My most favorite thing to talk about on this blog is marriage. And since it's been so long since i've done so on here, let's start with one very important fact...marriage is hard. Let's just get that out there right up front! Living with a person, and sharing your life with them is one of the most difficult things in this life. Now i'm not down on marriage or trying to scare anyone off, but if i'm going to talk about marriage, i'm not about to pretend that it's a piece of cake either!
Living life with another person, sharing your finances, sharing your preferences, sharing your role as parent, learning how to give and take in a balanced way, learning all of their likes and dislikes, learning how to give up your way sometimes...it is hard! When you're in the goo-goo loving, can't keep your eyes off of each other, all I want is you, stages of dating this one very important fact seems to disappear from sight. But it doesn't usually take too long after "I do" to come and smack you in the face!
When my husband and I first got married I thought marriage would be easy. I'd been living life for all of 18 years at that point and staying alive wasn't actually too difficult so marriage shouldn't really add that much difficulty to the mix right? Ha! I remember being completely shocked at how hard it was to be married, and for that first year I thought married life was just going to be miserable at least 90% of the time. Isn't that sad?!
Thankfully we aren't at the point in our marriage anymore (Thank you Jesus!!) but we were there for a while, and I know so many other couples have been there, or are currently living there in their own relationships. As sad as it is, a difficult and even miserable marriage is a reality for so many people, and the fear of living that way forever is what drives so many to divorce instead.
I wish I could sweep into every one of those couples homes and wave a magic wand over them and magically make them happy and able to enjoy marriage, but I can't. When Colby and I were struggling so much I wanted someone to come in and fix our problem and make everything suddenly all better! But the reality of the situation was this, there were only two people who could change our situation and of those two people, I only had control over one of them.
You only have control over you. You can only work on you. You are the only part of the problem that you can fix. All that time sitting around thinking about how much your spouse needs to change, and wishing you could just fix them, is nothing but a big ol' waste of time!
So what did we do to go from a miserable marriage to an enjoyable marriage? I could tell you all kinds of things we did, some successful, others not so much. But why listen to be when you can listen to the Apostle Peter instead?
1 Peter 3:8-12 says "Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
I believe that the secrets to enjoying your marriage are found in those verses right there. I found 10 things in those verses that are key to being able to enjoy your marriage, and I believe that when you and your spouse work on each of these things you'll be shocked at how much more you enjoy each other. But remember, you can only work on you! Forget about what your spouse is or is not doing and focus on you for a minute here. Now i'm not going to get through all 10 things in this one post or i'd lose everyone's interest very quickly! But i'll get through a couple of them and do the others in another post.
1. Be of one mind
The most important thing you can do in your marriage is understand that you are one! You stopped being able to just worry about you the day you got married. Get it out of your mind, and out of your choices. When you're in the middle of a conflict it's very easy to get in the mindset of "I want to win" but that mindset can't exist in your marriage. You are one. If your spouse loses, so do you because you are one.
When making decisions, think as one. Don't only think about what you want or how you feel about it. Make your first thought be about how you as one will handle the decision, and how you as one will be affected by the decision. The most selfish and self centered people, often times have the most miserable marriages. Living selfishly will make your spouse nothing but miserable, which will make your marriage nothing but miserable.
2. Sympathize with each other
The definition of sympathize is "To feel or express compassion, as for another's suffering. To share or understand the feelings or ideas of another". Never ever belittle how your spouse feels! You don't have to feel the same to validate their feelings. A situation doesn't have to affect you the same way for it to affect your spouse. I think a lot of times people are very quick to blow off their spouses feelings about a situation just because they don't feel that way, so they can't understand how their spouse does. Get past that and learn how to sympathize with your spouse.
And ladies, make sure your husband can trust you with his emotions. Our culture is very against men having emotions, so men are taught that tears and sadness are signs of weakness. Don't make your husband feel that way. It's true that most men aren't quite as emotional as women are but that doesn't mean they are, or should be treated like they should be, emotionless. Let your husband trust you with whatever emotions he has.
3. Love each other
This word love in the Greek is philos-a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.
There is a sexual love that's in marriage, it's great and it's very needed! But there's this whole other side of love that we forget about sometimes, and that's what this love here is talking about. Love your spouse. They are to be valued by you. You are to treat them like a trusted confidant, not someone you have to hide your personal stuff from. Hold them dear to your heart in such a close, personal and intimate way.
There should be no one in your life that you love more, not your friends, not your kids, not your parents...no one! Which, according to the definition of this word, means that there should be no one in your life that you are more intimate with, no one that you trust more, and no one that you hold more dear than your spouse.
4. Be tenderhearted. Don't repay evil for evil.
A lot of times we kind of lump tenderhearted in with sympathize but they're actually very different. A tenderhearted person shows compassion and mercy when they've been wronged.
I wish we lived in a perfect world where our spouse never hurt us or wronged us, but we just don't. There will be times where your spouse completely wrongs you. There's no getting around it, they're just plain wrong! And in those situations you have the choice to react one of two ways...you can either hold it over their head and try to make them pay (they are in the wrong after all and they totally deserve it right?!), or, you can show them compassion and mercy.
There are times where you may feel like you have every right to make them pay, and in all honesty you may be right, but a tender heart won't allow it. You have to cultivate and build a tender heart for your spouse in the good times when they haven't hurt you, so that in those not so good times when they've hurt you more than you know what to do with, that tender heart kicks in and shows a compassion that your hurt may not understand.
I'm going to stop here and do the other 6 in my next post, or at least try to do all 6 then! I know that each of these four can give us plenty to work on for now. And no matter where you're at in your marriage, a good season or an absolutely miserable one, there is always room to work on these areas! Never get to the point where you think you've got it all figured out and you don't need to learn or improve anymore.