We title this Marriage Insight, “One, Two, Three Marriage Tips.” That is because together, they all add up and can make a difference, if taken seriously. These are three marriage tips that we both value as far as sound marriage advice to follow.
Here’s the first one that I (Cindy) believe is important for us to take seriously. But we also need to follow through in our how we live them out in our marriages:
The First of Three Marriage Tips:
“A marriage is not a joining of two worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed. In this sense, the call to be married bears comparison to Jesus’ advice to the rich young man to sell all his possessions and to follow Him. It is a vocation to total abandonment. For most people, in fact, marriage is the single most wholehearted step they will ever take toward a fulfillment of Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.” (Mike Mason, from his book, “The Mystery of Marriage”)
I never thought of marriage in that way. Truthfully, I thought when I became Steve’s wife we would just join our lifestyles together. There was never any thought of abandoning anything. Perhaps, my former address and last name, but nothing else. But I’ve learned differently. In order for our marriage to be a good one, I need to continually change a lot of my approaches to life. I’ve learned that just because I feel a certain way about something, it doesn’t mean that I should follow it through with my words and actions.
We too often forget to view our spouse as our closest neighbor. Sadly, many of us are politer and more considerate in dealing with friends than we are to our spouse. It’s as if we think our marriage license gives us permission to say and do what feels “right” in our eyes. But that reasoning is just not biblical!
If we take Jesus’ words seriously to “love our neighbor as oneself” then we will show it by our words and actions. We will join each other’s world. And we will abandon our selfism in exchange for partnering in marriage. Essentially, we promise in our vows to abandon two single-minded worlds. And then we are to join and “cleave together” in one marital world of love and partnership. That is God’s formula for growing a marriage that He would consider “good.”
Here is the second of three marriage tips (one that Steve chose as important):
“Ask the most seasoned married couples if they have ‘arrived.’ The most mature and most godly will say, ‘We never arrive.’ This may sound like a minor point; but we promise you it’s major. Think about it, if you have the mind-set that you’re supposed to arrive in marriage, what happens when you never do? What happens if you experience more bumps in the road? And what if you encounter more detours than you were prepared to face?
“But on the other hand, if you have the mind-set that your marriage is a journey that will be full of bumps, detours, and many dangerous turns, how will that change your perspective when the tough times come and disappointment sets in?” (Wynter & Jonathan Pitts from, Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage)
In the earlier years of our marriage I wasted a lot of time waiting for us to “arrive.” Arrive at what—I couldn’t have told you. Maybe it was marital bliss. You know, where there was no more arguing (over the same stupid stuff) or walking hand-in-hand into the rainbow. That’s idealistic, I know. But that’s the mindset that I possessed.
However, there came the day (I can’t tell you specifically when) that God opened my eyes. He showed me that if I ever wanted anything in my marriage to even come remotely close to “bliss” it was going to require the type of hard work the Pitt’s shared. So, I became a student of Cindy and of marriage. I made it my mission to understand what she needed from me—her husband. It wasn’t and hasn’t always been easy. But the payoff from making and living out this decision revolutionized our marriage. And I dare say, that this what is required from all of us as spouses. We need to be students of marriage and our spouse to grow a good marriage.
Here is the last of our three marriage tips:
“In our marriages, we don’t have control over our spouse’s shortcomings. (It doesn’t matter how much nagging or cajoling we might invest.) But we do have control over what we focus on. There’s always some good quality tucked in our spouse. After all, he (she) was fashioned in the very image of our Lord. So there’s something in there that reflects the Lord and that quality is good.” (April Motl, from the Crosswalk blog, “The Power of Words in Your Marriage”)
I (Steve) would like to add something to what April said that made a world of difference for Cindy and me. If you want to make a significant improvement in your marriage, STOP trying to “help” God change your spouse’s shortcomings that are driving you to distraction. (That is, unless God tells you to do so.) I admit that I had a number of traits and behaviors that needed to be changed. Believe me, Cindy gave it her best effort to try to get me to make those changes. But, like a lot of husbands I didn’t respond well to her efforts. I resisted many of her efforts for a lot of years.
Then one day God revealed to her the “Duck Principle.” He wanted her to pray for me, and then “duck.” She was to get out of the way and let Him work on me. And that’s what she did. That was difficult, no doubt, for her. But she put her focus on my good qualities. As a result, God worked on me on what I needed to change. All we can say is that this formula works.
This doesn’t mean that we have no voice as to what goes on in our marriage. Quite the contrary! But we are to be careful and prayerful in how we use it. And if our spouse just isn’t responding in a healthy way, we need to look to the Lord to tell us if and when to say more, or if we are to duck and let God do the talking. He definitely won’t talk in a way or the timing we may want. But it will be the wisest way possible. And when we release it all to God, we will definitely grow in character and perseverance.
And then lastly, beyond those three marriage tips:
The following quote is a bonus quote. It sums of all three marriage tips:
“Marriage was never meant to bend to our individual purposes. That’s a shabby counterfeit of the real thing—the God-given opportunity to live out love and commitment to another human being for a lifetime. When we weigh the options, we can trade the pursuit of short-lived personal happiness for the contentment that grows when we shape our relationship God’s way.” (Gary Kinnaman)
God’s way is always the best way. He invented marriage and knows how to direct us to live within it in a way that is well-pleasing. It is up to us to do as He directs. If we do, our reward is great!
Cindy and Steve Wright
… By the way, if you can share below any of your marriage tips that can help others, we’d sure appreciate it. It could have the potential to benefit many, beyond you and me.
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, practical tips, and more advice to help you grow your marriage 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 so you can invest in their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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