Updated: Dec 30, 2018
Most couples live below their potential as a couple; however, there are seven signs to know when you're moving in the right direction
You may think of your children, having imagined finding your purpose in raising kids well as invested, partnered parents.
For some, purpose conjures images of artifacts — the diamond ring, the house, the hotel receipt from the 15th anniversary trip to Hawaii — that in our culture are indicators of marital success.
Some respond to the purpose question according to the level of emotional and sexual satisfaction they feel, at a given moment. For all their merit, each of these falls short of the beauty found in purpose.
In my work with couples and in my own marriage of more than thirty years, I have discovered seven signs that suggest your marriage is purposeful.
Being married on purpose is a daily decision to live in partnership and covenant. God has anointed your marriage to “good works” that are unique to your partnership.
Seven Signs of a Purposeful Marriage
Principle 1: Being married on purpose is an act of grace
Although we are created in the image of God, sin created a chasm between God and mankind. God, however, has graciously provided Jesus Christ as a bridge connecting us back to Him. This is reason enough to worship the Lord! But, when God joins a couple in partnership and covenant, the miracle of grace is even more evident. It is only through God’s grace that two individuals with differing experiences, perspectives, desires, and callings unite with a single-mindedness to serve. As an act of continuous grace from God, being married on purpose requires husbands and wives to consistently demonstrate this same grace towards one another.
Principle 2: Being married on purpose is to tolerate the rationale and serve the relational
Many marriages fail or remain emotionally detached because one or both spouses’ primary goal is to be “right”. Marriages defy partnership and covenant as spouses joust with facts, statistics, and norms in order to gain the upper hand in a conflict. Many husbands and wives wrongly assume that proving the correctness of his or her position based on the facts will settle the matter. Relying on a rationale supported by facts and logic may work well in the courtroom. But, they are a death sentence to marriage. How many times have you felt sure that you had the evidence to sway your spouse’s differing opinion to your own, only to have it blow up in your face?
The fundamental principle is that being married on purpose asks you to preserve the relationship above any rationale you may have on a given point. This means that the emotional “meaning” for each partner trumps facts. If you have objective evidence to support your opinion, consider the most gracious way to communicate it. If you are confronted with a stronger position from your partner, ask the Lord to give you wisdom to integrate this information into a resolution that you can accept. But, at all costs, prioritize your marriage over your desire to win.
Principle 3: Being married on purpose is to cultivate what God planted in your spouse
Your husband or wife is a living example of God’s workmanship. God has blessed him or her with many positive qualities – which are part of what initially attracted you. Your spouse was a repository of God’s purpose before you were in the picture.
Further, as your spouse’s counterpart, God has blessed you with the personality and experiences to cultivate what God has planted in your spouse. God intends that you cultivate your spouse according to His desires, not according to your own. In other words, being married on purpose is to activate your gifts and abilities with the goal of positioning your partner in the center of God’s will. Of course, the reverse is also true. This sharpening process between partners is often painful, as it requires leaving behind baggage that is limiting God’s ability to mobilize you. It requires a level of trust that your partner is actively seeking God’s will for self, partner, and marriage.
Principle 4: Being married on purpose is to look inwardly and respond outwardly
Have you ever felt like things would be so much better in your marriage if you could just get your spouse to see it your way?
Being married on purpose, however, asks you to look to yourself for the changes that you desire in your marriage. Being married on purpose is to challenge motives that do not esteem your spouse as God intends you to do. A prayerful and introspective assessment gives you an opportunity to see how God desires you to interact with your spouse as a steward of the partnership and covenant. Armed with insight into your own needs and wants, being married on purpose is to engage your spouse with the grace that God demonstrates towards you, even around difficult issues. Sometimes grace means letting them know how they are hurting us.
Principle 5: Being married on purpose is to unite your passions as a kingdom offering
Think for a moment about your passions. From where did those passions come? They may be things that you have always been good at doing (i.e., sports). They may be a product of experiences that life has thrown your way (i.e., my Mom died when I was 12, so I learned to cook for our entire family). Or, they may be a by-product of overzealous parents, having been instilled in you since childhood (i.e., we always expected one of our children to become a pastor). Contrary to what seems obvious, the original source of these passions lies outside of these earthly parameters. James 1:17 tells us that “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow (NLT).” Your personal passions and those of your spouse were given to you by the Lord to fulfill your purpose, via whatever earthly method they were planted.
Being married on purpose is to search deliberately for opportunities to exercise your passions jointly in the building of the kingdom of God. This is a challenge to many couples who may struggle with even identifying their shared interests, much less using them to bless others. The first step, however, is to recognize that your spouse’s God-given passions are the keys to unlock treasures that God has for you – if your spouse is indeed committed to being married on purpose.
Principle 6: Being married on purpose is to accept that material things will never give your marriage meaning
Couples spend an inordinate amount of time and emotional energy accumulating possessions. We attain one financial goal or purchase only to quickly set our eyes upon another more desirable one. There is nothing inherently wrong with this when it is done in moderation – we could even call it prudence. But, here is the deception. Individuals and couples who struggle with the “what’s it all about” question are tricked into believing that if they had a better job, bank account balance, car, home, or education (among many other things) that their marriage would be more meaningful.
Your marriage cannot gain meaning from things that ultimately are meaningless. Purpose never lies within the things you have. Rather, purpose is always what you do with what you have. Being married on purpose is to share whatever you have with one another in true partnership. Being married on purpose is to recognize that whatever God has given your marriage is an investment in the potential to bless others.
Principle 7: Being married on purpose is to prioritize intimacy as an act of worship
God designed humanity in His image with the purpose of being intimate with him. Despite God’s intent being disrupted by man’s disobedience, his intent remains unchanged. As believers, our priority above all is to be intimate with the Lord. This intimacy requires that we worship Him alone, above possessions, career goals, marriage, partner, or self. When we do so, He promises to give us everything that we need.
Being married on purpose is to see your marriage as an act of obedience to God. God anointed your marriage with purpose so that you can in turn glorify Him with your good works. If you are each equally committed to taking the steps necessary to honor God in your marriage, I believe that you will experience an escalation of the intimacy cycle – the feedback loop in which the intimacy between you and your spouse increases proportionally to the intimacy that you experience with the Lord.
I wish you God’s blessings as you embark upon demonstrating these signs in your own marriage. Leave me a comment and let me know which one resonates most for you personally.