Let’s get to the heart of the marriage matter! Whether you are a husband or a wife, young or old, everyone could use a few helpful tips for making their marriage strong and more healthy. So, here are a few quick and helpful tips that I hope will benefit your marriage today.
1. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
I have never spoken to another person with such passion as I have when speaking to my wife. Whether it’s an argument or a lengthy discussion, I oftentimes find myself simply waiting for her to stop talking just so I can make my own case or contribute my own point of view. Usually by the end of the conversation, I realize that all I have done is push my point across in an attempt to be understood without every truly seeking to understand her. This is a common problem with both husbands and wives, and if left unchecked, can cause significant harm to the family.
Alan Covey explains this concept in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He calls it “empathetic communication.” In order to truly influence someone in a positive manner, you must first seek to understand them. Marriage makes this difficult because, in many cases, both husband and wife are jockeying for position and grasping for opportunities to establish their own place in the relationship. The continuation of such power-moves can suggest a significant lack of trust within the relationship and can make reciprocal communication difficult.
So, be the one who stops talking and starts listening. Put your need to be understood on hold for a minute, and honestly seek to understand your spouse. You will find that by becoming an “empathetic communicator,” your spouse will feel more valued and appreciated. Don’t be surprised when they reciprocate.
2. Apologize Less.
I know this sounds crazy, right? But the word “apologize,” means “to defend.” In Peter’s first letter, we are encouraged to “make a defense” (apologia/grk) to anyone who asks us to give an account of our faith in Jesus Christ. Peter is telling us to give a reason to the unbelieving world for the way we behave as Christians. So he is not encouraging us to change our behavior; only to explain why we do what we do as we follow Jesus as Lord. Unfortunately when we offer up apologies today to our spouse, they sound like we are simply defending our wrongful or hurtful actions:
“Well, I said that because YOU implied that you weren’t happy with me!” “So, SORRY IF I hurt your feelings!”
Notice that there is no admission of wrongdoing in most of our apologies; only the acknowledgement of possible collateral damage by our words/actions. We can apologize all day long with absolutely no intention or motivation to change our behavior. This makes our apologies insulting and meaningless to our spouse. We must learn to apologize less and repent more in our marriages. It is much easier to apologize than to change direction or to cease certain destructive behaviors, but we must.
3. Forgive More.
Nothing can do more harm to a marriage than resentment. Gary Smalley gives four main reasons for why people like to harbor resentment:
- Protection: “If I build a wall of resentment, then I will never be hurt again.”
- Power: “I’m right, you’re wrong, now I have this on you and you have to grovel to get back.”
- Pity: “Wow, I’ve been hurt. . . . life is so unfair.”
- Performance: “I’ll show them that I’m good enough and worthy to be loved.”
Forgiveness is perhaps the most difficult thing for a person to do in a relationship. The desire to protect oneself from harm is innate. But as new creatures being transformed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can forgive others as He has forgiven us. Make it your aim to outdo your spouse in forgiveness. Be the first to forgive if you can, and forgive often. Resist the strong desire to harbor resentment, and remember what Jesus did for you on the cross. Here are a few words from the apostle Paul that will give you courage:
“Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”
I hope these tips help you today as you grow in your marriage. Please leave a comment below and/or like us on Facebook if you have found this post helpful or encouraging.