Wednesday, April 06, 2016

3 Tips For A More Christ-Like Marriage

Wendy and I have been married for 27 years now. To be honest, I think our successful marriage is largely the result of compatibility. Wendy is really the perfect person for me, and I believe that I am the perfect person for her. Our strengths and our weaknesses find complements in one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

But our happiness together is something we’ve both worked really, really hard on – and continue to work on – day after day.

Good marriages don’t just happen.

Here are 3 things I can say without a doubt have contributed the most to our relationship:

One: A Commitment To Quick Reconciliation – Basically, we are both willing to do whatever it takes to resolve disagreements, arguments, hurt feelings and misunderstandings as quickly as possible. I mean, in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. Most Christian couples have heard the scripture verse “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” often enough, and whereas that verse isn’t specifically directed at married couples, it is a great policy to keep if you’re serious about strengthening your marriage relationship.

So, when you get your feelings hurt, don’t hold it inside. Find a way, without escalating the emotion, to let them know that they’ve hurt you and how it made you feel.

Wendy adds: "As far as reconciliation goes, I think it's being quick to forgive and to begin the process. But we also should realize that some things will take time to work through. It's not always a quick 100% fix with one conversation. It may take a long time of working together on an issue."

There are rules to this process, of course. You can’t continue to accuse. You have to always choose to believe the best about your spouse. You can’t try to hurt them back in the sharing of the offense. You have to listen – if you’re the one who hurt the other. You have to use language that is focused on how it made you feel and not on what they did or said. Give them an opportunity to explain what happened, and to apologize for what they did. Then – and this is the crucial part – you have to forgive them. That means you don’t bring this up again the next time you’re hurt. It’s forgiven and it’s gone.

Two: Make Their Happiness A Priority – Many marriages fail because each person is more committed to their own personal happiness than they are to the happiness of their spouse. They keep track of all the areas where their spouse isn’t making them happy and over time they build up a resentment against them for failing to prioritize making them happy. However, if they’re honest they’d have to admit that they are guilty of the same crime.  So, instead of waiting for them to do what you expect them to do – prioritizing your happiness over their own – try doing it yourself.

So, instead of always counting the ways that your spouse doesn’t make you happy, try instead to count all the possible ways that you can make them happy. Then start doing those things consistently. When you do that something amazing will happen – they will suddenly realize that you love them, and that you genuinely care about their happiness. Then they will realize that they could do more to make you happy, too. It almost becomes like a game, if you do it right. It’s also not something you should keep secret. Go ahead and let them know that you’re trying to make them happy – not as a way to gain leverage against them or make them feel guilty for not returning the favor – simply because you really do love them and you love making them happy. It works. Seriously.

Wendy adds, Try simply asking "what can I do to bless you today?" to address the specific needs of the other person at that specific time."

In other words, your spouse might need special attention after a bad day. If you don't know how to bless them - ask! They'll appreciate that you noticed their need and they'll most likely tell you exactly how you can help them through whatever they're going through.
Simply put: If you’re both working hard to make the other happy, you’ll both be happy.

Three: Learn Their Love Language – A few years ago a book was published called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman. After over 30 years of counseling Christian couples, Chapman developed an awareness of an important fact: Not everyone gives or receives love in the same way. He identified 5 different ways that people can give or receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

So, if your primary way of expressing and receiving love is Receiving Gifts [for example] then you will try to show your spouse you love them by giving them gifts. But if they primarily express/receive love through “Acts of Service”, then to them you are not showing them love. They’re still waiting for you to wash the dishes, or fix the toilet, or make the bed every morning. And, chances are very good that you’re not receiving their acts of service as love either because you’re still waiting for them to buy you something or give you a gift.

Now, once you identify your own love language, and you understand the love language of your spouse, you can more accurately love them the way they need to be loved most, you can also translate their actions of love to you as sincere expressions of their love, even if that’s not your primary way of receiving it.

Wendy’s love language is acts of service. Mine is words of affirmation. When I tell her I love her, or that she’s beautiful, she knows that this is how I primarily express my love to her. I also know that when I wash the dishes or clean up a mess around the house that I am really making sure she knows I love her. Similarly, when Wendy does something nice for me, I know that she is declaring her love for me, and when she verbally affirms me I know that she is making an intentional choice to say “I love you” in the best possible way for me to receive it.

Of course, there are way more than 3 things you can do to improve your marriage, and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below! But for Wendy and I, these three things have really helped us to prioritize our relationship and work on building one another up.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



NoahM said...

Great advice whether or not you are a Christian, but Tips For A More Christ-Like Marriage... how about praying together, often and about things that concern your spouse, not just you. How about saying grace and giving thanks for your spouse and their loving hands or skills that God has used. How about pledging and reaffirming an awareness that adultery starts with lustful thoughts and you will consciously avoid any temptations that present themselves.

the alternative1 said...

Like you said there are many more then three but you did say WORK and that's the main thing--as your marriage goes along you work at making it better--if it looks like its going to crash then you work at making it endure.

Eli Broome said...

These are wonderful tips for living in a fashion which can agree with the teachings of Christ. I am adamant about telling my friends about how they should be listen to the teachings of our Lord and savior so that they do not find themselves in trouble in the afterlife.

Eli Broome @ The Relation Foundation