This Buzzfeed video contains a lot of facts on marriage, but are they all true? Everyone seems to have an opinion about what works and what doesn’t in a marriage. It takes time to figure out what will help you and your spouse have the best marriage possible.
I’m not sure how it’s possible to feel like it was just yesterday and at the same time feel like it was many years ago that those two words changed the course of my life forever. I do. When I think back to that day the memories and the feelings are vivid. My heart pounding with joy, excitement and love for my husband, I had no idea the ride I was beginning. Many laughs, tears, struggles… and it’s only been eleven years? In our lives we’ve been blessed with wonderful examples of Christian marriage. So often it was their words and leadership that led us and encouraged us. Yet, with time I have discovered that not everyone’s wisdom is our wisdom. Today I want to share with you three pieces of advice we received as newlyweds that didn’t work for our marriage.
I know, I know. This is a famous Christian piece of marriage advice. It’s even rooted in the Bible, Ephesians 4:16. Am I claiming to know more than Paul when he instructs us: “do not let the sun go down on your anger”? No, but I don’t think Paul has ever been around me when I am extremely over tired, emotional, and irrational. It’s not pleasant and it certainly is not biblical. At 2 AM, I’m typically a hot mess of drama. In our first years of marriage, we heeded this advice. Neither of us would go to bed until we had solved whatever issue was at hand. What typically happened was that we would stray so far from the initial disagreement that we could never find our way back. These arguments ended with both of us lying on the floor in the middle of our apartment in tears. (Yes, I made my husband cry. I have an awful way of words that can break his heart and that’s another post.) By about year four of marriage, we started to realize that maybe the problem wasn’t so much “the problem” we were discussing, but rather that we were just both exhausted. We decided that instead of pulling all-nighters battling out the issues plaguing our marriage, we would say a prayer while holding hands and sleep on the issue. More often than not, the first thing we say to each other in the mornings is: “I’m sorry.” This solution has created a lot more peace in our home.
Our new advice: No important discussions after 11pm. If you can’t agree on an issue, stop and pray. Resume your discussion in the morning after a little sleep and a lot of prayer.
Compromise means: “to accept standards that are lower than is desirable”. What an awful thing to have in a marriage. With a compromise, neither spouse really gets what he or she wants. This creates a culture of bitterness and unhappiness in the home. “You give a little, I give a little” suddenly turns into one person feeling like they are always giving a lot and that the other person gives very little of themselves. Even though that may not be the case in reality, we often perceive ourselves as giving more because we’re never really satisfied in a compromise.
Our new advice: Pray that God would teach us: “to give and not to count the cost” (St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity). Rather than compromising so that we still get a small portion of what we want, give it all. Look to outdo your spouse in generosity and service. We have learned through our experience that we are much happier when we give 100% rather than hoarding our own 50%. Something happens in the heart that allows us to move from wanting things to be “fair” to laying our lives down for our spouse.
Many experts encourage spouses to take time for themselves. Get in “me” time. Find something you enjoy and get away from it all. Once again, this advice creates self-centeredness in place of other-centeredness. In a marriage, this is not a good dynamic. We need to be willing to put our spouse above ourselves. It is difficult to learn, but can be done with practice, grace, and prayer.
Our new advice: Take time for God and for your spouse. If you have a prayer time every day, you will be refreshed and restored. When you feel you need to get away, get away with God. Take part in activities that will help you grow closer to Him and deeper in faith. In a marriage, there is definitely a place for fun and recreation. Don’t leave your spouse out of these things! Invite him (or her) to experience the joy with you. Join a bowling league or go to see a concert together. It might not be your favorite thing to do, but you will create lasting memories and a bond with your spouse that is irreplaceable.
Disclaimer: These “not-to-follow” pieces of advice did not work for us, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. There is no magical formula for making a marriage work. As much as we want to believe in those claims that say: “Do These 5 Things and You’ll Never Argue With Your Spouse Again,” or “How To Turn Your Wife into Perfection in 2 Minutes”, they don’t exist. Make a commitment with your husband or wife to let God into your marriage. Then begin to pray with open eyes and hearts for direction on building a marriage that will last on the foundation of Christ’s love. You will learn what advice works best for your marriage with time. Don’t give up on this incredible gift of joy that God graces us with through marriage. Have faith that you will learn how to live, work, cry, laugh, and love your spouse in a way that no one else can really understand.
(If you are searching for excellent advice about marriage and how to make God the center of your relationship, we encourage you to check out the Beloved dvd series . To learn more about it and catch a preview of the series, check out this post 5 Ways Husbands Can Give the Gift of Self. )
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