Welcome to week four 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. Please feel free to look back through the last three blogs to get caught up, but we pick up this week with numbers 16-20.
16. Be Patient!
Okay, so I’m sure there are some of you reading this one and you’re telling yourself, “I am patient.” I wait for my husband or wife to (insert your long list here). Well guess what? If you look up the definition of “patience,” it not only includes the ability to wait, handle delays, problems, or suffering, but it also means being able to do so without becoming annoyed or anxious. Would anyone like to take a second to amend their list? Just because you don’t voice your annoyances or anxiety doesn’t mean that you are practicing patience. Train yourself to let go of any negative emotions that you experience when you have to wait in your marriage. Gentleman, when you’ve been pacing back and forth in the living room for 20 minutes as your wife changes into her 7th outfit, forget about being late to that event and think about what might be going on in your wife’s mind. Do you think she’s trying on that many outfits to impress the other guys? Let’s hope not! But, chances are that she’s having a day where she’s feeling very self-conscious. Or maybe she just wants to get your attention. You’re starting to get upset with her when all she needs is some comfort and reassurance. Part of serving your wife or husband is learning to wait on them and that’s not just to leave the house. Be patient with when they are working through an obstacle. Be patient when they are dealing with an old wound. Be patient when grief or sorrow comes. Be patient when they are trying to change habits or character traits that they have spent 20, 30, or 40 years creating. Also, while being patient is usually about timing, it’s not always about waiting on your spouse. There are times when you should be slow to speak or act. Weigh your words or actions and be patient with your responses.
“Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Humor is an important part of a relationship, but when I say “laugh,” I’m not just talking about cracking jokes. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at each other. Laugh at your mistakes. Heck, laugh at your obstacles. Life is going to be full of awkward moments, embarrassing moments, hurt, pain – learn to look them all in the eye and smile. There will be flashes of seriousness, but taking life too seriously usually ends up stealing a lot of the joy from your relationships. And that’s what life is about – shared moments with others, especially your spouse!
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
18. Be humble!
If you ask someone why they got married, even the ones that have ended in divorce, chances are that their response will be, “We were in love.” But go back to the ones that did end in divorce and ask what happened and the answer you will typically get is that they were “too different.” Why is this? I don’t doubt that there was a point that they were in love. It’s very possible that they still are. The question I ask is do they love their spouse more than they love themselves? Ah, there’s the rub! All-to-often people say that they are in love, but they aren’t willing to change who they are. And look, I don’t mean fundamental change. I’m not asking anyone to change their core beliefs, but are you willing to change habits? Are you willing to change temperaments? Are you will learning to try new things? Are you flexible? Teachable? Almost every marriage starts out with a lot of love, but do you know why most couples experience a few tough issues after the honeymoon stage? It’s because marriage is really good at pointing out your selfishness. You either learn to put your spouse first, serve them, and be adaptable or chances are you end up separating or having a difficult marriage that isn’t experiencing the joy and intimacy that it should.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ― C.S. Lewis
A lot people here the word intimacy and think of sex. Sex is an important part of a successful marriage, but intimacy is much more than that. In a really healthy marriage, there is a closeness or a bond that goes beyond the bedroom. I remember having a basketball game when I was about 10 years old and I was sitting on the bleachers before the game started and I saw my father holding my mother’s hand. There were also times when we were on family trips and my brother and I were going crazy in the backseat. Dad would start to get frustrated, but my mother would rest her hand on the back of his seat and start running her hand through his hair or massaging his neck. At 10 my thought was, “Yuck!” But as an adult I am grateful for parents who showed me the importance of intimacy in a relationship. Hold hands in public. Kiss your husband or wife! Flirt with each other, especially in front of your kids! Help them to see what a healthy, close relationship looks like. They may give you a hard time about it, especially if they are teenagers, but you are helping to lay the foundation of their expectations of marriage.
“Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone – and finding that that’s ok with them.” ― Alain de Botton
Have you ever heard the term “sweat equity?” In business it refers to the work you put in to build business. In real estate, it’s the things you do personally to improve a property’s value. There is sweat equity in a marriage. There is work you and your spouse need to do to improve the quality of your marriage. So, it is important that your put in the effort and sweat together. But let’s take this beyond the metaphor. Couples who have a really good marriage are usually the ones who enjoy doing activities together, both work and play. Find something that allows you and your spouse to sweat together. It might be athletic – biking, golfing, swimming, or hiking. Or it might be yard work or another project around the house. Better yet, find a way for you and your spouse to sweat together by serving someone else. Help that elderly couple in your neighborhood with yardwork or go serve at a local nonprofit. Literally sweating together will help you and your spouse grow closer to each other.
I hope you enjoyed this series on a healthy marriage. Please share any questions or comments below.