How to Upgrade Your Marriage

Women, do you have to earn your husband’s attention and affection?

Men, do you have to earn your wife’s acceptance?


The Old, Weary Way

If your marriage is based on EARNING, then you have an old-covenant (OC) relationship. OC marriages are common because this type of relationship comes naturally to us. It works like this:

You do something, and then I will give you the wages which your behavior earned.

If you please me, I will give you good things because you earned them.

If you displease me, I will withhold the good stuff because you didn’t earn it. 

And if you really displease me, I will give you the punishment that you earned!

This system makes sense to us, for the most part. But it is maddening when we don’t know what our spouse wants, or when our spouse makes demands that we didn’t agree to, or when our spouse doesn’t evaluate our actions the way we do.

Furthermore, it is not a very pleasant or energizing way to live. It reduces marriage to an ordinary bartering system instead of a special, cherishing union.

In OC marriages, husbands have to earn respect. They might have to earn sex. Wives have to earn affection and focused attention. Both men and women have to earn appreciation and approval.

This kind of relationship can be exhausting! We must keep evaluating our spouses, and then we must keep paying or punishing according to what they have earned. In addition to that, and most urgently, we must keep earning our own wages.

The whole earning thing can be depressing, actually.


A New, Life-giving Way

But we don’t have to live this way! We can make a radical upgrade to a new-covenant (NC) marriage.

New-covenant marriages are based on GIVING. This means that we can freely give to our spouses what they need. In NC marriages, women give unconditional respect to the spirits of their husbands. In NC marriages, men give unconditional tenderness and warmth to their wives. Both husbands and wives give honor and kindness to one another. And both give genuine acceptance to one another.

Of course, there may be times when we must reject certain behaviors, but we do not reject one another.



There is a passage in the Bible that makes a vivid distinction between an OC relationship with God and an NC relationship with God. We read in Hebrews 12:18-24 that the old covenant of earning a friendship with God is characterized by darkness, fear, cringing, and punishment. But the new covenant of receiving a friendship with God has none of that! Instead, it is full of bright celebration and joy.

Likewise, when we exchange an OC marriage for an NC marriage, the change is dramatic.

When we eliminate the requirement to earn in our marriages, we can redirect immense energy into building our friendship instead. A commitment to give to one another releases new power to succeed and to thrive. We gain motivation and confidence.

This marriage upgrade frees us from the need to earn and evaluate. Instead, we can focus on enjoying.

Photo Credit: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo


Tami Myer is an enthusiastic cheerleader for marriage. As a speaker and writer, Tami shares God's design of marriage so that husbands and wives can experience the thriving that God offers them. Tami is the author of Radiance: Secrets to Thriving in Marriage (a book for wives) and Devoted: Pressing In to Know Christ More. She encourages couples at her website MannaForMarriage, and she leads husbands and wives to "fight on their knees" for their marriages through a weekly online/phone prayer call. Through 31 years of marriage, Tami and her husband have found God's design of marriage to be trustworthy. Along with their three children, they make their home in Palm Bay, Florida.

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