“It didn’t take long before we realized we had to reinvent our marriage. We had to learn to relate in radically different ways instead of destroying our marriage with angry insults, self-righteousness, and self-centered attitudes.” –Kim
Sometimes we need to reinvent our marriage, and sometimes we need tips to apply to make our marriages good ones. To help in either mission, below are useful relationship pointers based on long-term studies from the Gottman Relationship Institute, on what makes marriages fail or succeed. We’ve added scriptures [and additional thoughts in brackets] to support them:
• Have high standards: The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refuse to accept hurtful behavior from one another. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior at the start of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
• Edit yourself: Couples who avoid saying every angry thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
[It’s too bad we don’t have workable buttons installed so when we say the wrong thing we can rewind and erase it. But since we don’t have that luxury it’s important to be careful of what we say in the first place. As it says in the Bible, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”
Careless words, when spoken, can deeply crush our spouse’s spirit. Just because a thought comes into our mind —it doesn’t mean we have to let it pass through our lips. Garbage should be thrown out —not delivered to the one we vow that we will honor for the rest of our lives.]
“Love is not rude; it is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:23).
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered” (Proverbs 17:27).
“He who guards his lips guards his life; but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11).
[“What men fear most is criticism and rejection. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be honest and truthful just because they’ve got fragile egos. You can. But you have to look at the consequences and see if what you’re doing is working or not” -Dr Phil McGraw.
Ask yourself if what you’re doing and saying is respectful. We are responsible for our own words and our own actions and God’s Word tells us to be respectful in all we say and do.]
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
• Soften your “start up”: Arguments flare because a spouse escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical remark in a confrontational tone.
“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips” (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
[“Do you treat your spouse as the most special person in the world or are you more polite to the neighbors? We teach our children to be polite, yet how polite are we to their fathers?” (Linda Dillow)
And husbands: how polite are you to their mothers? Are you living out what the Bible commands of you?]
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
• Learn to exit or repair an argument before it gets completely out of control: Change the topic to something completely unrelated; use humor; make it clear you’re on common ground (“this is our problem”); back down.
“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you-for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL” (Galatians 5:23).
“Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
• Take a break: If an argument gets too heated, take a 20 minute break and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
[Don’t allow the problem to get between you so you forget that the object of marriage is to be in partnership with each other. Don’t let it divide you to the point that it permanently chips away at the commitment you have to “love, honor, and cherish” one another for the rest of your lives.
When an argument starts to get out of control look for ways to defuse the situation until you can come back and work on the problem again in a more sensible and honoring way. Even if you have to revisit the same problem a dozen or more times, commit to working on it—until you can control it together —rather than having it control you and allow it to divide you.]
• Focus on the bright side: In a happy marriage, couples need to make at least 5 times as many positive statements to and about each other, as opposed to negative statements.
[Look for ways in which you can encourage your spouse in positive ways like you did before marriage. Ask God to help you to apply Philippians 4:8 in how you view and how you interact with your spouse.]
“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
• Seek help early: The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems, which means that many couples live with unhappiness for far too long.
“Be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-21).
We hope you will, and together, it is our hope we will apply the above tips as needed,
Steve and Cindy Wright
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