December 27, 2019

Your Marriage is About So Much More Than You

Gary Thomas — 

In March of 2014, when Lisa and I landed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba it felt unbearably hot, even for a couple traveling from Houston, Texas. And the Navy chaplain escorting us around said, “Congratulations—you came here during the coolest time of the year.”

The chaplain, Baron Miller, who invited us and escorted us around.

Lisa and I have gotten to work with the military quite a bit through the years and seeing how the military operates firsthand always overwhelms me with the sacrifices our soldiers make. Many are separated from their families for months at a time. Their restaurant options on Guantanamo Bay make cooking at home seem like a good option. The internet connection brought back fond memories of 1990 (It took me 45 minutes to download a 32-minute podcast). And the “coolest time of the year” felt like walking on top of solar heating panels.

My first assignment was to speak to a youth group on The Sacred Search (making a wise marital choice). Afterwards, an 11-year-old boy asked to shake my hand and said, “I just want to thank you for saving my parents’ marriage. My dad said your book Sacred Marriage held them together, and our home has been so different ever since they read it.”

Lisa (sitting next to me) and I were at a complete loss for words. This boy seemed so young, and so earnest, and so thankful, and it reminded me of a truth every parent needs to take to heart:

Your marriage is about so much more than you.

This kid said his life had been changed because his parents’ marriage had been changed.

When you fight to stay intimate, when you struggle to forgive, when you pray to stay close and to defeat the personal demons that war against your marriage, your fidelity and your very soul, you’re not just fighting for your own happiness. You’re fighting for your kids and grandkids. You’re fighting for the church’s witness. You’re fighting for the glory of God.

People who run first marathons often run for charities, saying, “I don’t want this to be just about me.” They’re willing to endure 26 miles because it means more than mere exercise to them. In our marriages, the stakes are even higher than that. Will we endure, and not just endure, but press in to each other so that we not only stay together, but thrive together and learn to cherish each other in our passion to give the world and the church the joy and example of a sacred, intimate marriage?

If you could have seen how vulnerable that 11-year-old boy seemed, how sincerely grateful he was, you would be moved as much as Lisa and I were.

This holds true even if you’re an empty nester and active parenting is over. You can’t erase all that your kids witnessed when they were growing up. But you can still demonstrate the difference Jesus makes in a marriage when we re-surrender our lives to him, orient ourselves once again around loving him and then loving each other, choose to make our marriage more of a priority, and pray that we can give our children and grandchildren an inspiring picture of mature love.

Whether your children are still at home or now just occasionally come to visit, more than they need a hot meal and clean sheets, they need to see the power of a God-centered, God-empowered mature love. We might wish we could have done better for our children in years past, but we can create a certain kind of marriage that will be the only kind of marriage our grandchildren will ever know we had, the kind they will celebrate and remember long after we’re gone.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I wrote Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage as Lisa and I were becoming empty-nesters. The empty nest, by definition, is defined by loss. But we can redefine it by filling that loss with an increasing love for each other.


I was there with my good friend Dr. Steve Wilke, a marriage and family therapist who also consults for a lot of businesses. I spoke to the married couples and families, Steve to the officers and generals. You can probably figure out which two of us aren’t quite ready for combat…

The thing is, you don’t have to wait until the kids are gone to start cherishing each other. And the look on that young boy’s face made me more determined than ever to reach every single couple who comes to a conference, every individual who picks up a book, and every single reader who logs onto this blog with the message that your marriage is about so much more than you. As far as it depends on you (absent abuse, of course, when you need to get to a safe place), it’s worth the effort.

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15 responses to Your Marriage is About So Much More Than You

  1. After reading Skye’s comment, i felt the need to add my own story because i believe others need to hear what i have to say. My marriage has been difficult for most of my life. There have been times i prayed to die (i’m serious, this is not an exaggeration). I shared my need with my church home group; people cared and were prarying for me.
    However, it was not until a sister in the Lord cared enough to get involved that the healing began. I shared thoughts and feelings with her that i had never shared with anyone, and it wasn’t easy. But so much healing has taken place since. We talk on the telephone once a week as she’s many hundred of miles away from me, and do Celebrate Recovery together.
    So i strongly encourage all to get involved with those who are hurting. Pray is a good beginning, but often more is needed. (Read the book of James!)

  2. Aloha Gary,
    My husband and I have been through your “Sacred Marriage” book countless times and have attended several of your marriage seminars. Through your book and seminars you have spoken so much LIFE into our marriage. This is my third marriage, we’ve been married for 21 years, PRAISE GOD! My husband was 38 years old when we got married, he had never had a relationship with a woman more that a year so we had many issues to deal with. All my insecurities, all his history of drugs and women, all the forces of evil were against us….BUT GOD!!! WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE, even when it seems impossible!!! Thank you again for allowing God to use you so mightily and also thank you to your wife Lisa for being such a great example of a godly woman and supportive wife.
    Much Love to you and your family!

