How to have a Great Marriage.

Study Your Spouse To Improve Communication

How do you communicate love to your spouse?  Not do you love them or do you tell them that you love them, but how do you communicate love to them.  This requires work.  Anyone can say the words, “I love you.”  But not everyone studies their spouse and understands what makes them tick.  Knowing how they respond to different forms of affection can help you demonstrate that you truly care about them.  Again, anyone can say the universal words, “I love you” but not everyone understands what your husband or wife really needs and enjoys.  If you spend your life getting to know your spouse and attempting to meet their needs how they want them met, the likelihood that someone else may come along and sweep them off their feet is minimal.  However, if you don’t spend your life doing this and simply expect that your spouse is content with what you offer them, another may come along who invests a little time getting to know them and understanding what they appreciate.  Before you know it, your spouse may feel conflicted and their heart may become confused about who they actually love.  While they have a long history with you, this new person is making them feel alive and passionate.  Something they haven’t felt in a long time.  In this instance, you may or may not have a chance of saving your marriage.  Please don’t wait until you find yourself in this situation, start now to study your spouse and discover what makes them feel loved.  Then begin to show them on a regular basis how you feel about them.  If you find yourself in the midst of a relationship that is falling apart, don’t give up.  Begin to fight for the marriage.  Show your spouse that you have not given up and that you are willing to learn and change to save what you have built together.  Remember that if they are feeling attracted to another, you may bear some of the responsibility for their wayward heart if you have not done your part to love them.  This is not an excuse for their behavior but an acknowledgment of the fact that you may need to take responsibility for what you have done or not done.  Don’t give up, remember that God doesn’t give up on us.  Christ continues to pursue His bride even when she is wayward and chasing another.

Challenge:  Make an effort this month to study your spouse and make a list of what makes them feel loved.  Then begin to do these acts of affection on a regular basis.  Continue to add to this list and don’t ever stop.  Love is a verb.  Just do it.

Focus in Conflict

How often do you get into fights or arguments with your spouse?  Many times these disagreements are based upon a very short list of things that married couples fight about.  Typically they include money, sex, kids, and in-laws.  While people may hold very strong opposite beliefs about some of these topics, the way you communicate about them is at least, if not more important.  For example, if you and your spouse disagree about how to spend the money you have it can cause major strife.  However, if you are able to genuinely listen to each other, set aside judgment, and control your emotional responses they you can discuss your opposing beliefs and come to a rational compromise.  If you can’t do this, then you will probably continue to fight about the issue every time it comes up (which is likely to be often).  So, how do you go about resolving your communication difficulties?  The first step is to listen to your spouse while they are talking.  Most people think that they do this very well but that their spouse doesn’t have a clue how to do it.  As you can imagine, if both partners hold this belief, someone has to be wrong.  The reality is that both people usually have a problem in this area.  Ask yourself a couple of questions and after answering them, pay attention to how you do these things the next time you have a conflict with your spouse.  First, when talking/arguing with your spouse are you truly listening to what they say or are you trying to formulate in your mind what you are going to say next?  In this case, multi-tasking is impossible.  You cannot be 100% paying attention to what your spouse is saying and think about your response at the same time.  You might be about to give 50% to each endeavor but it will come across to your spouse and they will become frustrated and probably say something like, “you aren’t listen to me.”  Which is 50% true in the moment.  That is when the argument tends to disintegrate and head into a different direction.  Because you respond with, “yes I am listening.”  In saying that, the direction of the disagreement becomes the dysfunction in your communication style/practice rather than the finances. In that moment, you fail to hear what they are really saying, “I want 100% of your attention to hear me.”  Attempting to communicate this way will almost always lead to frustration and increased tension because you drifted away from the initial problem and are now focusing on a different topic.  While focusing on your difficulties associated with the topic of communication is important, it was not the original intention of the interaction.  So, stay on topic until it is resolved.

 

Challenge:  Every time you interact with your spouse, begin developing the habit of giving them 100% of your focus.  Practicing this in times of peace will make it easier to do in the midst of a disagreement.

Marital Communication

One of the basics for having a great marriage is developing healthy communication.  Anyone who has been married for more than a few days will tell you how important healthy communication is.  Everything from the way you look at your spouse, your tone of voice, how or what you text or email, and finally the specific words that you choose to use when talking with each other are all essential for getting your point across to your spouse.  But you also have to take into account what perspective your spouse will have when receiving your message.  Are they in a good mood, are they guarded emotionally, do they have baggage that will jade the message you are trying to communicate?  Knowing your spouse and attempting to communicate in a way that they will receive accurately is just as important as how and what you say.  The problem with developing healthy communication is that there are so many ways for it to derail and go wrong.  For example, you may have the best intentions and be trying to compliment your wife and she misunderstands what you are attempting to communicate and gets frustrated with you.  It might be easy at that point to shut down or get defensive but the better response would be to delay your emotional response and clarify what message she received and why she responded the way she did.  This takes work and self sacrifice but in the long run it may save you from a lot of conflict and actually strengthen your marriage.  In the coming weeks I am going to share some insights I have on how to improve your marital communication.

 

Challenge:  Most of us communicate on automatic pilot, especially with our spouses.  Make an effort to think about what you are communicating with your spouse each time to talk to them.

Equally Yolked in Marriage

Having some common moral ground to stand on helps to give a solid foundation for a relationship to be built on and to endure through difficult times.  The Bible says that believers in Christ should not be yolked together with unbelievers in partnerships because we don’t have the same values (2 Cor. 6.14-16).  It doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends with, associate with, or spend time with people who are unbelievers but it does mean that if we enter into a business partnership or marriage we may be guided by very different principles and values than they are.  At some point in those relationships we will likely  face some very difficult times because while we may be guided by different moral codes, we are committed to the partnership or marriage.  It is hard enough to make a marriage work with all the problems and struggles of life without trying to do it with a spouse who may make decisions based on a different set of values than you have.  Some basic issues that may become problematic in a relationship like this are:

Financial stewardship – What do we spend money on?  Do we give to charities or church?  What do we base financial decisions on?

Parenting – What guidelines do we use for deciding how to raise our kids?  Do we teach them anything about God and if so, what?  Do we take them to church or not, if so, who decides which one and how often?

Conflict –  How do we resolve conflict in our relationship?  What guidelines do we use to decide who gets their way in situations?  If I act in humility and apologize will it be reciprocated or seen as weakness and exploited?

As you can see, there are a lot of issues that impact a couple on an ongoing basis that could more easily be resolved if they at least start at the same point morally and Biblically.  While a Christian couple may not always agree on every issue of theology, they should at least have a solid basis on which to work from.

Challenge:  Strive to be on the same page with your spouse both morally and Biblically and if you are thinking about getting married, evaluate where you and your spouse are in regards to your walk with God.  It may hurt to end a relationship before marriage but it can hurt a lot worse in the long run if you try to make it work and later realize that you are unequally yolked.

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