Marriages are in trouble today but there are simple things that you can do every day to strengthen your marriage. Find out how you can strengthen your marriage, and in the process, possibly save it.
Bragging About Your Spouse in Public and Private
One of the most demeaning things that couples can do to each other is to belittle one another in public. What is said in public can humiliate and degrade the other spouse and when it’s done in front of others, it destroys respect and love that each desire (Eph 5:32-33). This can be done in front of the children too and this takes deep roots inside of the conscience of children. How would we like it if someone talks negatively and insultingly about your mother or father? It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it still should never be done. My wife is one of the best teachers in the public school system in our town. She is revered by many of her former students. I make sure everyone knows that!Have you ever bragged on your children in public? I hope you have. When I do, I can see them beam with pride and their self esteem grows. They tend to do the same thing. When we brag to others in public, to family, friends, and even to co-workers, we are building up that person. When we do the opposite and talk negatively to them or about them in public, we are tearing them down and it tends to replicate their own tendencies in them about how they talk about us. When we talk negatively, we are degrading that person’s worth. It takes one negative word to tear down twenty positives in a person, generally speaking, so I weigh my words carefully before I speak. If I can not say something good, then what purpose am I really serving except my own self? Nothing ever good comes from speaking ill of another person. Even if something gets broken or the car fender gets dented, I can fix things or replace them, but I can not fix or repair the damage that my words can do. People are always more important than things. People are more fragile than things. Things have temporal value…people have infinite value. By guarding my mouth, I am protecting my marriage. Once my words are out of my mouth, they can not be taken back.
A Three Fold Cord
When I was tying down a load of wood to take to the burn pile my cord broke. It had been well used and when it broke, my whole load of wood spilled back onto the ground. My cord was down to just one rope and I knew sooner or later it would break.Marriage is a lot like that cord. I had neglected it and just knew I was borrowing trouble. In my many marriage counseling sessions that I have given, the main problem is that Christ is not in the center of the marriage. My wife and I leave each other notes that get more accomplished than using negatives. We work different schedules so we leave each other notes since we can’t say goodbye in person. One husband I was speaking with was angry over what appeared to me to be a trivial issue. The wife was upset that her husband was neglecting minor repairs around the house. When they both sat down, I had them write out two sentences and fill in the blanks.
I feel really frustrated when you _______.
When you ______ it makes me feel _____.
The couple wrote down these answers.
Husband: I feel really frustrated when you keep pushing me to get this and that done. When you leave me notes about these things it makes me feel you don‘t respect me.
Wife: I feel really frustrated when you neglect fixing things that make my life harder. When you don’t fix things it makes me feel that you don’t care.
Then I turned to Ephesians 5:33 which says, “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
What was missing? Love and respect. And Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ is the central focus of a marriage, I feel that the husband will try to love his wife like Christ loves the church and the wife will try to respect her husband as the church should respect the authority of Christ. I said it would be better to say it like: I feel or it makes me feel.
Here is what I typically leave and receive at home:
Me: Darling, I really appreciate all the things you do for us and I truly love you for it and by the way, do you know where my Bible dictionary is?
Wife: Dearest Jackson (what she calls me). I really respect how much you do around the house and in providing for our family, and oh yes, the garage door handles about to fall off.
What I have discovered, by trial and error, is that you can draw more flies with honey. By keeping things around the house working as much as possible, I show her that I care and that I love her. Her respect for me lets her put things that need repair on a love note that she leaves me or tells me in person and this shows how much she respects me. She knows that I love her by what I do for her and so she feels the freedom to leave me little notes about things that need attention around the house. By her respecting me, I feel free to ask her questions about something she can help me with. Both are done lovingly and without nagging. We try to put Christ at the center of our marriage, and that way, we are stronger and will be able to take the heavier loads that will surely come our way in life. This “threefold cord” makes it easier to bear what comes our way. One is good, two is better, but three is best. This reminds me of the Scripture which says, “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).
Don’t Try to Change Them
We are not to be in the business of changing our mate. The Holy Spirit is the only One Who can change the human heart (Prov 21:1). When we try to become the agent of change, we are subverting, and sometimes negating the true work of the Holy Spirit. We take the Spirit’s place in changing the human heart. I have never had any success in changing my spouse but when I pray for her, I submit to God the Holy Spirit to work in her just as He does in me. The more we try to change someone, the more they tend to dig in their heels. It has the opposite effect of changing. I have an effect alright…and it’s always negative. The real change agent is God and God has a positive effect because He works from within. My efforts work from without. Real change, as always, comes from within and not from without. The only way that I can affect any change in my spouse is to change my own behavior.
Words of Affirmation
I believe that we must include these important words in our daily lives with our spouse: Thank you, I appreciate all you do, I love you so much, I need you, I’m sorry, please forgive me. I have heard men say…too many times, that I don’t need to tell her “I love you. She knows how I feel.” Wrong men. We need to tell them and reaffirm them. We need to say this every single day: I love you. We need to show we love them by sending them cards, sending them flowers on days of no special occasion, leave them little love notes where they’ll find them sometime during their day. When I worked for Head Start I traveled widely and my wife would pack little love notes in strategic places in my luggage where I would find them on one day, then the next, and then another. These were so special. I have kept many of these to this day. Women can show respect by bragging to others about their man…men can brag about their wife when in the company of others, co-workers, and for me, even strangers. She may not hear these, but I do. Somehow it strengthens our marriage and marriages just don’t happen. They take work.
We know that when a person feels valued, they feel loved. When someone brags about you, you feel a greater sense of worth. When we can safely communicate problems, we can more openly work on solutions. Stay away from words like, “You never, you always, or you can’t.” These words sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, say, “When you do this, it makes me feel like” or “I feel frustrated when you….” These make the problem the focus and not the spouse. It makes it easier to work on a solution when the problem is the focus and not the spouse. We can not change a person. The Holy Spirit is the only One Who can do this (Prov 21:1).Finally, pray together and put Christ in the center of your marriage. A three-fold cord is harder to break. When Jesus is in the home, when Jesus is the focus, and when Jesus is embedded within the marital relationship, the chances of having a stronger marriage are better than going it alone. This may be why Solomon wrote, “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).