Community is one of God’s provisions for us. God’s people should be a source of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), advice (Romans 15:14), fellowship (1 John 1:7), comfort (2 Corinthians 13:11), care (1 Corinthians 12:25), and help (Galatians 5:13) to each other.
That provision extends to our marriages, too. Everyone wants a healthy marriage, and your community group can be a tool God uses to improve your marriage.
It won’t happen automatically, though. Community only works if you collectively work on it. According to the experts—Watermark’s Married Community Directors—here are some ways you can better leverage your community group to build up your marriage.
Be Real, See Real
It’s easy to look at other married couples and think, “Wow, they really have it together!” (Or, sometimes, “Wow, they really don’t!”) But that’s just at the surface level; it’s what you see in their best (or worst) moments, when they are out in public or curating content for social media. When you get to really know couples, like you can in community, it gives you a clearer picture of what marriage is really like.
By walking through life with several couples in community, you get a better idea of what is more or less “normal” or “average.” You can then look at your own marriage and see, “Oh, we’re actually doing a pretty good job of serving and dating each other,” or “The way we often get into heated arguments is not normal and is something we need to get help with.” No marriage is perfect, so everyone will have areas that are strengths or weaknesses; community should encourage you in your strengths and help you identify areas where you can improve.
However, this only works if everyone in your community group is real with each other. Lead out yourself by being honest and letting others see beneath the surface (2 Corinthians 12:9), and ask questions to encourage others to share.
Ask for Best Practices
Community is an opportunity to learn from other couples and their experiences. You can seek to copy their successes and avoid their mistakes.
Take an active role by asking other people in your group for their best practices. Does one husband consistently have the most creative date ideas? Ask to pick his brain. Does one couple do a great job of communicating through conflict? See if they can demonstrate their technique. Or, you could find out how that one couple manages to thrive amidst the chaos of kids.
Proverbs 12:15 says that “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Be wise.
Ask for Feedback
Besides learning from what others in your group are doing, learn from others about what you’ve been doing yourself. We all have blind spots (Psalm 19:12). Your community group can serve as a mirror, describing what they see in your marriage—whether good or bad.
However, don’t just assume that everyone else will speak up and tell you where they see areas for improvement. Actively ask for feedback. “You saw that discussion between my husband and I—did I sound harsh?” “Here’s how I handled this situation yesterday. Is there anything I could have done better?” Carefully weigh the feedback you receive and use it to make changes going forward.
Ask for Help
Hard times will come in life (John 16:33) and in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:28). There’s no shame in that. But it would be a shame for you and your spouse to drown in troubles when there are lifeguards all around you.
So, ask your community for help. Ask for help in emergencies, in everyday difficulties, and in making hard decisions. Even if you don’t think your community group can directly help with an issue, there is a chance one of them might know someone else who can help.
Invite your community group into your struggle; don’t just wait until the problem is over and then report back to them about what happened. People can’t “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) unless they know what the burdens are.
Set Up Challenges
One potential way to spur each other on (Hebrews 10:24) in improving your marriages is to set up challenges or group-wide goals. For example, the men in the group could agree to all spend an entire Saturday focused on serving their wives. Or, you could all challenge each other to read the Bible and pray together as couples every day this month. Just be sure to celebrate successes and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25) when you see someone taking ground in an area.
Your Marriage Is Your First Community
One important thing to remember in all of this is that your marriage itself is your first and most important form of community. You should be living out the “one anothers” of Scripture with your spouse and working together to make sure your marriage is healthy.
In other words, your community group is not a crutch. You shouldn’t come to your community group expecting them to “fix” your marriage if you aren’t willing to put in some work yourself. First “draw a circle around yourself” and seek to grow your marriage together with your spouse. You can (and should) then “widen the circle” to include others when they can be of help.
Here’s something your community group can do to work on your marriages together: attend Watermark’s Uncommon Marriage Conference next month! You can learn more about it and register here.