What Company Do You and Your Spouse Keep?
The company we keep matters. It matters to God, and it matters to us. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Multiple times in the Bible we find God being very specific in His commands concerning the company someone has. When God instructed Noah to build the ark, he told him to bring only his family on the boat with him. Though Jesus dined with sinners for the sake of bringing the gospel to lost people, He traveled side-by-side for three years with twelve hand-picked men.
Choosing Wisely and Learning from Examples
We also find unfortunate consequences when someone did not obey God’s warning about who they live their lives with. In Genesis 12, God called Abram to “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives.” But three verses later, the Scriptures tell us that Abraham’s nephew Lot went with him. Though God never chastises Abraham for bringing his nephew with him, Lot would still end up causing nothing but trouble for Abraham.
Let us also not forget what directly led to idol worship in God’s temple, which King Solomon had just built for the Lord—Solomon marrying foreign women with foreign gods.
Again, the company we keep matters, does it not? Paul even warns us in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” This includes the people we allow to have influence over our marriage. Consider this wife’s testimony:
I remember when we were young and married about 5-7 years there was a couple we spent a lot of time with, and one day we both realized we would always leave our time with them in an argument but didn't know why. They were so toxic towards each other, fighting over everything in front of everyone, and suddenly we too would be arguing over nothing. Needless to say we pulled back from hanging out with them because it wasn't good for our marriage. It was so negative and toxic, and it's easy to be influenced from others. Sadly that couple got divorced not long after.
We’ve heard it discussed many times about how contagious a smile can be. But so is its counterpart. When we surround ourselves with negativity, with people always scowling, always seeing the glass half empty, constantly bickering . . . it’s going to affect us in ways we didn’t foresee. The couple from the above example spent a lot of time with a couple who was always fighting with each other, and guess what? Their toxicity became poison to the other couple with them.
This could easily have been Sarah’s and my fate early in our marriage. In Sarah’s family alone we have counted over twenty divorces. Of course you don’t avoid or shun family because they have made choices you would not have, but imagine if we had regularly submerged ourselves under the influence and tutelage of these twenty bickering couples. But instead of letting them influence us negatively, we were intentional to gain wisdom from observing their bickering lifestyles and making different choices than they had. For the sake of our own marriage and family, we duly noted their mistakes and sought to learn from them.
But we didn’t only learn from the bad examples; we learned keys to marital success from godly, wise believers as well. These positive role models taught us that it was okay to honor the other’s self-interests and needs while making a case for our own. We learned from them that it was a privilege to meet the other’s needs since, in some areas, we were the only ones who could meet these needs.
We also learned from the good company we would keep how best to come through victorious as a couple when hardships arose. We noted that before their hardship, they worked at meeting each other’s needs, responding to their vulnerabilities, finding win-win solutions, and centering on God’s view of them. When the misfortune hit, they did not falter. We knew that we, too, wanted to be that kind of team.
Recognizing Positive and Negative Influences
I am confident that is the kind of team you want you and your spouse to be too. A team that meets each other’s needs, protects each other’s vulnerabilities, finds win-win solutions when you disagree, and comes out stronger as a couple when unexpected hardships arise. But what about the company you regularly keep? What about the couples you spend the weekends with? What about the families you have cookouts and game nights with? Do they have the same marital goals as you? Are any of them like the friends of the wife who wrote who were constantly bickering, always toxic to each other and to those around them?
Of course we do not avoid the world. Jesus dined with sinners and so should we. But there is a time when we are intentionally being salt and light to the world, bringing the hope of Jesus to the lost, and a time when we are being slowly poisoned by those we should not allow to have such negative influence over our lives. It is important we learn to recognize the difference.
What company are you keeping that has influence over your marriage? Because it matters.
Questions to Consider
- The apostle Paul warns us, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Where have you seen that in action in your life, your spouse’s, or the two of you as a couple?
- Have you ever placed much thought in the types of marriages you allow to have influence over your life? Why does this matter?
- What have you learned from observing negative role models around you, as Emerson and Sarah did when they were younger?
- Who have been some positive role models for marriage in your life? What have you learned from them? Do you still seek to learn from them?