When a person puts on a U.S. military uniform, they are committing to serve others, to protect their lives and their liberty, and to put themselves on the line for others. Susan and I have been proud to have two of our children serve in the Navy. And our son-in-law is a captain in the Army JAG. My dad served our country as a captain in the Air Force JAG. The branches of the military are different, but they share similar core values—duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, courage— that are sadly all too often ignored or overlooked in civilian life.
But I believe that by recognizing and adopting them, we can better arm ourselves in our fight for our marriages—a fight against a culture that increasingly devalues the idea of steadfast love, against an ever-busier lifestyle that works against developing rich and meaningful relationships, and yes, sometimes against our own weaknesses and shortcomings. The following military-style five virtues are like a hidden, inner compass- the virtues that will keep you heading in the right direction.
Must isn’t a popular concept these days, but there are some things you simply must to do if your marriage is to thrive. When you said your vows at your wedding ceremony, you probably didn’t promise to love your spouse just when you feel like it. More likely, you promised to love them “for better or worse.” That is, no matter what…even when you don’t feel like it. Here are some things I do even when I don’t feel like it. There are certain things a husband should expect from his wife and things a wife should expect from her husband As a husband or wife, you have a responsibility to be truthful, honest, faithful, and forgiving. You have an obligation to care for your spouse’s well-being—relationally, emotionally, and sexually. I’m not talking about being a doormat or being taken for granted. I’m talking about fulfilling your commitment.
To honor your spouse means you greatly esteem them and that you hold your spouse in high regard. You think and assume the best of them. You demonstrate that you value them in the way you treat them and the way you speak—to them, and about them. And you make them and their needs a priority. You show that they are important.
To honor your spouse means you greatly esteem them and that you hold your spouse in high regard.
So, how do you honor your spouse? Do you esteem and respect them just because they are your husband or wife? Or do you withhold honor from them because “they don’t deserve it” or because they aren’t the spouse you think they should be? Do you make a strong effort to honor them with your words?
This is not about being fearless. It means maybe being scared but finding the strength and resolve to do the right thing anyway. For couples who tend to avoid conflict at all costs, it could mean one of you taking a deep breath and bringing up that issue that’s undermining your relationship, recognizing that some discomfort now will save you from greater pain later. Or, for couples who have conflict, it could mean that one of you has the courage to be the first to apologize, even if that person only thinks they are only five percent at fault.
Often, the secret to success is just showing up. I heard of an interview recently with an Olympic gold medalist who said that while natural talent was, of course, important, his determination to put in the hours of practice, to work harder than anyone else, and to persevere was what ultimately separated him from his competitors. Holding this long view recognizes that diligence and perseverance brings a reward in due time. It helps you through the hard times of sickness, temporary separation from each other because of military deployment, or financial struggle. It’s where you live out your vows for life: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Take a moment to consider 4 Things Dr. Seuss Teaches Us About Perseverance.
If must is unpopular, then so is discipline. We typically view it as a negative, something to do with punishment. But if you can be disciplined in the way you live, then you won’t need to be disciplined because of some wrongdoing or failure. A husband and wife must embrace this virtue and exhibit self-control with their tongues, in their spending, and when tempted by the opposite sex or by pornography. Rather than trying to control your spouse, concentrate on controlling yourself.
Where would you like to see these virtues lived out more richly in your marriage? What steps can you take today to make that happen? Please share your comments below.