Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.  

-Martin Luther


Contrary to all you may have seen growing up, a relationship soaked in fear is not the key to a successful and sustained relationship.  The key to a marriage that’s worth anything more than the piece of paper that makes it official takes more than vain threats and holding one another hostage for what each other might have done wrong.  You better shape up bucko or I’ll be shipping you out, these are far from the kind of words that motivate a spouse—rather they are the words that separate husband and wife.  Uttering the words, You’re not holding up your end of the bargain so I’m outta here—only alienates your partner.  These sorts of things never contribute to intimacy. 

Words that divide don’t have to be spoken to be said, and messages can be sent in a plethora of mediums.  A marriage in which a man and a woman can threaten less and tolerate more—is a marriage that has many of the components it takes to last if you ask me.  A marriage (or any relationship for that matter) in which unfulfilled expectations don’t win the day because neither party is depending on the other to change or be who they demand one another be is one step closer to being a winning marriage.  When a wife is secure in Christ to a certain degree, a husband doesn’t have to be her everything—and the man who doesn’t have to be everything has a realistic shot at being something. 

 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.      (Ephesians 5:25-33, The Message Bible)

How many marriages are ruled by an iron fist?  That kind of approach may work in a tire factory or even in a toxic church, but it never works in a loving relationship where freedom should be celebrated—not squashed.  Marriage is not a place to use bribery to get something from the other party—be it good behavior, money, sex, or a certain image we wish to project when it comes to what those on the outside see.  Marriages don’t thrive under oppresion—when either party attempts to use anything as a motivator instead of simply loving the other—it is ultimately resentment closely followed by a rebellion that ensues.  If you want to build you can’t continue to tear down.  Using sex or money as a weapon is all too common—and intimidation is just as lethal.  And marriages that live under the cloud of these sorts of things tend to drown. 

If you want a losing marriage—focus on demanding your rights and forget about laying them down.