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The Surprising Results Of Putting Your Spouse First

“We live in a culture that is currently questioning the very foundation of marriage, both from within the church and without,” shares Debra. “But a good marriage is an enormous blessing. And it doesn’t just happen to the lucky ones. A good marriage comes from a series of decisions over an extended period of time, with the commitment of two people choosing to love each other no matter what may come their way.”  
Debra says, “Marriage is work, but it is the best work you’ll ever do because”:

  • Marriage makes you better – real marriage is not about being happy and fulfilled for the rest of your lives; it is about two people becoming the best they can be from this day forward.
  • Marriage teaches commitment – emotions can be fickle, faith is not. Choose to love, to trust, to forgive and to remain in your marriage.
  • Marriage invites you to take responsibility – forces you to see there are always two people involved, each having to take ownership of their own junk.
  • Marriage reminds you that you need Jesus – marriage can’t fill us up to overflowing -- only Jesus can. When we grasp our God given identity, we go into marriage feeling more at peace and secure.
  • Marriage is bigger than you – God uses the analogy of marriage to describe His love for His people. Our desire for love reflects a universal need for love, for commitment, and for something and Someone greater than ourselves.

Debra surveyed more than 1000 singles and couples on everything from love to sex to marital expectations and more. She shares what she discovered through eight significant choices involved in taking a marriage from hard to great. Her strategies include:

  1. We Before Me: When you are married, you’re suddenly faced with someone who brings to your life a whole new set of desires, needs, habits, and opinions. Only selflessness can bridge the gap, transforming your differences into your greatest assets. Selflessness is not about ignoring your own needs or keeping them to yourself; it is about learning to put your spouse’s needs and wants before your own and learning to compromise.
  2. Walls Will Fall: Everyone comes into a relationship with walls to keep people at a distance or to even keep them out. Maybe you put up a wall of isolation where you keep your emotions in a box and keep them to yourself. Or, maybe the wall of withdrawal which is the tendency to run away instead of deal with the issues that need to be dealt with. “Vulnerability is the only thing that can begin to tear down the walls we’ve erected around our hearts and teach us what it means to experience true intimacy,” shares Debra. She encourages married couples to try to carve out 20 – 30 minutes of couch time each week to sit down and talk with one another without distractions.
  3. Alter that Ego: Pride is the number one thing that negatively influences arguments, conflict, and tension in a relationship. For a relationship to have hope, we have to let go of our pride in exchange for something greater – humility. A rule that Debra and her husband John established early in their marriage is to take Ephesians 4:26 literally – “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Over the years, God has used the sanctifying work of marriage to mold, change and transform them.
  4. The Struggle is Real: Navigating through unmet or unrealistic expectations in marriage is difficult. In order to enjoy the blessings marriage has to offer, you must change the way you think about marriage, recognize your assumptions, and replace them with truth.
  5. Always Use Protection: “Anything of value is worth protecting. And marriage is certainly something of value,” shares Debra. Every marriage needs boundaries. Putting boundaries in place is the very thing that helps to protect a marriage from what could cause major damage. Debra says to be on the alert for three intruders that can sneak in and destroy a marriage: (1) misplaced emotions - sharing your feelings and frustration with someone other than your spouse; (2) private interactions (be transparent with digital interactions – share emails and texts with your spouse); (3) and wasted time (time spent pouring into digital devices could be redirected so you spend time with your spouse).
  6. #RealTalk: Many marriages are filled with secrets (sexual history, drug or alcohol addition, financial or even health secrets). Couples often struggle to find the words or the time to communicate their secrets to one another. It is important to be real with your spouse. Debra says, “Marriage invites us to take down our façade and live authentically.”  
  7. Sex Marks the Spot: According to Debra’s research 80 percent of married couples encounter sexual struggles at some point in their marriage. The struggles can be anything from difference in sexual desire to lack of sexual attraction. To improve your relationship, take time to learn about your spouse and avoid filling your mind with shallow things like pornography.  
  8. Better Together: Marry someone who will make you better. Debra shares that although she and John were both independent before they met she has relinquished the responsibility of managing the finances to him. John on the other hand has handed over his schedule to her since she manages the family schedule. They both trust one another and know that they are looking out for each other. Another example is after a hard day Debra and John pray together and encourage each other. They don’t do this out of need. They choose to connect out of love, inviting one another into that intimate place of their hearts.

Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in dating, marriage and relationship issues, along with a spectrum of mental health disorders and issues. Prior to private practice, she worked in a spectrum of mental health settings including adolescent residential facility, inpatient psychiatric care, and the public school system. She is a regular contributor at Relevant Magazine and Crosswalk.com, with over 200 articles around the web about love, marriage, dating, sex, and relationships. Her articles have been featured in magazines, websites, and publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Verily Magazine, Proverbs 31 Woman, IAmSecond.com, ChurchLeaders.com, The Christian Post, Charisma Magazine, Converge Magazine, Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, and many others. The majority of her work is featured at her blog, TrueLoveDates.com, where she reaches millions of readers each year. Debra loves to travel the country speaking about love, sex, marriage and relationships and has been privileged to partner with organizations and churches such as Saddleback Church, Focus on the Family, The Boundless Show, ChristianMingle.com, as well as radio programs throughout the country, colleges and universities.

Mentioned in the Video



Guest Info


Author, latest, Choosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start with We > Me, (Harvest House, 2018)

Licensed professional counselor specializes in dating, marriage and relationship issues, along with a spectrum of mental health disorders and issues

Blogger, TrueLoveDates.com, where she reaches millions of readers each year

Contributor at Relevant Magazine and Crosswalk.com

Married to John for over 10 years

Three children: Ella, Elijah, and Ezra


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