Updated: Apr 11
by Moyra & Lawrence Leong
It takes commitment and hard work to make a marriage strong. Here are 7 lessons that we have learnt which I hope will be beneficial to you as well.
1. Building a marriage centred on the Word of God
One of the lessons I have learnt from the earlier experiences was not to make a decision without consulting God. Had I sought the Lord on my decision to live with my parents, God would have prevented it. Obviously, there were some underlying problems in our marriage and living with my parents merely magnified those issues.
Problems in marriages do not go away on their own. We need to resolve the areas of friction by approaching them head-on, honestly and in love. Be the first to make the first move in reconciliation. This is critically important when your marriage is no longer “alive”. Never allow your marriage to die a natural death when you could do something to revive it. Trust me, you will be amazed at the rekindled love and the vibrancy of your marriage.
The secret to keeping marriages “alive” is to seek the best interests of your spouse while becoming a better version of yourself as well. When we centred our marriages on the Word of God, He will provide us with the kind of peace and happiness that only He can provide.
2. Manage your finances as a couple
Money is one of the major issues that led to disagreement and strife. Hence, early in our marriage, we have mutually agreed to let Moyra manage our joint savings account as she is good with numbers.
We also have a policy that we must inform each other whenever we spend more than $250 on any expenditures. This is what we call accountability which is necessary for good financial management. We also have this practice of having both our signatures when we issue cheques, especially on big ticket items. This practice allows us to implement proper checks and balances of our expenditures and on many occasions prevent us from making unnecessary expenses. All our bank accounts are jointly owned, and we have excess to all transactions.
This may appear to be a small matter to some people, but it has given us clear guidelines in how to manage our finances and help us to master our money instead of becoming slaves to our money.
3. Be honest with each other
Since the day we started working together at AIA, we are inseparable. We see each other almost 24/7. We would leave for office together, work together and go home together.
Many friends and colleagues wonder how we are able to do that for decades. Well, the secret is to have no secret. In a marriage relationship, absolute openness and honesty is necessary if we want our marriages to thrive. Of course, there will be times when being honest might cause the other half to be upset with you. That’s why it is important for us to speak the truth in love which is to take into consideration the other person’s feelings while telling the truth. It takes practise to master this art, and a truly skilful and loving communicator will be sensitive to the consequences of his words and actions.
It is important to articulate your feelings and thoughts to your spouse. Try speaking words like: “I'm sorry, please forgive me!”; “I’m so glad I’m married to you”; “I love just being with you”; “I’m proud of you”; “If I’m given an opportunity to marry again, I will still choose you”.
4. Never criticise in public
As couples spend time with one another, conflicts will happen. And more often than not, we tend to criticise each other over our faults. When we get angry with each other, it is often because one party see in that person a negative quality. But as Paul reminds us: “Never act from motives of rivalry vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s points of view (Philippines 2: 3-4).
The lesson is to look beyond our hurt to see the other person’s hurt. To do that, we need God to help us. Never criticise one another in public as it is not pleasing to God. Instead, we should settle the matter privately and in love.
5. Be submissive
One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible are found in Ephesians 5:22-33, “Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church [a]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are parts of His body. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, as for you individually, each husband is to love his own wife the same as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (NSAB Version)
Some years ago while on a visit to USA, I was invited by my brother-in-law to share at a Life Group meeting comprising of business professionals and professors at top universities in the USA. They wanted to know the secret to my 35 years of marriage as a couple. I told them frankly that there was no secret to our decade-long happy marriage. The secret was found in the Word of God which we both simply obey and apply. When we do that God says He will bless our marriage richly.
The audience were taken aback by our sharing as many of them were not aware of the biblical roles as a Christian couple as instructed in the Word of God. Many ladies found this truth unbelievable and unpractical in our modern society to actually submit to their husbands. Being professionals and having high positions in society with high income to submit to one’s spouse is not practical in today’s situation.
To submit to their husbands is to respect the authority and leadership that husbands have over the family. Of course, this is a two-way road, for the wives to submit to the husbands, husbands need to love and respect their wives as well.
For example, as much as I wanted Moyra and I to attend a bible course together, I allow her to think through, respecting her decision. She eventually decided to attend the course with me after learning more about the course as well as respecting my leadership over this matter.
Moyra and I shared the many blessings and the harmony of our marriage relationship in the home and business over the years by simply following this biblical principle which is clearly written in the Word of God. We rarely have big arguments as we make it a commitment to respect each other’s decisions. I am very thankful as Moyra has been a wonderful partner and would always respect and support my decisions as the head of the family.
I have also witnessed the many happy marriages when couples follow this advice strictly and allow God to take over the management of their family by following these godly principles.
6. Discover the love language of your spouse
Some years ago, I attended a seminar on the 5 Love Languages presented by Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages. It was one of the most enlightening seminars I attended with my wife. Gary Chapman shared that there are 5 love languages generally expressed by most people:
1.Words of Affirmation- Using Words to affirm.
2.Gifts- Using gifts as an expression of love
3.Acts of Services -Doing something for your spouse that they would like you to do.
4.Quality Time- Giving them your undivided attention
5.Physical Touch- Using physical touch to express love in a relationship like marriage.
The key is to discover the Primary love language of your spouse and speak it to her on a regular basis. With this understanding, I can understand my spouse better and will work to complement her to meet her needs.
My primary love language is physical touch, I love holding her hands or giving her a hug to show my affections. When I started to understand that Moyra’s primary love language was acts of services, I decided to start serving her. In doing so, she began to respond to me more positively. Over time, our love for each other grows to a deeper level.
For example, I am always the one who pay for the meals when we are dining outside, but Moyra will be the one who orders as she knows my tastes well and always manages to order portions that are just nice for the family. If I were to order, I would most often end up ordering too much food. Also, when I am out with Moyra, I would be the one who provides the directions, and she enjoys that. These acts of services may seem small, but Moyra feels loved seeing me do them. Once her love tank is full, she will in turn, turn her focus to me and fill my love tank. In other words, we have become mutually reliance on each other.
Most couples do not understand why their spouses acted in a certain way even though they have been showering them with love. The truth is you have been using the wrong love language. It will never be enough to just love our spouses in our own ways, we need to meet their needs as well. Hence, it is important to know their primary love languages so you can act upon it. If I only love Moyra with my primary love language, she will not be satisfied as that is not how she feels loved.
I strongly encourage you to read the book and apply the lessons mentioned to enhance your marriage.
7. Never leave home without your spouse
Whenever I leave home whether on business or overseas business trips, I will always make sure my wife follows me.
Other than on company conventions where it does not fall on school holidays when my children are younger, I rarely travel alone. Even when I am invited to speak overseas, I will usually request for an extra ticket for my wife as it helps me to have the peace of mind as I do not want to leave her at home all by herself.
Sexual immorality is very prevalent in this time and age, not to mention the rising divorce rate among Singaporeans. With so many temptations around, it is ideal to inform your family or good friends to pray for you while you are away as a form of accountability. We need to guard our hearts if we want our marriages to remain strong.
Lastly, a marriage where Jesus Christ is at the centre of your marriage will bring much joy and happiness to your life because it is a gift from God. Though He does not guarantee a problem-free marriage, He, however, has a marriage template in the Bible that shows us what a good marriage looks like.