Wouldn’t you like to have a resilient marriage? The word resilient means to “spring back into shape, to be elastic, and to have the ability to recover after being pressed.” So, after reading that definition, wouldn’t you like to have a resilient marriage —one that can recover from whatever attacks it? But how do spouses build resilient marriages?
First off, you work at it. It’s not something that comes easily. It takes determination and commitment maturity and intentionality to make it happen. It’s like what Gary Thomas said, “A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” Those with resilient marriages have done what it takes to survive whatever storm comes their way.
So here are a few more points on this matter of building resilient marriages that we believe you will find helpful as you apply them:
• Resilient Couples Don’t Fall Prey to Misconceptions About Marriage.
One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. …It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history. (John H. Thurman Jr., gleaned from the Johnthurman.net article, “Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage”)
On this same point here is something that Francine and Byron Pirola wrote that’s important to note:
“Marital resilience starts with a well-grounded understanding of what marriage is and what it isn’t. A lot of couples get themselves into trouble because they expect marriage, that is their spouse, to make them happy. So when they are not happy, they project their unhappiness onto their spouse, stressing the relationship. Research demonstrates that happiness is internally driven. Rich people aren’t happier overall than poor people for example.If you expect your spouse to make you happy, you’ll be disappointed and you’ll put an unhealthy burden on your marriage. So here’s the big insight:
“Marriage isn’t meant to make you happy, it’s meant to make you holy. In other words, marriage is a pathway to holiness. It’s a mechanism for personal and spiritual growth. This means that at times it’s going to stretch our tolerance and test our patience.” (From the Smartloving.org article, “Marriage Resilience”)
• Resilient Couples Find Help When They Need It.
Many couples “go it” alone —trying to deal with their issues without outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships. (John Thurman)
Spouses in resilient marriages:
• Dial Down the Criticism.
Many people value criticism in the early stage of a relationship, but become allergic to it over time. Remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired. Your partner won’t make use of your constructive criticism if there’s not a surrounding climate of admiration and respect. (Harriet Lerner, from the Huffingtonpost.com article, 12 Simple Steps for a Sustainable Marriage)
• Resilient Couples Remember Good Things About Their Marriage and Each Other.
“He’s a good father to our boys,” Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other’s qualities. “And he’s patient. He puts up with my quirks.” “I love how loyal and passionate she is,” Larry added. “Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart’s in the right place.” …Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad. (John H. Thurman Jr. from the Todayschristianwoman.com article, “Bounce Back!”)
Philippians 4:8 comes to mind as something that has helped us in our marriage. When we get caught up into negativity (which is easy when you spend so much time together) this scripture has helped us as we apply what it says:
“Finally, brothers, 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.“
• Resilient Couples Reinterpret Past Failures and Use Them as Growing Points.
Instead of Perennial Negatives. In other words, they look at past mistakes in order to make positive, life-changing applications. (John Thurman)
• They don’t play the blame game.
“It’s easy for partners to blame each other when a relationship hits a low point. But blaming almost always leads to counter-blame, which ultimately leads nowhere. Resilient couples, on the other hand, look inward when things aren’t going well and ask themselves, ‘What could I have done differently in that situation’ or ‘What can I do now to make amends?’ Instead of waiting for the other person to extend an olive branch or change his or her behavior, resilient spouses are proactive in terms of getting things back on track. Taking the high road is more important than being right.” (Michele Weiner-Davis, from the Huffingtonpost.com article, “7 Habits of Truly Resilient Couples”)
And lastly, here is a good point we’ve found has helped us to be among those who have resilient marriages:
• They can find humor in tough situations.
“Daily pressures and responsibilities related to finances, childrearing and workplace demands sometimes lead to conflict and tension. A hallmark of a resilient marriage is a willingness to laugh or use humor to halt unproductive communications. A couple I worked with noticed that if their fights were spiraling, it often helped if one was willing to break the tension by smiling, opening their arms and exclaiming: ‘Let’s hug it out!’” (Elisabeth LaMotte, from the Huffingtonpost.com article, “7 Habits of Truly Resilient Couples”)
We hope that whatever is a problem in your marriage, you will work together to make your marriage resilient. Make sure you have a healthy view of marriage. It won’t solve your every problem. But it’s a great platform for partnering through the storms when they come. Get help when you need it. Don’t wait until your marriage becomes totally explosive. Dial down the criticism and look for the good. Use past failures as “growing points” instead of as weapons. Find ways to laugh together. And please give each other the grace you want from your partner and receive from Christ our Lord!
Cindy and Steve Wright
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