Divorce is a sad but common word that is lightly used today. According to a study conducted by the NCBI and reported on by 2date4love.com:
75% of divorces are due to a lack of commitment
70% of divorces are initiated by women
45% of first marriages end in divorce
76% of Americans believe that divorce is morally acceptable
These statistics make one wonder about what is going wrong in our families today. Are there ways to avoid divorce and to have the “happily ever after” fairy tale marriage? The good news is that there is a way to have a happy outcome that lasts for the rest of your life, but it takes commitment and work.
According to Galatians, what you sow is what you reap. I’ve been happily married for twenty-five years, and yes, I can use the word happily. I married my Prince Charming and he got his princess. We have weathered many storms that have threatened to tear us apart, but we’ve managed to stay anchored and centered in our love for each other. Here are some valuable lessons we learned along the way.
Having a relationship with Jesus is necessary. This is imperative. Jesus once told a story about a man who built his house upon the sand and when the storm came, the winds blew the house down. Another man built his house upon a rock so that when the winds blew and the rain pelted down, the house withstood the blast. What are you building your marriage on?
Society places such a high emphasis on looks and body image that people mistake lust for love. This is a slippery slope. If you’re drawn to a person based upon looks, you’ll be sadly disappointed in a few years as age and babies take their toll on a person’s body. When youth and health fade away will your marriage collapse and slide into the ocean of divorce?
In historical times, marriage was often a financial transaction. In some cases, it was a way to unite kingdoms. This was not God’s intent for marriage. The union between a man and a woman was to be a symbol of his love for his people, not a quest for power and fortune. This is just another example of sand.
Jesus is the rock on which to build a healthy marriage. While dating, my husband and I came to understand the principle of the triangle. Jesus is at the top point. My husband and I were both at the other bottom points. As we drew closer to Jesus, we naturally drew closer to each other. During the times that we slipped away from Christ, we grew farther apart from each other.
In order to have a healthy marriage, both of you need to develop your relationship with Jesus and develop one together. Even if your schedules don’t align to have Bible time together, the YouVersion app allows you to do studies together and leave comments for each other. Write out a prayer list together that you can pray through on your personal time. Find a ministry in your church in which you can serve together. Jesus is the answer.
Communication, communication, communication. I can feel the eye-rolls. I know, it’s an easy decision, an over-stated rule, and yet, somehow the majority of marriages still suffer in this area. When my husband was going into ministry, he was told not to share things with his wife to protect her. On the other hand, I was taught not to share my day because it would be a burden to my husband.
He would be tired and wouldn’t want to be bored. Years later when my husband switched to a secular career, he was told the same thing. I was encouraged to bide my time in sharing with my husband. For twenty-five years, we vowed never to follow these idiotic rules. Our society has been taught not to communicate with our spouses and we are continuing to hand down the tradition that tears marriages apart.
On their wedding day, couples make a sacred vow to stay committed for better or for worse. There has been no vow ever made to protect each other from sharing their bad days, financial concerns, or any other issue. The whole purpose of marriage is to carry the load together.
Another form of communication is the recognition that the spouse is not God. In other words, they can’t read their minds. Be succinct and clear in your needs. Ladies, we tend to ask for things in a roundabout way, perhaps because we were taught that girls don’t ask for things outright. Guys, tune into your wives. If you get that sense that she’s making a request and you don’t understand it, just ask for clarification. These simple steps can prevent many arguments.
Active Listening. What do I mean by that? Simply put, when a spouse is talking to you, don’t tune them out. Don’t try to fix the problem or immediately offer solutions. Don’t compare your problems to theirs in order to relate, just be quiet and listen. If you’re unclear about what your spouse needs, ask them, “Are you looking for solutions or do you just need me to listen?” It’s not offensive – it’s actually considerate.
After listening, summarize and repeat what you heard. “What I’m hearing is that your coworker is having a party and you weren’t invited. Does that make you feel rejected?” Doing a simple playback to your spouse shows that you are not just listening but you’re also understanding what they may be feeling.
This is a good rule to follow in arguments. Active listening and summarizing help to keep the conversation on track rather than getting sidetracked on petty things. Summarizing also helps the spouse hear what they just said and gives them a chance to rephrase or change their feelings on something. Give space for that to happen rather than jumping right in with a comeback. Respond, don’t react.
Be humble. Two powerful words that can bring healing, but are the most difficult to say, are “I’m sorry.” Even if what you said was misunderstood, be humble enough to say, “I’m sorry that my words hurt you, that was not my intent.
This is what I was saying…” This doesn’t mean that you have to apologize for things you didn’t do or didn’t say. You don’t have to trade in your opinions and needs to keep the peace. That’s not healthy. Relationships require both people to give and receive.
Another way to show humility in marriage is to affirm your spouse. After all these years, I still receive texts from my husband that validate me as a person every single day. Some people have asked why that’s so important when the spouse should already know it. It goes back to us being creatures. We are not all-knowing, like God, so words have to be spoken or written for people to feel secure in their relationships.
Lastly, don’t forget to play. Yes, play. As adults, we get caught up in paying bills, providing for children, and taking care of aging parents so that marriage is shoved to the bottom of the priority list. When the kids leave home, marriages tend to fall apart. Couples realize they don’t have anything in common anymore.
Healthy marriages need to be bonded differently. Find hobbies that you can both be interested in, travel, go on daytime adventures while the kids are in school, or take the time to have coffee together. The point is to do something together that isn’t work-related. To reignite the spark, go on a date and make a bucket list of dreams. Give yourselves a future to look forward to.
To have a successful marriage Jesus needs to be your foundation, followed by clear communication. Active listening will de-escalate arguments and will convey empathy. Be humble by giving your spouse affirmations and then make it a priority to play. If you’re struggling with any of these concepts, set up a time with me. Coaching will help you rediscover a future that may be getting lost in the present.