The Marriage Relationship and the Individual

A profound mystery of marriage Paul wrote about in Ephesians 5 is that two distinct individuals become one flesh in the marriage relationship. One flesh means that husband and wife give up the right to do whatever they please; they choose to live within the marriage relationship and share their whole life with each other. God’s design for marriage is that while husband and wife remain individuals, they choose to subordinate their individuality to the marriage relationship. Each spouse must be more concerned about the marriage than themselves. This is seen in 1 John 3:16 where love is defined by Jesus’ example of giving up Himself for others. Loving one’s spouse means giving up of themselves.

Yet, the culture today tells us that our lives are all about the individual; ‘You deserve a break today,’ ‘Have it your way,’ ‘Where do you want to go today,’ or ‘Because you’re worth it.’ Even in the church we hear; ‘God wants you to be happy,’ ‘You just need to find your soulmate,’ or ‘You deserve to be happy in your marriage,’ People are bombarded with the you messages, but is the individualism that is so much a part of American culture and now taking hold in many cultures around the world Biblical?

Is your marriage about the individual? Or is it about something greater?

Biblically, marriage is not about the individual. The individuality esteemed by culture today is not part of God’s plan for marriage, family, or society. Mankind is created in God’s image for relationship, unity, and community, and while there certainly is room for individual creativity, skills, and abilities, it all should be used for the good of the community. Marriage should reflect the very nature of God – the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being one in direction, purpose; having no separate agendas or vision for the future.

The culture may focus on the individual, but Christianity focuses on others.
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The culture may focus on the individual, but Christianity focuses on others. Jesus is our example! Yet, many Christians cling tightly to their individual rights and seem to expect their spouses, the church, and the world to satisfy their every need and desire. As Jesus said multiple times, ‘In the beginning it was not this way.’ Yes, selfishness was seen as soon as Genesis, chapter 3 with the first couple’s desire to know as God knows, and then with their first two sons. That selfishness has been the plague of mankind ever since and is seen in most every marriage. No, I am not saying that one spouse must put up with the sin of the other. The Bible very clearly states that we are to address sin, but most of the problems seen in marriage relationships are about conflicting desires – the couple sees the world differently and want different things. Where is the oneness in marriage when we hold on to our own desires as if they are God’s eternal truths?

The answer is to reject the individualism of the culture and embrace the community God desires in marriage and in the church. Our marriage is supposed to be an earthly representation of the very nature of God. We are to submit to one another as Christians, working toward the greater goal of reaching the lost for Christ. Yes, I said, ‘Submit one to another!’ The husband is the spiritual leader of the home, but when he is in sin, we are now talking about two Christians dealing with a sin issue. Rather than arrogantly standing on his headship, the husband must subordinate his individuality to the good of the marriage. We must quit thinking so much about me and begin thinking about we. ‘What is good for us, our marriage, and our family.’ Are you one with your spouse in direction, purpose, agenda, and vision for your future? Yes, be yourself – for the good of your spouse and your marriage. That is Christianity at work in the marriage relationship.


Chris Garner founded and leads Fortified Marriages Ministry, working full-time in the ministry for the past 11 years. With his wife of 36 years, he has been involved in marriage ministry for the past 25 years, counseling, leading small groups, mentoring couples and training couples to minister to other couples. Chris earned a Marriage & Family Therapy Master’s degree from Liberty University, is an AACC Board Certified Christian Counselor and wrote the Fortified Marriages Marriage Manual and Workbook, published in 2006 and updated and revised in 2017. More information can be found at

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