Building A Healthy Marriage: Your First Steps

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Building a healthy marriage? It starts with good habits and intentionality. My dad wore work shoes most of the time. He had a pair of low-top steel-toe shoes that he wore with white socks and pants rolled up, if that paints a picture. He rarely wore dress shoes. Church, funerals, and weddings. That’s it. But he always polished them before he wore them.

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” — Ephesians 5:28 NIV

Helpful Advice from my Dad

When he died, I got a pair of his dress shoes – classic wingtips. I wore them to his funeral, and yes, I had them shining. It’s funny that those shoes were so old that the leather was falling apart by the end of the funeral. It had been years since they had been worn. I thought maybe it was his way of saying, “don’t fill my shoes; you wear your own.”

I used to ask my dad for advice. He had a way of boiling things down to the basics. I remember someone complaining that her employer made her make coffee. Dad just said, “If you make it bad enough, they’ll stop asking.” It worked. As I got older, he started answering with a classic Chester breakdown “If I was dead, what would you do?” It was his way of telling me to think for myself.

Yesterday I was working on my classic wingtip boots, and a question popped in my mind. Will my kids remember me doing this? I never thought about it as a kid, but now it is one of my favorite memories of my dad. He taught us how to do it just like he learned in the Army. Parade worthy, every time. I love the smell of Kiwi Brown polish. It reminds me of him. I start every week with a fresh polish. I can wear a pair of shoes out so bad the sole is gone, but the leather looks brand new.

Do My Habits Lead to a Healthy Marriage?

Also, if I am concerned about this particular detail, am I concerned enough about the details in my relationship with my wife? I don’t want short cuts in this area. A marriage that looks good on the outside but has holes in the soles will leave holes in the soul. It’s corny, but true. If my wife sees me working on every detail of my life except her, there’s a problem.

My role in my marriage is only optional in that I could have decided not to be married. That would have been stupid, but I mean that if I want to do an excellent job as a husband, I have work to do. Where are my scuffs? Maybe I’m working too much or not working enough. Maybe we do not laugh enough or we only laugh and never deal with the hard stuff in a loving and helpful way. Perhaps we need to sit in the same room for a while and have a cup of coffee.  

There are times my wife looks exhausted. Do I ask how much have I been adding to the fatigue instead of carrying my weight? In my opinion, that includes her and all of the things that weigh on her. She may need physical rest, and that has a place. However, she may be emotionally or spiritually spent. In those times, I can be helpful or useless. I can spiritually guide and support, or I can watch and see where she ends up. Which way will I lean? It’ll contribute to if I have a healthy marriage or not.


Author: Rick Claiborn

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