“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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Filed under: Marriage Messages
2 responses to “Relationship Tips – Marriage Message #175”
(SOUTH AFRICA) I have to say the encouragements are doing a good job on me and people with whom I share. My biggest challenge I encounter during discussions, is to get partners to be interested in these encouragements as well.
Can someone who could has crossed this kind of a challenge, share with us how they managed? My groups of God fearing individuals are hurting because most do not believe in divorce or separation as an answer. They stand in faith that the MIRACLE WORKING LORD will do it once more in this life. Please share your experiences, friends.
Thanks Shilela, We have testimonies posted in all of the different topics. Some of them are posted in the “Save My Marriage” topic, where you can click into the testimonies part and read what others have survived through and how they have built good marriages, since.
There are no guarantees that this will be what will happen with you and your friends, but it may give hope that it does happen and it may happen, and it may help in some other way, as you grab onto the hope, which God can give. What I’ve found is sometimes it’s in the struggle that we grow in ways we never could have otherwise.
Some things that Paul Tripp wrote in his book, “What Did You Expect” comes to mind to share with you, as you and your friends are in this waiting room experience in your lives, praying for positive changes in your marriages. Sadly, your spouse may not cooperate with God in changing –God gives us all free wills. You never know, however… time may break your spouse down as you proceed God’s way. Many of those testimonies proclaim that as true in their marriages. But even if a spouse never changes, God can use what we can learn to help us in many other ways. Keep in mind that:
“God is in control not only of the locations in which you live, but also of the influences that have shaped you as a person… As you struggle, you must not view your marriage as bad luck, or poor planning, or as a mess that you made for yourself [although any or all of this could contribute to what is happening to you that may be causing you to question God]. God is right smack-dab in the middle of your struggle. He is not surprised by what you are facing today. He is up to something. [The question is, will you participate with Him in this, or fight against Him?]
“…God is working to rescue you from you, to deliver you from sin, and to form the character of Jesus in you. Marriage, the world’s most long-term and comprehensive relationship, is taking place in the middle of sanctification, the world’s most important unfinished process. Why would God do this? Hasn’t he gotten the proverbial cart before the proverbial horse? Well, the reason this doesn’t seem to make sense to us is that our purpose for marriage tends to be different from the Lord’s. We’re just not on God’s agenda page.
“Our desire is that our marriages would be the location of our comfort, ease, and enjoyment; we often have desires no bigger than this. But God’s purpose is that each of our marriages would be a tool for something that is way more miraculous and glorious than our tiny, little, self-focused definition of happiness. He has designed marriage to be one of his most effective and efficient tools of personal holiness. He has designed your marriage to change you.”
I know that’s difficult to consider when you are suffering, but with God, there is always Light and Truth somewhere to hang onto and to give encouragement. Paul Tripp (again from his book “What Did You Expect”) went on to write more that relates to this. He wrote, “There are moments in our marriages when we’re crying out for grace, not recognizing that we’re getting it. We’re not getting the grace of relief or release, because that isn’t the grace we really need. No, what we’re getting is something we desperately need, the uncomfortable grace of personal growth and change. With the love of a Father, your Lord is prying open your hands so you’ll let go of that which rules your heart but will never satisfy you. With the insight of a seasoned teacher, He is driving you to question your own wisdom so that you will let go of your understanding and rest in His. With the skill of the world’s best counselor, God is showing you the delusions of your control so that you will take comfort in His rule. With the gentleness of a faithful friend He is facing you toward the inadequacies of your own righteousness so that you find hope in His.
“When you are tired and uncomfortable because you are living with someone who is not like you, what you tell yourself about what you are going through is very important. It is in this moment that you must preach to yourself the theology of uncomfortable grace (See Romans 5; James 1; and 1 Peter 1).”
I recognize that this is difficult to grasp, but please know that God is working in ways you may not ever recognize this side of Heaven. Stay faithful to doing things God’s way. God will redeem that which we give Him –whether good or bad. Keep encouraging each other as friends. Don’t use the time as spouse bashing times, but prayer times, and opportunities to share together, stand together, believing and praying together, encouraging one another –rejoicing together and crying together as friends in Christ.
I just finished writing an article and posted it in the “Marriage Counseling” topic. It’s titled, “Helping Troubled Friends’ Marriages.” Perhaps that article could help you personally as you reach out to encourage others to stand strong and approach marriage matters God’s way. I hope so. I pray God empowers and helps you as you participate with Him.