To “receive a calling” is not exclusively reserved for would-be missionaries, pastors, or preachers. For the rest of us, there are other ways that we are called to serve our life’s purpose, our passion, our calling. We might not realize this calling right away, but we will know when our time comes. One of the most important callings in our lives is the call to marriage.

As varied as our backgrounds are, our perceptions of marriage differ as well. As we all change with our spouses over the years, it is even more vital to understand how to grow healthily in such a union. Some think of marriage as a complex arrangement, more than others believe it to be, but however you think of it, at the heart of marriage is service.

Spouses must serve one another equally in order to make married life fulfilling, developmental, and everlasting. If one spouse carries the sole weight of service, we can be sure that bitter arguments will follow. Service is paramount, but how exactly do we “serve” our spouses?

One who serves is a servant. As servants to our spouses, we must give selflessly, without expecting anything in return. The act and resulting feeling of having served is gift enough. As a result, this service must be genuine and given freely. I’ve been helping married couples with all kinds of problems, some as severe as sexual addiction.

But if your marriage could use just a little more love and openness, I encourage you to take these basic, but fundamentally true, ideas about marriage to heart. This perspective might be new to you, but it will help improve the quality of your marriage greatly.

Let me give you an example of how my own marriage has maintained its steady course by following this simple but crucial tenet. My wife Lisa usually calls at around the same time every weekday to remind me to run a certain errand.

But at the end of one of these workweeks, I was tired and impatient with being reminded to do something I was already going to do. I was cold and terse with her on the phone, got the job done, and came home to a tense encounter with Lisa when I had expected her usual warm greeting. It was then that I knew I was not serving Lisa as she deserved.

I had started expecting praise, something in return for the errands I ran regularly for my wife. Who’s to say that this expectation, this self-centeredness, would not continue to grow and fester into higher expectations of my wife and eventually tear apart our relationship?

In that moment of tension I realized how unreasonable I had been, especially as a practitioner of marriage counseling. Before I could catch myself sooner, I had strayed from my one true calling—serving my wife.

From then on, I would answer Lisa’s call, literally, with the greeting, “This is your servant. How can I help you?” It might sound silly, but the verbal reminder truly helped shape my relationship with my wife in a positive, meaningful way going forward. I hope it can do the same for you.

Excerpt taken from: Servant Marriage.

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Heart to Heart Counseling Center offers counseling and intensives to help you achieve love and understanding with your spouse.

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