What does it take to have a great marriage? I believe the greatest marriages are made of a husband and wife who are committed to meeting each others’ needs and serving one another. There are five servant rules, and you can remember with the acronym S-E-R-V-E.
S: Supply what your spouse needs, not what YOU need.
Your spouse isn’t like you. Their major needs are not the same as yours. Generally speaking, a man’s primary needs are honor and respect, sex, friendship with his wife and domestic support. A woman’s major needs are security, nonsexual affection, open and honest communication and leadership.
Men and women are different. If your spouse tells you something they need—but you don’t understand it—your tendency might be to shame or reject them for it. Don’t do that! Listen to your spouse’s needs and work to meet them.
E: Enjoy serving your spouse and do it with a joyful attitude.
When you serve your spouse with joy, it communicates love, value, acceptance and priority. They need to understand that you aren’t meeting their needs out of duty or obligation, but because you want to.
When you grudgingly serve your spouse, it doesn’t communicate love. It communicates how little you value them. If you are going to meet your spouse’s needs, do it with a positive attitude.
R: Reject scorekeeping.
Redemptive love is love given whether we deserve it or not. We can follow Jesus’ example by acting from a spirit of grace and faith.
1 Peter 3:7 talks about redemptive love, and implies that men who don’t honor their wives risk alienating themselves from God. You cannot disassociate the way you treat your spouse from your relationship with God.
V: Vigilantly protect the priority of your marriage.
It takes energy to serve and you can’t spend your marriage being too tired to meet each other’s needs. Yes, all of us spend our days serving customers or patients or clients at work. Then we get home and serve our children. That’s tiring. But if we are constantly too tired to serve each other, then our priorities are out of order.
Our priorities are made clear by who we serve first and who we serve best. God created marriage so that the marriage comes first. The biggest dangers to a marriage aren’t necessarily bad things, but good things—kids or work—out of priority.
Find a way to develop disciplines and traditions in your marriage that keep your marriage first. Carve out time to be together, to talk face to face, and if you’re parents, to spend time together without the kids. Children are a temporary assignment. Protect your marriage today so it will thrive even after the kids leave home.
E: Expect to be blessed.
Don’t get discouraged. Remember, Jesus promised that “whoever is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. We have to trust that God will honor us for following His example of sacrificial love.
If you will humble yourself and serve your spouse, God will exalt you and bless your marriage. You’ll have a wonderful marriage, because every servant marriage is a great marriage.