Striving to Be One

One lesson I learned early in marriage was what it meant to be the other person’s person. The beauty of marriage is that we become unified and a single person before God. We work together, live together, worship together, serve together, all with this understanding that while we are two different people, unique and beautiful in our own ways, we become one body and strive to act as one in public. And that sounds easy to say, but the reality is hard to live out.

Biblical Understanding of Marriage

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:22-23 how this relationship should work. It’s about submitting yourself and giving all of yourself to your spouse. Your spouse is now the center of your life, humanly speaking. God has given us the significant task of emulating Jesus' love for his church in how we love our spouse. God calls us to love them, dedicate ourselves to them, and work toward their good that they might be righteous.

Releasing Independence

The rub that can happen early in a marriage is that both people, who have lived their whole lives for themselves, now have to live together. They used to do what they want, when they want, and live mostly for themselves. Independence is generally a good thing, and we teach our kids to take responsibility for themselves and launch into the world. But now take two people who have managed to take responsibility for mostly themselves and tell them to include another in everything. To put your spouse before you, to serve them before you, to get the okay for plans from them before acting, to need to have conversations before making purchases, these are new behaviors to learn. Marriages usually begin with needing to forge new patterns of creating mutual priorities and considerations.

Learning From Past Mistakes

I remember an incident early on in our marriage where a simple phone call would have avoided creating a large issue out of something that really wasn’t an issue. And the misunderstanding wasn’t out of malice, it wasn’t out of anything but simply being newlyweds and still trying to navigate making decisions together. It’s often difficult to think of what the other person may need when that's not a habit you've yet had to cultivate. It’s also very difficult to ask for forgiveness in those moments too.

Practical Reminders for All Married Couples

I pray these suggestions find space in your heart and help you in your marriage. They’ve been hard learned but needed for me.

  1. Remember being newlyweds is a learning process for both of you, and you both will make mistakes. Be patient with each other when consideration was not made or given for you. It’s important for you to let your spouse know that you were hurt that your feelings were not taken into account but also have patience in them too. This is new territory for all--calm heads prevail.
  2. Talk. Don’t stew in your anger about the lack of consideration from your spouse and don’t make it worse by feeling that you can do the same to them. This isn’t a schoolyard game of “anything you do to me I can do back.” Marriage doesn’t work that way, and the moment we think it does then that’s the moment the marriage will begin to crumble. Talk in love and grace and a desire to move on from this bump in the road. You are partners and partners talk. Genesis 2:18-25 is a good reminder that God formed Eve from Adam’s side. Bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. A rib from the side…not from the back or the front. A partner that comes alongside.
  3. Be patient in your frustrations. When there is an issue (and there will be many) becoming defensive or angry is only going to make things worse. Own your feelings, share your feelings, but come to your spouse with love and grace and the desire to fix the problem. When we have our differences, they, more often than not, end the way they start. So if we come angry things will simply escalate because we are moving them to become defensive. If we come with love then love will be felt and honored.
  4. Ask for what you need or want. Do you want to be consulted before plans or purchases are made? Say so beforehand and discuss when each are free to act independently.
  5. Always stand up for your spouse in public. Disagree at home, in private, and never mock, humiliate, or throw your spouse under the bus with friends, family, your parents, your kids, your co-workers. If you need to check your spouse's bad behavior while in public, be as discrete as possible. Ridicule is poison to a healthy marriage.
  6. Always think of how YOU would want to be treated. A good self-check is simply putting yourself in your spouses shoes. Should they go out and stay late and not call how would you feel? If they spent a lot of money on something without talking to you first how would you feel? It’s a simple and yet effective trick.

Marriage is difficult enough as it is, and there are things we can do early on to make the transition from two into one much smoother, healthier, edifying to us, and glorifying to God. In the end, remember all of us have these struggles and so your marriage is not alone.

About the author — Rev. Kelly Vander Woude

Kelly Vander Woude is always looking for something yummy to put on his smoker…and then getting friends and family to enjoy it with him. When he’s not smoking food he can be found playing and hanging out with his two kids, wife, and their dog, as well as preaching at Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, CO. Oh…and he’s usually trying to learn some new musical instrument with the hopes of one day mastering at least one of them! You can find more of his writings at

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