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by James Willoughby

I have been married nearly 16 years by the grace of God. About halfway into these 16 years, my marriage nearly ended. Jody and I nearly called it quits and almost became a statistic.

I’’ve never been one to do the ‘expected’ thing though. So instead of taking the easy path, writing each other off and seeking a fresh start, we began a difficult journey.

The road we chose is a painful one. It is fraught with hard truths about our each other and about ourselves.

This journey requires forgiveness, grace, patience, honesty and humility. I want to focus on that last trait –humility– because I believe it is the foundation upon which successful marriages are built.

As I’’ve traveled this narrow path, I keep being brought back to humility, and I keep realizing that the issues I have in my marriage occur when I am lacking in this quality.

Humility is a lofty term and sometimes difficult to translate into practical actions. But, I’’m a practical guy who needs things spelled out for me. So here are four ways that humility has helped my marriage:

  1. Time – I have precious few hours each evening and weekend outside of work. And I usually have a list of 20 things that I want to get done during those times. Being humble with my time means that my list takes a back seat to the needs my family. Where I invest my time reveals what matters most to me. So Jody and I deliberately set aside every Tuesday night to connect with each other. We don’’t only connect on Tuesdays, but budgeting one night a week for our marriage assigns importance and ensures other things don’’t cut into that time.
  2. Conflict – As much as we’’ve grown in this area, conflict still sometimes rears its ugly head. But we’’ve learned to navigate these tough times more effectively. Applying humility in conflict means that I don’’t have to have the last word. I also realistically assess my role in the disagreement—what could I have done differently? And I try to be the first one to apologize and own my junk.
  3. Meeting Needs – This area is especially challenging, because Jody and I have needs that directly conflict with one another. I am an introvert and have a need for peace and quiet, while Jody has a strong need for my verbal affirmation. Being humble in this area means that I am making a conscious effort to understand her needs and to balance those needs with my own. I am striving to be a better communicator in my marriage despite my natural tendency towards quiet solitude.
  4. Growth – To evolve into a better version of me, I have to realistically assess my weaknesses. If Jody points out an area of growth, I don’’t pridefully snap back at her, but I humbly seek the truth. And if the truth is that I am weak in an area, then I work to shore up that area. Being married 16 years, I’’ve had numerous weaknesses exposed. While I haven’’t addressed them all, I continuously work on growing.

Showing a humble heart to my wife has made all the difference in my marriage. I’’m still a very flawed man and husband. I don’’t have all of the above areas figured out, but demonstrating my willingness to grow and to meet the needs of my wife and kids is more important than putting on a façade of perfection.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. –(Proverbs 11:2).



James Willoughby has been married to his wife Jody for 16 years, and they are the parents of two children. James works in the auto industry and in his spare time writes about his adventures in marriage and parenting.  Though he’s lived in seven states and two countries, James has put down roots in small-town Ohio where he and Jody are active in their church’s (Ginghamsburg) marriage ministry.

Reposted with permission. This blog originally appeared here.