Last week I mentioned five Marriage Busters – behaviors and attitudes that contribute to marital problems. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you what not to do without offering alternatives, so here are five Marriage Builders to help build a strong relationship.
1. Embrace Differences
You’ve heard that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus… Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti… women need Love & Respect is what men need… Well, it’s all true! Men and women are inherently different – in their needs and in their primary means of communication. Not only do we need to invest the time to understand these differences, we need to learn to embrace them.
Just the other day I was watching our four-year-old son pretend to shoot passing vehicles with an imaginary shotgun (seriously, a shotgun – he went, “Chck, chck…Boom!”). How does he know this? He’s male, and God created him to do battle, be a protector, be tough. Ever seen a little girl cradling a baby doll saying, “Shhhh, Baby. It’s okay. Mommy’s here.”? She’s female, and God created her to nurture and love.
Too many couples waste valuable time and effort trying to convince their spouse that he or she is wrong and does things the wrong way. The fact is, though, that neither way of being is wrong. They’re just different.
2. Speak your spouse’s love language.
I can’t say enough about The Five Love Languages! If you figure out what someone else’s love language is – and then use it – you will see that person transformed before your eyes. I use the love languages when dealing with my kids, in ministry, at work, and in my marriage.
How does your husband show kindness, love, or appreciation to you? Does he buy you a gift or flowers? (Gifts.) Does he thank you? (Words of affirmation.) Does he snuggle you? (Physical affection.) Maybe he does some jobs around the house to ease your burden. (Acts of service.) Perhaps he takes you out for a date or an evening stroll. (Quality time.) The way he expresses his love is most likely his love language. Try speaking that language to show love to him!
In a child-dominated society, we tend to feel guilty if our world doesn’t revolve around the children. We spend hours on activities the children are involved with. We plan our meals based around what our children will (hopefully) eat. Or maybe children aren’t the focus, but our jobs are. Or our ministries. Or our friends and extended family. The sad fact is, you seldom see married couples whose marriage is their priority. Spouses too often get our leftovers – whatever bit of time and energy is left at the end of a busy week.
It takes effort and intentionality to put marriage first and give our spouses our best. But it’s so worth it! Imagine how great you’d feel if your husband came in the door, cell phone to his ear, and said, “I need to go. I’m home and I can’t wait to see my wife!”
My mom shared a great quote with me recently… In today’s society women tend to live as though their job is to serve their children and train their husbands, but the Bible says that women ought to serve their husbands and train their children.
4. Get rid of selfishness.
Many a marriage breaks down under the burden of “equality.” I deserve this… Or I’m owed that… Since he got time away to do _______, I’m entitled to time away to.
This isn’t about equality. It’s about selfishness. Constantly thinking about ‘me’ and ‘I’ will get us nowhere but disappointed. But reversing that thinking will bring joy and fulfillment!
Try thinking, He deserves… I want to do this for him… I can make his life easier by… Not only will acting in kindness to your husband bring you joy, but chances are good that it will motivate his heart to act in kindness to you. Eventually, it’s no longer a competition to win what we deserve, but a contest to see who can give more generously to the other.
5. ‘It’ matters.
You know what I’m talking about! Sex means something to men that it doesn’t to women. It truly is more of a need than a want. (Kinda like how women need to talk and share emotions.) So let me ask you a tough question – when is it okay to deny meeting one of your husband’s genuine needs?
Would you deny your dog the exercise that it needs? Would you deny your children the affection that they need? It strikes me as odd how many couples are more concerned about meeting the needs of their offspring and their pets than they are about meeting the needs of their spouse.
If you’re feeling like your marriage isn’t all it could be, take stock. Do you notice a lack of marriage builders in your relationship?
If so, don’t be discouraged! There is hope for change (Pat & I are living proof). Next week, I’ll share a surprising truth about what’s required to turn a failing marriage into a thriving one. It’s not nearly as hard as you might expect!
How can I pray for your marriage today?