How to Model God’s Design for Marriage

Published on June 04, 2021

I (Kristin) don’t like clutter. I like tidy spaces and cleared counters—everything in its place. My kids know this about me. Some of them share this love for order and others of them don’t.

One Sunday morning several years ago I was getting everyone ready for church. I finished preparing breakfast and headed upstairs to get myself ready. On my way up, I happened to peek in on one of our sons. As I entered his room, I noticed that his closet was anything but tidy. Actually, it was a train wreck. There was a mountain of dirty clothes, trash, an apple core (at least he ate fruit), too many toys, and lots of junk. Clean clothes and dirty clothes were living in the same spot. “You have to clean this up! This is unacceptable,” I told him, “Your room looks great, but your closet is the worst!”

I felt so validated in my lecture on the need to be tidy and orderly. It is important, after all. I let him know I would be back in a bit to check on him, and I headed to my room. He said, “Yes, ma’am,” and began to straighten things up. I did notice on my way out that though his tone was respectful, his body language showed frustration and discouragement. When I got to my room and opened my own closet, I realized why. Talk about a mess! Although there was no trash or apple cores, it was anything but tidy. There were baskets of clothes that needed folding, stacks of things to take to Goodwill, boxes of out of season clothes, and several half-finished projects. Wow! I was immediately convicted. I realized that my son’s closet reflected what I was modeling, not what I was saying. I needed to walk my talk.

We learned early on in our parenting journey that the mantra “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work very well. Our children tend to imitate what we do – whether good or bad. If we eat junk, so do they. If we yell at other drivers on the road, they yell too. If our closets are messy, their closets are as well. Our children notice everything we do. They notice what is important to us. They sense what we value. And they can easily tell when what we teach is different from what we model. Children, especially teenagers, are fabulous hypocrisy detectors. What we say is important but what we model is even more crucial.

As we model God’s design in our own marriages, we give our children a foundation for how to think rightly about God’s design. We give them a picture of a relationship to aspire to have one day. We open the door to opportunity after opportunity to talk about God’s design for marriage. So, if we know that being marriage-centered is God’s design for human sexuality, how do we model it for our children?

1. Pay attention to leaving and cleaving.

Leaving and cleaving is a huge part of modeling what it looks like to be truly marriage-centered. Genesis commands that we do it (Genesis 2:24). It is part of God’s good and perfect design for boys and girls to grow up to leave their parents for a better and higher relationship – that of husband and wife. As our children see us making our spouse a priority, they will begin to understand how they fit into the family.

Two of our sons got married in 2019. They both married wonderful girls. We love our daughters-in-law fiercely. They are absolutely an integral part of the Scroggins family. Our sons have new loyalties now. It is no longer their mom and dad, but their wife who is the primary and most important relationship. If they had to choose between a relationship with us or with their wife, they would choose their wife every time. When they are considering plans and goals, they speak to their wife first. That is exactly as it should be. That is leaving and cleaving.

We are called to model this for our children. This principle not only prepares our children for their future mate, but it also prepares us to release our children one day. There are few things worse than clingy parents who interfere with their married children. We want to always be a part of their lives and available to help them and encourage them as they need, but we don’t want to inject ourselves without invitation. We want to help them leave and cleave.

2. Speak positively to your spouse and about your spouse.

Our children will likely see the world through our lens. Their view of the world around us and of those living in it is shaped by the things we say. This is why you have first graders proclaiming their political affiliation at the school lunch table. They don’t know a thing about political parties, nor the candidates who represent those parties. They do know, however, who their parents line up with, so that’s who they line up with too.

Likewise, the things we say to our spouse and about our spouse impact our children greatly. If we communicate to our children the great things we notice about each other, they notice them too. I (Kristin) know that Jimmy is hard-working, loyal, faithful, and discerning. I want my children to see those things in him and it’s my job to point those characteristics out to them. I (Jimmy) know that Kristin is hard-working, wise, patient, and loving. We could dwell on each other’s weaknesses, but why would we do that? We want to be faithful to communicate the best things about each other so that our children will believe the best as well, and one day do the same with their spouse.

3. Show affection for each other in marriage.

Showing affection for our spouses on a regular basis is important. Our children are convinced that we love and enjoy each other when they see us taking the time to be affectionate. It communicates love and admiration for our spouse and reinforces the fact that this relationship is the priority. Our children will act like it annoys them to see us kissing each other or embracing each other too long. Who cares? It is better for them to be a little uncomfortable than to wonder if mom and dad even like being together. If this does not come easy for you, work on it anyway. It’s worth the work because it provides another layer of confidence and security for children.

4. Healthy sex life in marriage.

How does a healthy sex life model marriage to our children? Our children shouldn’t even know about this part of our marriage, right?

Well, obviously this is a private and intimate part of our marriage only shared with each other. However, it really affects every other area of our marriage. Sex is communication. When we have a healthy sex life, we communicate to our spouse that they are important, that we value them, enjoy them, and want to be with them and only them. When this is right, it makes it so much easier to think of and speak well of one another. It helps us to show affection for each other, and it helps us communicate with each other in other areas. When our spouse feels wanted and cared for physically, they tend to be more willing to communicate about other things. When our spouse is confident that our love, affection, and admiration are exclusively for the other, we tend to be more confident in every area of our relationship. Our children see that this is true and they see the importance of it being so.

5. Pay attention to being on the same page in marriage.

Lastly, we must make sure we are on the same page with our spouse. This is a huge part of modeling God’s design for marriage. This, like all the other things we have mentioned, takes time and intentionality. Our children must know that mom and dad are together. There is no way for the child to be in the middle, because mom and dad are one unit. Of course, we will have differences of opinion, different outlooks, and different priorities from time to time. But we have to talk about those things behind closed doors and away from the children. Mom and dad need to be on the same page so that the child knows what to expect. Predictability is key.

Excerpted with permission from Full Circle Parenting: A Guide for Crucial Conversations by Kristin and Jimmy Scoggins. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing.

Looking for other resources on marriage? Check out the articles below:

  1. Investing in your marriage is worth the sacrifice
  2. Yes, you need a marriage mentor
  3. Reimagine your relationship: How to reorient your marriage after you become parents
  4. Why you should prioritize your marriage over your parenting
  5. Can I Really Trust God?


Having a healthy marriage first and foremost is one of the keys to successful parenting. Watch this video from Jamie and Aaron Ivey on why investing in your marriage affects your parenting more than you realize.

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Kristin & Jimmy Scroggins

Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins have been married for twenty-six years and have eight children: James (Reilly), Daniel (Mary-Madison), Jeremiah, Isaac, Stephen, Anna Kate, Mary Claire, and Caleb. They have served at Family Church since Jimmy became the lead pastor in July 2008. Under Jimmy’s leadership, Family Church has grown to a network of neighborhood churches in South Florida. The Scroggins family is passionate about Family Church’s mission to build families by helping them discover and pursue God’s design. 

Read more about Kristin & Jimmy

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