Recently someone said, "I know so many couples that have split up I'm beginning to wonder if it's even possible to have a happy marriage!"
At the time every reply I thought of sounded lame. All day long her remark kept my brain on simmer.
Here's what I wish I had said to her.
For starters, I know of three essentials for a strong marriage.
- Commitment - Putting each other and one's marriage first.
It's vital that we love and value each other most--and say so. Just as important we give our all to making our marriage work. We put our marriage relationship first, even above our children. (Yes, I know, little ones demand constant attention, but that stage doesn't last forever.)
Jobs and children and extended family get in the way of concentrating on each other. That's real life, so every day it's a constant shuffle. Seven days a week we give and take and adjust, knowing the balance will keep changing depending on need.
What matters is remembering what--and who--counts most.
Truth: A marriage that gets only leftover scraps of our time and energy may endure, but it will be only a shadow of what marriage can be.
- Communication - Being honest--and kind--with each other.
"We don't communicate" is a frequent complaint, especially from wives to husbands. (Husbands are likely to answer, "What do you mean? We talk all the time.")
It helps to remember that God wires males and females differently. Just watch any small boy and girl of similar age. Little girls talk. And talk. And talk. Little boys make noises and run and jiggle around.
So it's natural for most women to feel comfortable opening up and thinking talking helps two people understand each other.
The typical male does not share that perception.
Dr. James Dobson once said most men do not know what they're feeling until their wife tells them.
Building a life together is somewhat like peeling an onion. We may not be aware of it, but each of us wears layers of self-protection. We hold back from letting others know "the real me" until we feel utterly safe with them.
Even with our husband or wife.
It takes awhile to build that kind of trust. Learning to be free and open with each other is an ongoing process. Be patient.
- Love - Selfless. Giving. Accepting.
Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you," (John 13:34.)
He literally gave His life. Applied to marriage, it means we're to be willing to set aside our own wants and needs for the sake of what our husband or wife wants or needs. Sometimes one "wins," sometimes the other.
If each one does this it becomes precious and mutually satisfying.
It means we can count on our husband or wife, no matter what.
A new way to think
All this becomes easier if we set our minds in different grooves. After marriage it's:
- "We," not "I"
- "Us," not "me"
- "Ours," not "mine"
When we think "we," not "I," we change the way we act.
Our thoughts lead to words and our words set the tone for our lives--and for our marriages.
Good advice from the Apostle Paul
As always, Paul keeps it plain and simple as he counsels us how to live as God's people. The same truths apply to building a happy marriage.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 NIVLove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV