It may seem like a contradiction that we say marital tips won’t work and yet we give them all the time. The Marriage Missions web site is filled with them. Just look around. Plus, we post new marital tips every day on the Marriage Missions Facebook page. We also send out Twitter marital tips several times a week. Additionally, we’re starting to post Instagram tips. But now we’re saying they won’t work. What’s that all about? … Please, let us explain.
We 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. (Note that we said in “many” — we didn’t say ALL! That would be foolish to think that one-size-fits-all marital situations. We’re human; we’re limited in the advice we can give.)
But then we’ll get a comment right below an article we write from someone asking us what they should do about the same type of circumstance that was written above. What? That always confuses us.
Our response is, “read the article—that would be the advice we would give. If it doesn’t apply to your marriage, don’t use it. Or it could be that you need to adapt it in some way so it does work. Pray about it; read and apply what works.”
Disconnect on Marital Tips
Many times there is a disconnect between what we read, and what we do about it. Please know that we’re not throwing stones here. We’ve personally been in this same situation many times. And we’ve failed at this too.
I (Cindy) will sometimes read something and think “that’s great advice.” But then I’ll turn around and do something else instead (or the same erred thing I did previously). Grrr!!! I know that’s foolish. But I do it anyway! That shows 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 different interpretations of the same principle. I see what I DON’T want to do; and yet I do it anyway. Or I see what I DO want to do, and know I should do. But then I don’t do it. This is a continual struggle for human beings (especially me) on this side of heaven. This sinful struggle pushes me to keep looking to God for His forgiveness, mercy and help. Thank God (literally) that He abundantly gives all three to those with repentant, searching hearts!
Hesitancy and Forgetfulness Concerning Marital Tips
Lets face it, when we see marital tips, very few of us are eager to try them. We’ll look at them and agree that they could work. But we’ll discount them if they take more effort into applying them than we want to do. That’s because we want quick fix marital tips that are easy to apply. Who wants to wander outside of our comfort zone as it pertains to working with tough love and marriage issues? So we ignore the advice. After all, shouldn’t this love thing just come naturally? Actually… NO! “Marriage is a mystery.” God didn’t make this relationship thing easy for us. He wants us to need each other and need Him to help us.
Sometimes we get skeptical, lazy or stubborn in thinking, “I shouldn’t HAVE to do this.” But as the saying goes, “How’s that working for you?” If it isn’t, then try something else (even if it’s difficult). Why would you keep doing “what comes naturally” or what appears to be easier if it doesn’t work?
Sometimes we just fall back onto old habits. We forget to apply the marital tips we read and the Communication Tools for Couples (plus so much more) that are available for us to use. We fall into the same rut of throwing accusations around, and continue talking, rather than listening and finding ways to bridge our differences. That is, UNLESS we fall forward. We wake up, and apply or reapply what we learned previously. We 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
This whole scenario reminds us 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 strongly favored 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 he could 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. Actually, he later tells everyone that God gave him the strength. As a Christ follower, he looked to God for help. 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 at so very hard. This dream appeared to be sabotaged. None the less, he could have laid there and screamed “foul.” Many people would think he would have been justified in doing so. But instead, he reached up to God and grabbed onto the courage to “finish the race.” And thankfully, he did it well!
From This Day Forward
That’s what we’re suggesting here. Ask God to show you how to proceed “from this day forward, reaching forth” so you are able to press on in life. Look to God for help.
Don’t allow yourself to stay down. Work 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 your spouse falls a lot, be a partner and help to pick him or her up and start again. Yes, we know that can get tiring. And yes, we can sometimes become enablers. We’re not talking about that type of situation. Sometimes you need to apply sensible boundaries. We’re 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 marriage partner is limping along, they may need an extra help in some way. Give the type of help that you believe God would have you give.
We realize that we’re writing in the abstract here. Let me (Cindy) put a picture to our 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 being married to him for 48+ years. 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 long enough to grab those extra tools that he can 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. I’m a very busy person, and Steve recognizes that. It’s wonderful to have a partner that wants to ease some of the workload. But as Steve sets out to do things, he often flies through the project and overlooks certain important details. 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 accomplished with a more satisfying end result (and there is very little breakage along the way).
Yes; I get tired of reminding him to use this tool or that as he speeds past it. Yes; I get tired of pointing out parts of the project that he didn’t finish. And yes, he gets tired of my reminders. 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.
And then after it’s all done, I can sit and relax too. I see things that Steve doesn’t see or they don’t matter much to him. But they matter to me. And they matter in the whole scheme of things to both of us. Our home is neat, clean, restful, and inviting. And we both love that (and so do our guests).
Doing Our Part, Which Leads to Applicable Marital Tips
This same principle applies when we write web site articles, Marriage Insights, and speak anywhere on marriage. One starts the project (or we both do). And the other (or both) adds their input. We then talk about it and make agreed upon necessary changes (if needed). Afterward we sit back and see that God used both of us together to accomplish what was needed. It’s not that we do it perfectly. But the end product is a lot better than it would have been if just one of us did it on our own. Afterward, we see that God used both of us together as a team. And that gives us a sense of accomplishment… being used as a “cord of three strands.”
The whole crux of what we’re 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.
All of this goes along with these two marital tips:
“Love is a partnership of two unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.” (Barbara Cage)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work …Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12)
Glean Through Marital Tips
Read through the marital tips that can help your marriage. Forget about 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 is resistant). And then APPLY THEM!
Also, you or your spouse may have fallen down in failure a hundred times and didn’t do what you should have done. Don’t let that defeat you. Instead, pick yourself up, or help to pick your spouse up and try, try again. Quit counting the failures and instead look at the possibilities for success. Focus on that, which God would have you. And keep persevering. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature, and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) And that includes improving your marriage to the degree that you can.
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 falling 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)
We pray you will keep this in mind as you work together to make your marriage the best it can be!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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