November 22, 2016

Feed Your Marriage

Gary Thomas — 


Many of us (at least in the U.S.) are making all sorts of plans about how to feed ourselves and our family on Thanksgiving Day. Let’s pause to consider how we can feed our marriage. But first, let me set this up.

Do you remember the time your baby had a sopping wet diaper? Let’s say it was a particularly messy one, so you got everything all over your hands, but after you got your child cleaned up and she was wearing a fresh soft diaper, she looked you in the eyes and said, with the cutest voice imaginable, “Thank you.”


That never happened?


Perhaps you remember holding your sick baby for hours while colic gripped his stomach? Finally, after five hours of non-stop holding, pacing, and rocking, you put your nearly asleep baby down and he looked up at you with a smile and said, “Thank you so much! You’re the best mom/dad in the whole wide world.”

No? That didn’t happen either?

What? Your baby actually cried when you put him down, even though you had been holding him for so long?

How do I know this? We had three of them! Babies are all demands. Babies and gratitude are like scuba diving and the desert—they never go together. But we don’t expect them to. Babies aren’t formed morally. They are immature. They are takers, not givers.

It’s one thing when this is true of a baby; it’s particularly sad when it’s true of an adult.

Do we take, take, take from our spouse, without ever saying thanks? Do we receive their support, their encouragement, their good humor, their affection as an expected fact of life but then get enraged when they have one bad day or forget to do one thing we asked of them?

Many of us do.

And when we do, we’re acting like babies. We have the character of a six-month-old child.

In a wonderful sermon entitled “Perpetual Thanksgiving” (which inspired this blog post), twentieth century preacher Clovis Chappell said, “Gratitude is a child that we must watch and train and develop. Gratitude must be cultivated. It must be tended and watered and watched over or it will die.”

This is true in marriage as well.

Thankfulness toward our spouse—expressed and thought about and offered back to God—is like watering your plants or feeding your lawn. One of our first summers in Houston, our lawn care knowledge was a bit lacking. We eventually woke up to a brown wasteland, with all kinds of weeds growing up. It was embarrassing to walk by. Our lawn guy spread some weed and feed on there and two weeks later our lawn rivaled any other lawn in the neighborhood.

Your marriage can be that dry and even dying. It can look malnourished and brown instead of a lush green. Feed it with thanksgiving. “Whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philip. 4:8)

Let’s not be babies in marriage—taking everything for granted and screaming loudly when it stops, never being thankful, but always punishing our spouse with silence or surliness if one thing doesn’t go our way. Too often we take for granted every blessing, but then resent every little thing that is missed. In such a marriage, your spouse can only displease you—they can never thrill you, because you have become incapable of being pleased. If it is positive, you take it for granted. If it is negative, it is all you can think about. Thus, you can only be disappointed, never satisfied—just like a baby.

So many marital issues could be solved if we would just do what the Bible tells us to do: “In everything, give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18) Chappell’s comment that this never happens by accident that this attitude never just grows on its own, is worth heeding, so I’m going to repeat his words: “Gratitude is a child that we must watch and train and develop. Gratitude must be cultivated. It must be tended and watered and watched over or it will die.”

Think of five things you are grateful for about your spouse. Thank God for these qualities and as soon as you can, mention them to your spouse. With this one simple practice, you can begin feeding your marriage right now.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

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9 responses to Feed Your Marriage

  1. I am grateful for:
    1. The way my husband loves me. He just does. Even though I put him through so much grief at times.
    2. The way my husband always makes guests and friends feel welcome and always, always considers their interest and comfort first.
    3. The delicious food my husband cooks. I am so useless at cooking and he always make the most delicious meals.
    4. That I can rely on my husband to help with Baby Girl – whenever I need it. I know that he is there for me.
    5. Really good sex with my husband. Not every time, but every now and then it is quite simply amazing.

