I recently met with a gentleman (I will call Steve for the sake of the story) who is going through a difficult season in his marriage. As I have heard before he was not as aware as his wife was of their ‘drift’ from each other. Someone may say, ‘I just woke up one morning and realized that things were not the same in our marriage.’ When people say this, I usually say back, ‘you obviously have not been paying attention, nothing just happens overnight.’
I wonder how many of you reading this have recognized the ‘drift’ in your marriage – a loss of the once ‘loving feelin’ or the spark that was there. While nothing was dramatically wrong in Steve’s marriage, there was a new atmosphere of putting each other down. What had begun as humor and innocuous teasing had slowly become a bad habit. The bad habit grew into something more significant and killing mutual respect. I gave them Steve some ideas and pointers and linked him up with an older and wiser couple who helped he and wife make some intentional adjustments to their relationship. Four key points emerged for them to deeply consider.
1/ Mutual respect. It may not sound romantic but it is key to a healthy marriage. Mutual respect shares the chores, the pressures of running a household and also appreciates the done out of the home to bring money into the home.
2/ Acceptance. Your spouse needs to know they will be accepted by you no matter how they may fail or fall. They need to have the safety of this acceptance there for them.
3/ Compassion. This might seem simple but showing you really care about what your spouse is saying, sharing or dealing with creates a safety and assurance that runs deep. Take time to listen fully to what your spouse shares with you and stay away from being critical and condescending.
4/ Compromise. Compromise means coming to a mutually agreeable solution – something you can both live with. You may still think you’re right and your spouse is wrong, but it can often be better to try and merge your ideas until you hit on something that satisfies both of you, rather than one of you feeling slighted or angry.
Additionally I would submit the following thoughts to consider:
It’s the little things that add up and become really big things.
A marriage can be rocked by an accumulation of little things said or left unsaid, things done or left undone.
Even for couples with great senses of humor, making the person you love the brunt of the joke cuts more deeply than you think.
Name calling and cutting comments lodge in the heart and eventually drain affection. Honoring your spouse and delivering life-giving comments enriches affection.
Remember this (parents) the way you talk to your spouse is most likely the way your sons and daughters will talk to theirs. The way you talk to your spouse is most likely the way your sons and daughters will allow themselves to BE talked to by theirs.
So, how is your marriage doing? Are there some habits that have slowly developed and are beginning to erode your marriage? Rate your mutual respect, acceptance, compassion and compromise. How are you doing? Take time to have a deep and open discussion with your spouse about the areas listed above.
I often tell couples to look for two things ( just two ) that each other can improve upon, stop doing or start doing to have impact on the other. Ask your spouse, what two things could I be doing or not doing that would make a dramatic difference in your heart. Notice I said, heart! We often neglect making heart-felt investments and this is the key to a healthy marriage. Start assessing, start asking and start investing.
I am praying for your marriage,