  3. Brother Gary sir, allow me to personally thank you for all you do concerning the health of our marraiges. My wife and I have been married now going on 37 years, this being my 2nd. We attend a couples small group where we covered your book Cherish. First what a blessing you are from God to help marraiges everywhere. It’s the one relationship the enemy will stop at nothing to kill, steal and destroy. This affects all of us to one degree or another. No one is exempt. It behoves us not to believe special attention is a must in this particular area of our lives and God fearing people. God has an order and quite honestly I believe it all begins right here, in His institution of marraige. So again thank you from the bottom of my heart for the impact you’re making against the enemy of this most sacred institution. God help us and thanks to your diligent hard work, He is.

  4. Sacred Marriage has done the same for me! Married for 36 years, born again 10 years into the marriage. He’s still lost and an alcoholic. The relationship is not easy, but worth the fight.
    Thankful for the friend who shared it with me.

  5. The first duty of love is to listen. Solid thoughts for every marriage.

  6. What an uplifting story, Gary! I’m sure you get so many heartfelt hugs, handshakes, and thank you’s from the thousands of marriages your books have helped. Throw my name in the hat of those who are eternally grateful!
    A couple from our Bible Study class moved away, and stopped going to church altogether, only attending in spurts. They just recently filed for divorce, out of nowhere. We didn’t even know they were struggling. It was sobering for us all…especially for me and my husband. We watched God work in this marriage for years and mourned over the news for quite sometime, as if a family member died. Having both been divorced ourselves, we began to fast and pray for them during their separation. I can’t give you a good ending to this story, unfortunately. I can only offer that it brought my me and my husband closer, we spoke to one another more gently, we began praising one another for the little things again, and it reminded us to show more gratitude.
    The enemy is never, ever going to stop trying to pry his way into our marriage. He will come at us from all angles, 24/7, looking for kinks in our armor. I love this paragraph: “When you fight to stay intimate, when you struggle to forgive, when you pray to stay close and to defeat the personal demons that war against your marriage, your fidelity and your very soul, you’re not just fighting for your own happiness. You’re fighting for your kids and grandkids. You’re fighting for the church’s witness. You’re fighting for the glory of God”
    Thank you for obeying your calling to marriages, Gary! May the Lord continue to give you favor, protection, and blessing! Have a safe and Happy New Year.

    • Skye, Lisa and I have the same reaction when we hear of another couple getting divorced, especially when we have an upfront seat and see all they have to go through. It makes us double down on the thought, “Let’s not do that.” This isn’t to chastise or condemn anyone for whom divorce was foisted on them or they just had no choice. It’s about recognizing that as difficult as marriage can be, a divorce can be even tougher, creating as many problems as it seems to solve.

  7. Thank you Gary. Our 3 adult children have each expressed their gratitude for our marriage-& we have shared with them, so much of what we learned through your teaching. We are very grateful for your continued work. Keep fighting the good fight, it is impacting generations.

  8. Gary,
    I am so grateful to God for your service to Him. I am always blessed as a result of reading your blogs. I pray that you allow God to continue to use you for His glory. God has truly gifted you!

  9. At our church our Marriage Small Groups did Sacred Marriage then Cherish back to back. We had newlyweds and couples married 30+ years, all impacted by the powerful content.
    Thanks Gary.

    John
    http://www.lifeonacanvas.net

  10. We are reading the book sacred marriage for the second time .It keeps us aware of what we should be doing for God. Thanks Mrs . H

    • Thanks Mrs. H. I’ve said it before, but telling an author you’re reading a book a second time is the highest compliment you can give him/her. You have no idea how happy that makes us!

  11. You are right about all of what you wrote. My marriage was broken this year March 1. Three years of agony, hurt, deceit and betrayal of 27 years.
    I am healing by the Lords love towards me and learning to focus to my Heavenly Father who loves me so much. I am praying for protection over those who are married and will be married.
    Thank you so much for what you are doing for Gods work. I am still reading your blog even my married was broken and there are more to learn than just marriage in our lives. God opened my heart to see and learn to walk the path He has for me. I wish I could change the way I have lived in the to focus on the Lord instead of pleasing to a man. Anyway, move forward one step at a time. God is amazing God and He loves us all. Thank you.

    • So sorry to hear about this, Hyecha. It sounds brutal. I pray God will draw you especially close and be your strength and guide in the new days ahead.