Welcome to week three of July, which is “Healthy Relationships” month at Journey Principles. Each week this month I have been looking at 5 of 20 Tips for a Healthy Marriage.
11. It’s in the Presentation!
Has your spouse ever said, “It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it?” I think there are probably some nods of confirmation going on right now. My wife doesn’t use that phrase, but she does talk about my “tone.” Evidently there is a tone that I get when we are in an argument. I used to think she was crazy. “That’s just my normal, everyday voice,” I would say to her… but she would describe it as an ever-increasing tone. Well, when your marriage starts to move toward separation, you start to look for any little thing you can improve or do differently to keep from that happening. I started to listen to myself when we would get in an argument. Guess what? I had a tone. I’m a pretty intense thinker, but I’m a very laid back personality. When we were getting into an argument, however, the analytical part of me would start to take over and I would begin to strategize on how I was going to win that dispute. The defenses would go up and I would get a tone. It wasn’t intentional. It was years in the making. It was a combination of my competitiveness and pride.
I didn’t think it existed, but it did. And even if it didn’t, the fact was that there was something in my speech – be it tone, delivery, or facial expression – that negatively affected my wife when we would get into a discussion. And that’s the point that I want to get to. Whether you agree or disagree, whether it is blatant or a figment of their imagination, if it is real for your spouse it should be real for you. I can hear some of you now saying what a huge concession that is. You might be right. But let me ask you this – isn’t your spouse worth it? If there is a proactive path you can take to hear them out, support their needs, and cultivate healthy discussion, wouldn’t you want to take it? Become aware of your presentation. Tone can change a conversation. A hollow apology will never meet forgiveness. A simple smile can alter the course of an entire day.
“It’s so hard to communicate because there are so many moving parts. There’s presentation and there’s interpretation and they’re so dependent on each other it makes things very difficult.” ― Garth Stein
12. Know Your Role
So, I just mentioned how analytical I am. It’s in my DNA. I assess, evaluate, and devise a best course of action for…well…everything. I like to fix things, improve things, find a better, simpler, or more efficient path to the best possible outcome. This aspect of my personality is almost always handy at work, but it is not always beneficial in my marriage. Why? Because sometimes my wife doesn’t want me to fix things; she just wants me to listen. It goes against everything that I am. But, in a marriage, there are times when you have to know your role in order for you to be the support system your husband or wife needs in that moment. Very often, my instincts kick in and I will still try to fix things. So, my wife, being the understanding and supportive woman that she is, will be patient with me and my nature and say, “Nathan, right now I just need you to listen. I don’t need you to fix it.” And the more patient she is with me the more I begin to realize when I go into “fix it” mode. Now, very often, when I see her getting ready to vent I will actually ask her if she wants advice or wisdom, or does she just need me to listen. It’s a game-changer kids!
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19
Many people say that trust is the cornerstone of a healthy marriage. I believe that God is the cornerstone of a healthy marriage, but outside of Him, trust is probably the next best thing! But honesty is not always easy. In fact, very often, it can be one of the ugliest parts of this world. However, it is vital to a growing and thriving relationship. Being vulnerable is probably one of the biggest challenges in life. It’s difficult to admit shortcomings and weaknesses. But I promise you this: relationships become increasingly more challenging when you refuse to be vulnerable. When your spouse doesn’t get to see and know the real you, to love you in spite of your failures, to be there to support you through those moments, you are robbing yourself and your loved one of one of the greatest intimacies. Love is forgiveness. Love is acceptance. Love is looking past any and all imperfections and resting in commitment. Love is honesty.
“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
14. Guard Your Hearts
We live in an over-sexualized society. Sex is everywhere. It’s in our movies, on our TVs, in our music, billboards, and magazines. Our culture has become so superficial, objectifying others based on their sexual appeal. So it should be no surprise that lust can play a significant role in the state or our marriages. What are you subjecting your mind to? How does it affect the way you operate within your marriage? What unfair curiosities or expectations does it add to the intimacy of your marriage? What does it steal from the way you view your husband or wife?
Guard your hearts! Be intentional about not letting anything come between you and your spouse. Even those little thoughts affect the quality of your relationship. And yes, there is a “slippery slope” argument to be made here. The best way to avoid temptation in your marriage is to remove it. Guys, do you find yourself flirting with a co-worker? Take the long way around the office back to your desk. Ladies, do you keep running into that same cute guy at the coffee shop? Get coffee somewhere else. Do not let anything encroach upon the sanctity of your marriage! Guard your minds and guard your hearts!
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)
15. Pray Together and for Each Other
I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Praying together is so important in keeping your marriage focused on what matters and that is staying in God’s will, but guess what? It does so much more than that! There is an honesty and vulnerability when it is just you and God, but amazing things can happen when you can share that intimacy with your spouse. It’s like giving them a little window into your heart. They see the things you think about, that you care about, things that might normally go unspoken in a marriage. Start praying for each other. Thank God for your spouse and name the things you are grateful for. It will show your husband or wife how much you appreciate them and that there are little things that you notice that aren’t overlooked. Pray for their protection throughout the day: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your kids. Pray and praise God for the many was that He has blessed your family. Praying brings you both closer to God which means it brings you closer to each other. Prayer keeps you humble, it gives you peace, it can give wisdom, it empowers, it protects, it gives direction, it changes perspective, it beckons grace and mercy, it helps you remain thankful, and it can dispel any fears or anxieties. Could your marriage use a little more of all of those things? I know mine could! You want to strengthen your marriage? Strengthen your relationship with God. Pray together! It makes all the difference in the world.
Come back next week for the final installment of this series, 20 Tips for a Healthy Marriage
Did anything speak to you today? Please share it in the comments section below. As always, please let us know if you have any questions. We are happy to help!