It may seem like a contradiction that we give Ten Great Marriage Tips in the Marriage Message this week and then I turn around and say that marital tips won’t work. So, let me explain.
I contend that unless you APPLY the marital tips to your marriage relationship —the advice is empty. You can have all of the best tools right at your fingertips, but if you don’t pick them up and use them, they’re essentially useless.
We see that a lot in this ministry. We’ll put together an article on a particular topic and feel pretty certain that it can help in many marital circumstances. Then we’ll get a comment right below it from someone asking us what to do about the same type of circumstance that was written above.
Our response is, “read the article —that would be the advice we would give.”
Disconnect on Marital Tips
Many times there is a disconnect between what we read, and what we do about it. And I’m not throwing stones here. I’ve been in this same situation many times. So I’ve failed at this too.
I’ll sometimes read something and think “that’s great advice.” But then I’ll turn around and do that, which shows I really didn’t take that advice to heart. Grrr!!! I know that I’m wrong. I’m living out the Romans 7:15 principle that Paul talks about in the Bible:
“For what I do is not the good I want to do. No, the evil I do not want to do —this I keep on doing.” (New International Version)
The New Living Translation puts it this way, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.“
The English Standard Version words it the following way, “For I do not do the good I want. But the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.“
Essentially they’re all saying the same thing. They’re just putting forth different interpretations of the same principle. I see what I DON’T want to do and I do it anyway. Or I see what I DO want to do and know I should do. But I don’t do it. God have mercy!
Hesitancy and Forgetfulness
Lets face it, when we see marital tips, very few of us are eager to try them. Sometimes we are (because we hope it works), but not often. We can get skeptical or lazy or stubborn in thinking, “I shouldn’t HAVE to do this.” But as the saying goes, “How’s that working for you?” It isn’t, or you wouldn’t be seeking help.
Sometimes we just fall back onto old habits. We forget the new tool that’s available that might help us with a particular marriage challenge. For example, the “Featured Article,” which is Communication Tools for Couples can seem handy. But we can forget to use them and fall into the same rut of throwing accusations around. We’re still talking over one another and not truly listening. That is, UNLESS we fall forward. In other words, when we don’t do what we should, and realize that we’ve failed once again. We then pick ourselves up with a repentant heart and go forward renewing our effort to try again. That is at least some forward progress. It’s progress, even if it took a fall to get there. It’s not the best way, but it’s better than no forward progress.
Pick Self Up
I’m reminded of Eric Liddell. He was the man who won an Olympic race and was featured in the movie, “Chariots of Fire”. In an earlier race, Eric was a strong favorite to win the 440-yard dash at the 1923 Triangular International. However, 15 yards after the start, he laid sprawled across the track infield. He was the victim of an intentional tripping incident.
At that point he had a decision to make. He could either give up or finish the race. Eric decided to pick himself up and resume his race. With the finish line drawing near, Eric Liddell drew upon his upmost reserves. In the end, he crossed the tape 3 yards ahead of his nearest competitor… the man who tripped him.
Now of course, not all endings are as glorious as this one. But the point isn’t whether Eric won or not. Rather, it’s what he did when he was faced with defeat. He ran, despite the loss of a dream that he worked so very hard at —one that appeared to be sabotaged. He could have laid there and cried and screamed “foul.” Many people would think he would have been justified in doing so. But instead, he reached within and grabbed onto the courage to “finish the race.” And thankfully, he did it well.
From This Day Forward
That’s what I’m suggesting. Ask God to show you how to proceed from “this day forward, reaching forth” so you are able to press on in life… looking to God for help.
Don’t allow yourself to stay down. Work along with God, to pull yourself up. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13-14, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth into those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” In other words, Press on… don’t allow yourself to stay down.
And if you have a spouse who falls a lot, be a partner and help to pick him or her up and start again. Yes, I know that can get tiring. And yes, I know that sometimes we can become enablers. I’m not talking about that situation. Sometimes you need to apply sensible boundaries. I’m encouraging you to ask God if you should go the extra mile in helping your spouse. In doing so, you’re helping your marriage.
We marry so we can join hands and hearts and actions together so we’re stronger. If a partner is limping along, they may be one who needs an extra help in some way.
I realize that I’m writing in the abstract here. Let me put a picture to my words. One of the things that my husband Steve needs from me is the gift of organization. (I’ve asked his permission to share this.)
He is a great guy and means well. But he is more than a bit hyper by nature. He very often flies right past that, which can best help him to get the job done. I used to think that he just needed organizational skills. I thought that once he used them, he would see the value, slow down and keep using them.
But I’ve changed my thinking after living with him through 45+ years of marriage. I realize that while he is greatly talented in other aspects of life, he just doesn’t have a great propensity towards being organized. It’s like his brain can’t slow down enough to grab those extra tools that he can and should use.
I used to get frustrated with him over this (and still do at times). But eventually God showed me something I needed to see. One of the many reasons Steve and I make a good marital team is that we have different talents. When those talents are combined, we can get most everything done that we need to do.
Steve is a “yes” kind of guy. He will do almost anything for me (and others), if asked. It’s so freeing to have a partner that isn’t often negative and puts brakes on that, which you want to accomplish. But in doing so, sometimes Steve will forget or will miss this or that, which could get it done sooner and better. That’s where I come in. He brings in the enthusiasm and drive. And I bring in the way to get it done so the “job” is done so it has a more satisfying end result.
Yes, I get tired of reminding him of this tool or handing him that tool as he speeds past it. And yes, he gets tired of me “reminding him of this tool or handing him that tool.” But after it’s accomplished, we both sit back and go, “Ahhh… that’s good!” We can both see that it was better done with both of us doing our parts.
We Do Our Part
That happens a lot when we write articles and Marriage Insights and speak anywhere on marriage. One starts the project (or we both do). And the other (or both) adds their input. The necessary changes are then made to the point where we sit back and can see that God used both of us together to accomplish what He inspired. It’s not that we do it perfectly. But it’s a whole lot better than if just one of us attempted it on our own. That is because God wanted to use both of us together as a team.
The whole crux of what I’m trying to say here is that as marriage partners, we are to work together to help each other. By combining our talents and by actually using the marital tips that are available to us, we can do well.
Read through the marital tips that can help your marriage. Don’t get stuck on who put the effort into reading them first. Glean through and pray about that which will help your marriage. Ask God to show you what to use and how to get your spouse to use them with you (if he or she might be resistant). The point is, use that which will help your marriage. Don’t hold back because you’ve made so much effort in the past.
And if at some point, you or your partner stops using them, try, try again. Don’t get hung up on whether this is the one hundredth time you or your spouse stopped doing what needed to be done. Pick yourself up, or help to pick your spouse up and try, try again.
Marriage is all about teamwork. God knows who is putting in the effort. Don’t sweat who does what when. Use the tools and marital tips available when you can. You will at least be failing forward, which is still progress. It’s better than no forward progress at all.
Keep in Mind:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
“Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
This blog is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
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