He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4–6, esv).
If there were one secret to transforming any average marriage into a vibrant one, would you want to know what it is? This single piece of advice could change your marriage—and your life. Here it is: Live in such a way that no other human relationship compares in importance to your bond with your spouse. The person you crawl into bed with every night—make that person number one.
This comes straight from Jesus. He taught, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife.” This doesn’t mean you should move to California to get away from your parents (or in-laws). Rather, Jesus was teaching the primacy of the marriage relationship. According to Jesus, your parents, your kids, the buddies you had before you got married, and your closest friends—all of those people put together—don’t add up to the importance of the one person you married. Regardless of any other success in your life, a broken-down marriage is a foundational break in your life. God can forgive and heal, but next to your relationship with Him, your marriage is your first priority.
And the goal is oneness.
Jesus described this oneness by saying a man should “hold fast to his wife.” This joining is a strong bond, like Super Glue-ing two people together. It’s an emotional oneness in which a husband and wife share each other’s feelings, joys, and pains. And His reference to one flesh includes sexual intimacy, the culmination of emotional oneness. A healthy marriage aims for unity in every way.
Jesus continued, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” God puts a man and a woman together, and He doesn’t want anyone to separate them. Sadly, though we start our marriages as one, we often slip into different kinds of separation.
Separate ways. It’s so easy to embrace separate schedules, cars, and events—often for good reasons. But dividing doesn’t always mean conquering. Watch out! Too much time apart, even doing good things, is an enemy of marital oneness. Proactively ask, “How many activities can we do together in the next week?”
Separate interests. Divergent hobbies and pastimes can lead to separation. Find at least one common activity you both really enjoy, and pursue it together. Learning, exploring, and spending time together will make your spouse feel like number one.
Separate vacations. It’s not wrong for a husband to go on a fishing trip or for a wife to get away with her girlfriends. But time apart cannot replace vacationing and spending extended time together. Relaxing and sharing experiences as a couple promotes the marital oneness God designed.
Separate bank accounts. It’s not wrong for a husband and wife to each have a personal allowance, but an effective family budget needs a single operating account. Coordinating your finances and being transparent in your spending is a growth point for many couples, and it grows oneness too.
Separate beds and separate bedtimes. This is not just about sexual intimacy. Something powerful happens when a couple ends their days, as much as they are able, by going to bed at the same time. When they lay their heads on the pillows together, they can talk about the day, pray together, and open up to one another.
Each example of separation is also an opportunity for oneness. Start making a “together” list of activities, practices, and interests you will pursue with each other. Renew your resolve to guard your oneness. Over time, as you make your spouse your consistent priority, the oneness in your marriage can become increasingly strong and life-giving.
Lord, marriage was Your idea, and You designed us for this unique relationship. Thank You for my spouse. Help me to spend less time thinking about ways my mate can improve and more time considering how I can improve. I can’t control my spouse, I can’t control the outcome, but I can do my part to honor and obey You. I entrust myself and my marriage to You. Just as You joined us together, please hold us together, regardless of what trials or circumstances we encounter. Remind me that oneness requires countless little decisions each day mixed with significant choices to make my spouse my number one relationship. Grow us together as Your children. In Jesus’ name, amen.