  2. Ms. Endeared to one handsome Suitor November 22, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Thank you for this. I am considering this affirmation in a situation with a man who has been courting me. When he began showing affection more than friendship, I began to be receptive. I also noticed that I had something verbal I wanted to say everytime that typically started with the words, “Thank you.” It is not merely the affection (which is wonderful) but the fact that he is a man of faith, credible, humble, kind, and considerate while being affectionate. His actions have spoken louder than words, and he is handsome because of his love for Christ – inside and out. I have told him this, and he has shared various thoughts with me, woven into moments of time in a variety of topics. I have not taken the conversations, gestures, and affection lightly. I think it is the combination of that with the expression of gratitude that has made me more endeared to him, and I hope the relationship continues to grow. It is the Thanksgiving season, and I am very thankful for a man with whom I have bonded with more than I ever thought I would in church courting. Most of the courting has been at church, and at some point he will have to decide if and where the relationship goes from there. There has been much negativity from other single ladies who have been negative toward the single men in our congregation, saying that they only flirt at church and never take it anywhere. They have described them like players in a field. When the relationship was progressing, and I was eager to share my enthusiasm, it was difficult to encounter the negativity. I know the power of prayer and believe God has blessed and will bless the moments of tenderness. Trusting in God is the best option. The expressions of gratitude have been helping to slay the forces of doubt, insecurity, rejection, and defeat. I agree with you on how significant it is even in courtship. It has helped provide nourishment.

  3. And please don’t add a qualifier to your thanking: “I’m really grateful for your ______________, but if you would just _________________, it would be even better.” }:-[ Just, no. Gratitude has no strings attached. Wishes can be kindly expressed another time.

  4. I am grateful for this very thoughtful blog. It
    Reminds me to be even more sensitive to being
    Verbally thankful to my husband. God blessed
    Me with a wonderful man of God who is so attentive, kind and giving.

    I thank you Gary for your spirit of sharing your insight and knowledge on the subject of marriage. Your books are a powerful source of
    Information. I was so encouraged to find your
    Material when I was preparing a presentation
    for a seminar on marriage. I also have your
    DVD and use portions during the presentation.
    Your fresh and realistic approach is such a blessing. Those that attended the seminar were most grateful for the information. The
    Q&A was great and it was very helpful to the
    Attendees. Thankful Me!
    Rev. Barbara Anthony

  5. Omotosho Precious November 22, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Wow! This Is A Commendable Teaching, Am Yet Single But One Of My Daily Resolves That I Have Being Doing Is To Always Appreciate Anyone Who Does Any Good To Me No Matter How Little And No Matter How Familiar The Doer Is Or How Small He May Be. Am Encouraged To Continue.

    • Thank you Omotosho. This certainly applies to many different types of relationships, so I’m glad you’re reading it that way.

      • Gary,

        I’m confused, the definition you gave of abuse in a previous blog entitled, “Cuts like a knife …Taking Non-Physical Marital Abuse More Seriously,” is “Any non-nurturing behavior”. Essentially, as you said raising the bar … I love it! However, here is where I’m confused and I saw a few others who read your blog were as well, you then go on to say that ‘abuse’ is biblical grounds for divorce.

        It seems that yesteryear the shell of marriage was too emphasized in pastoral counseling and led to significant and serious abuse of women. Abuse of any kind is horrible, but redefining abuse, not just you, but today’s psychologists, women advocates, in the church and secular, I believe, are coaching against God’s design of covenental marriage. The wedding vows “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part,” seem to lose their ability to block the devil’s schemes to destroy, when the coaching is anything other than … I’m so sorry for your pain, married couples goong through hardship, but seek counsel and if necessary get professional marriage counseling, but relentlessly seek marriage healing and reconciliation!

        I understand you’re not God, but considering that you deem abuse as biblical grounds for divorce, would you keep to your definition of abuse as “Any non-nurturing behavior”? If not, then how would you define abuse where, when it occurs, divorce is biblically justified?

        I am dealing with my side of the street, but confused about this situation that is also affecting other Christian couples I know where the man is accused of being ‘controlling’.

        Thank you for all of your efforts towards saving hurting and broken marriages.