving your spouse this week.  Follow the example of Christ as described in Matthew 20:28   “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  You may be surprised at how your marriage will be refreshed as you begin to serve your spouse and to put your spouse’s needs before your own.

The Martins currently present “Happy Together” Marriage Enrichment Events for churches and organizations.  To schedule an event call Michael at 940-735-1515. They are certified “Prepare/Enrich” Facilitators and are available to work with couples on an individual basis using the “Prepare/Enrich Assessment.”  They publish a weekly “Happy Together” Blog about family and marriage issues.  You can order copies of their new books Dancing With Death and 366 Tidbits We Have Learned in 14,610 Days of Marriage, read, and subscribe to their “Happy Together” Blog by logging onto the Martin’s website at

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