Are you and your spouse united in love and purpose? If not, are you at least moving toward unity?
“People often believe that important differences will go away with time—but getting married does not automatically bring people closer.” (Professor David Olsen)
If you’re like Cindy and me (Steve) when you were first married you believed that the “differences” you had would be no big deal. You thought with time you’d grow increasingly united in every way.
Remember when you lit the Unity Candle in your wedding ceremony and blew out your individual candles? That act meant you would now be “one,” right? It meant you would stop thinking only about your own interests. From that day forward it would be “we” and “us” —not “me” and “I.” But is that really what happened after your wedding? Probably not —and to be truthful, it didn’t happen for us either.
Moving Toward Unity
If you agree that unity is important in the marriage relationship, why is it so hard to achieve? What can we do to move toward the unity we desire? Well, Dr. Gary Smalley offered some of his personal and professional insights on this subject, a while ago, at an “I Still Do” marriage conference he spoke at for the ministry of Family Life Today Familylife.com. Here’s a portion of what he had to say:
Like many of you, my wife, Norma, and I lit “unity candles” at our wedding ceremony. And like many of you, I had only a vague idea at the time of what those candles symbolized. Only recently have I understood.
If I was planning a unity candle ceremony today, I would start with two candles colored yellow and blue. When you enter the church or wedding chapel, you enter as singles, and you are very different from each other. You have your own personality, your own skills, and your own opinions.
Blue and yellow mixed together will turn green, and that would be the color of the third candle. After using the blue and yellow candles to light the green one, the bride and groom would then blow out their individual candles. It all symbolizes the fact that, in a marriage, you are no longer singles. You are a couple. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.“
Dr Smalley went on to say:
I believe that conflict and arguments can be the doorway to true intimacy in a marriage. Why? Because it can force you to learn what your mate is feeling and what your mate needs. When you both understand each other, you can blend them together. Then you can make a decision that works for both of you as a couple.
What often happens, however, is the conflict leads you to re-light your blue and yellow candles, (so to speak). You act like a single again; you seek to win the argument rather than finding a solution that works for both of you.
Any time you get into an argument, blow out those candles and say, “We’re going to be a couple. It’s not my opinion that matters, it’s our opinion. We’re a team now.”
Inevitably, in any marriage, four germs will try to infect your relationship and lead you to revert back to acting like a single.
Dr Smalley then talked about the steps you can take so you are moving toward unity in your marriage. They are:
Step #1: Make a decision that your mate is highly valuable.
All of your spouse’s differences —personality, interests, opinions, etc. are priceless. God has put you together as a team to become one.
Step #2: Start making a list today of all the positive things about your mate.
Write down the things you love about your spouse, the things you appreciate. This principle comes from Philippians 4:8, which instructs us to dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right —think on these things…”
As you start forcing yourself to find something positive in your mate almost every day, you start looking for it. And the more you look for it, the more you see it and the more you honor each other.
I have four and a half single spaced sheets of positive things I’ve written about my wife. When our relationship is strained from time to time I pull these out and start reading them. Within five minutes I feel so warm towards her; it changes my feelings and affections so rapidly.
Step #3: Tell one another these positive things on a regular basis.
Make it a habit to praise each other. Use cards or sticky notes. Tell your children or your friends about how thrilled you are with your mate, and let them go back and tell your mate what you said.
Some of you are thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t think of anything positive.” If you can’t do it, go to the Lord. He says He gives His grace to the humble. Ask for His grace.
It may not happen overnight; it might take six months. When He gives you His grace, it will change your life and your marriage.
So, if you’re struggling with building unity in your marriage stop and ask yourself if you’re spreading any of the “germs” that can block unity from happening. If you are, make a decision to work on using the four “antidotes” to move towards unity.
Lastly, remember what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:2-3:
“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.“
If we were to work just on being humble, gentle, patient and making allowances for each other’s faults, can you imagine the unity that could be established?
Steve and Cindy Wright
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