Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ten Recommendations

Recently Angela and I participated in a wedding ceremony in which her role was to share reflections from two decades of counseling on what makes marriages work. She and I, in our respective vocations, share a burden for married couples and are often saddened to note how many couples are fighting and how many marriages are unraveling. With a spirit of kindness and encouragement, let me share her “Ten Recommendations for Marriage.” Being a preacher, I of course will paraphrase and add some of my own spin, but the ten principles are hers. Any similarity to Moses’ Ten Commandments is purely intentional.

1. Tell each other what you want. Wives, particularly, want their husbands to be mind readers. Yet, often when you ask for what you want, he will be glad to do it for you. He loves you! Is that as ideal as him knowing what you want without you having to ask? No, but if you hold out for the ideal at the expense of the good, you set one another up to fail.

2. Be polite to one another. Courtesy makes a huge difference. As one marriage expert noted, “Ninety percent of good marriages boil down to good manners.” Say please, thank you, I appreciate it, etc. This sets an overarching tone that cushions a multitude of tensions.

3. Always remember that having a good marriage takes work. You have to work at it. If this assertion makes you exasperated or frustrated, ask yourself this question: What is there in life that is good that doesn’t take work?

4. Choose friends who value your marriage over you as an individual. If you kvetch to your friend about your wife and he commiserates with you, you need a better friend. A good friend will continually point you back to your marriage relationship and speak well of your spouse.

5. Invite God into your relationship. This goes beyond being mutual Christians who each serve God. Invite God into your life together. Pray before meals. Talk about your spiritual lives. Pray for one another.

6. Make having a good marriage more important than being right. “You can be right, or you can be married.” You can win the battle of your argument or issue and still lose the war. Both of you.

7. Say you’re sorry --often. Say you’re sorry even if you think your spouse owes an apology more. This is called a “repair attempt.” It is a marriage-saver.

8. When you disagree, scan for the truth of your spouse’s point of view. There is usually some truth to it. Learn from this truth.

9. Respect what your spouse feels passionately about. If you disagree with your husband, but your passion for the issue is a “3” and his is a “9” (on a scale of 1-10), then yield. Caveat: no one feels passionately about every issue. Own up to the few areas you do, and be willing to compromise on the rest.

10. Put your marriage relationship above everything else: parenting, in-laws, extended family, and friends. A good marriage relationship will better equip you for all of the others.

I am preaching this week on the spiritual discipline of submission for all Christians. Marriage is a perfect place to cultivate it.


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