What Makes a Good Marriage Story – Part 3: The Characters

(The posts in this series have been adapted from the “Relentless Love” marriage seminar, created and taught by David McKinley and Bret Legg at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, TX.)

In this series, we are looking at your marriage as a story and what goes into making that story good.

We looked at the author of your marriage story and how the author determines the direction and the nature of the story. We also asked the question, “Who is the Author of your story?” Is it you? Is it you friends, family, or peers? Is it God, or is it fate?

Now let’s look at the main characters of the marriage story. Every story has a main character, or characters. To Kill a Mockingbird has Atticus Finch. One Hundred and One Dalmatians has the dalmatians. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has…well Harry Potter! The author tells the story through the actions and interactions of the main characters as they pursue something important.

In your marriage story, there are two main characters: you and your spouse. Your story develops as the two of you pursue what is important to you. The object of our pursuit is usually the same…happiness.

Since you both are after the same thing, it seems like the story should be simple. Jump to the end. Cue the music. Roll the credits. They live happily ever after.

But it’s not that simple. Yes both of you are pursuing happiness, but you pursue it differently.

  • One pursues happiness through career advancement, while the other pursues happiness through family closeness.
  • One pursues happiness through financial and material gain, while the other pursues happiness through social and relational gain.
  • One pursues happiness through sexual closeness, while the other pursuits happiness through emotional closeness.

Need I go on? If you haven’t figured it out by now, the main characters of your marriage story (you and your spouse) are very different, and it’s these differences that bring about the conflicts and plot twists in your story. (More about this in a future post.)

So the over arching question of the marriage story is this… How do the two main characters in the story get what they desire when they are pursuing their desires in different ways?

Well, in most good stories, the main characters get what they desire by overcoming their fears and doing something that seems unthinkable or impossible to them. Dumbo wants to be the star of the circus, but he must overcome his massively deformed ears. Patch Adams wants to be a great physician, but he must overcome a state mental hospital and an entrenched medical establishment. The Little Engine That Could wants to be a great train, but he must overcome his small size and the big hill that looms before him.

To get what you want in marriage, you and your spouse will have to overcome your fears and undertake one of the most difficult challenges in marriage. As the main characters of your marriage story, you and your spouse will have to…wait for it… SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER. “Gasp! He said the “s” word, and it wasn’t ‘sex!'”

Submitting and getting what you want may sound like opposing approaches, but they’re really not. For the main characters in a marriage story to get what they want, they must submit to one another. Though this is a faith-based principle found in Ephesians 5:21, it is a principle that will improve any and every marriage. How does this work?

  • Husbands are to submit to their wives by truly loving them in an active and sacrificial way. (Ephesians 5:25.) That means my role as a main character in my marriage story is to show my wife how important she is to me by putting my wants and desires aside when they conflict with hers…even when she doesn’t seem to appreciate it.
  • Wives are to submit to their husbands by building them up with respect. (Ephesians 5:33.) That means my wife’s role as a main character in our marriage story is to show gratitude, appreciation, and honor for who I am and what I do in the marriage…even when I could be doing better.

Submitting to your spouse can feel unrealistic and scary when you have not guarantee your spouse will do the same. But as you play your part you make it easier for your spouse to play their part…which in turn makes it even easier for you to play your part. Just one spouse playing their part well can greatly improve the whole marriage story. (For more on this, check out the book Love & Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.)

Your marriage story, like any story, depends on what the main characters want and how they  pursue what they want…especially  when they’re prevented from getting what they want.

So here is the summary:  A good marriage story depends on a good author, leading  good characters, who are pursuing good goals in a good way. How’s your story so far?

As one of the main characters in your marriage story, how do you feel about submitting to your spouse? What is fearful or frustrating about the idea of submitting to your spouse? Who is the author of your story and what are they telling you about submitting to your spouse? Let us know what you think about this and get the conversation going. 

Copyright © 2016 Bret Legg