I’ve been married for over 30 years and I have dealt with a lot of issues and a lot of happy times. However, I noticed something very interesting about marriage compared to other types of relationships. Marriage seems to be so complicated sometimes. However, I don’t think it as complicated as it is made out to be. I believe that marriage seems to be complicated because husbands and wives neglect to consider each other as an individual and therefore, we tend to do things repeatedly that hurts our spouse and causes division in the marriage.
Consider this. Do you have a best friend that you hang out with, get angry with, fight, and then come back together to hang out more, repeatedly? You probably do or at least once did. How many articles or books did you read titled, “How to Have a Best Friend” or “How to Be a Best Friend?” I’ll bet none of you sought to educate yourself on friendship. However, for some strange reason, when we throw marriage into the equation, everything seems to change. We have to be educated, we have to learn the 10 steps to this and the 9 steps to that, etc. Why is that?
I’ll tell you why, and I must admit that I was very guilty of this. Marriage seems so complicated sometimes because we refuse to be empathetic towards our spouse or we refuse to give up our own interests, or we think that our spouse is just like us. We tend not to think that way with friends. We’ll fight Godzilla for our friend. We’ll help our best friend no matter what and not think about it. We don’t subscribe to a friendship protocol. We just hang out, build the relationship naturally, and go on.
Now, of course, a friendship relationship differs from a marriage relationship in terms of commitment. However, if we are truly friends with someone, then we will be committed to that person at a deep level. Marriage involves commitment too, but it seems that it is so complex for some reason. What if we built a friendship with our spouse? What if we built intimacy with our spouse naturally? I’ll bet marriages would be much more successful.
With that said. Let me share some things with you that I’ve learned over the last 30 years of evaluating my own marriage, observing other marriages, and things that I’ve learned from others.
Realize that it is not about you
Husbands. You didn’t get married so that you would have someone to wash your clothes, clean your house, raise your kids, feed you, and give you sexual pleasure when you wanted it. That is not the purpose of the wife, but more importantly, your wife probably doesn’t want to be your servant like that anyway. Wives. Likewise, you didn’t get married so that you would have a handyman around the house, someone to lift heavy things, or a sexual partner.
There is a scripture in the Bible that I believe sums this up. Jesus said, “Whatever you want others to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Now understand what this means. Jesus wasn’t saying that if you want people to do good things for you, then you should do good things for them. That would be a selfish motive in that the only reason you do something for someone else is that there is something in it for you. What Jesus was teaching, is how we should treat others. The question is, “How should I treat another person?” The answer is that I should treat another person the same way I would want to be treated. This was in a sense, a lesson of empathy.
How should a husband treat his wife? How would he want to be treated? How should a wife treat her husband? She should treat him the way she would want to be treated. Unfortunately, we typically want to treat others well when they treat us well. We tend to reciprocate instead of initiate.
So, don’t see your wife as a personal servant or sex toy. See her as a person who has cares, concerns, fears, etc. Don’t see your husband as the home handyman and security guard. See him as a person with fears, concerns, goals, etc. If we would give up self and care for our spouse, then the husband and wife would be cared for by each other with no strings attached. The relationship would flourish, and a happy marriage would be imminent.
Be Honest and Candid with Your Spouse.
Why can’t we be straight with our spouse all the time? Why is it that sometimes we are afraid to tell our spouse the truth for fear of hurting their feelings, stirring up ire, or the like? The truth is better even though it may cause pain for a short time. Living a lie will only perpetuate pain, frustration, and then possibly spawn resentment, which will damage the relationship in the long run.
Aren’t best friends honest with each other? Why not be honest with your spouse? Why not set a precedent with your spouse that he or she knows that you will be completely pragmatic with her (with sensitivity and effective delivery)? Being honest will give you the confidence that you are pleasing your spouse, doing something he or she appreciates or wants, helping him or her effectively, etc. How so? Your confidence is founded on the foundation of truth. Your spouse tells you what he wants or what she needs. Your spouse informs you when you are doing something that she likes or that he enjoys. Pleasure can be had from pleasing your spouse and know that you are really pleasing him or her. This happens more readily when we are honest with our spouse in all things.
Ok. If you have been married for more than a couple of hours, then you know something unpleasant may happen between you and your spouse. If you’ve been married for several years then you know how those unpleasant things can add up and affect how you feel about your spouse, which in turn adversely affects the marriage relationship. Well, there is a powerful thing that you can do to thwart this. Forgive.
Forgive your spouse when he or she hurt you. Forgive your spouse when he or she does something stupid that hurts your feelings or embarrasses you. You may actually discover that you were the one who misunderstood something good that your spouse may have been trying to do.
What does it mean to forgive? Forgiveness does not mean that you overlook an offense. Remember that you should be honest with your spouse, so if he or she hurt you in any way, you should tell him or her. Many conflicts can be resolved if we are just honest with our spouse when we are hurt. Forgiveness is the process of releasing the resentment that occurs because of an offense. In other words, your spouse hurt you. You are offended, and then you resent your spouse for hurting you. That resentment is like a poison inside of you, but unfortunately, we think that holding onto the resentment (unforgiveness) is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Resentment will hurt you and your marriage in the long run.
Forgiveness means that you release the resentment and then pursue resolution (you can’t resolve conflicts if we allow resentment to sustain a grudge towards your spouse). You then can resolve the conflicts or issues and thus grow closer together. Forgiveness provides a way for the relationship to be restored and move forward. Always practice forgiving your spouse. Do not hold grudges against your spouse, but instead release that resentment and get things straight between the two of you.
Enjoy Your Life Together
Purposely pursue the enjoyment of life with your spouse, and don’t think of marriage as a school project where you have to be a master of. Yes. I believe that we should educate ourselves about the marriage relationship, but that doesn’t mean that we make marriage an academic endeavor. Be yourself and enjoy your spouse. Have fun together!
Enjoying life with your spouse must be something that you purposefully pursue. It isn’t something that is going to happen by itself. Make it a priority to spend time with each other for the purpose of having fun or enjoying life together. Establish date nights regularly, have great sex together, allow alone time, talk to each other about sensitive issues, and much more.
It is imperative that you build intimacy with your spouse if you expect to build a lasting and happy marriage. I watched a TEDx video today about intimacy. The presenter shared several types of intimacy. We can be intimate with our spouse emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. This means that you should get involved with each other’s lives so that intimacy can grow in all areas.
Talk to each other about things and in the process discover more and more about each other. Read and study the Bible together. Discuss spiritual things. Discuss your feelings about things, your fears, joys, fantasies, etc. The more you can get into your spouse’s world, the better.
Marriage is not complicated, though it does take constant monitoring and work. However, these don’t have to be an academic affair, but a natural life progression. Always remember that your marriage relationship is not about you. It’s not how you can be pleased, get this, or get that. It is about the union, i.e., the both of you together. Be honest with one another so that the guesswork is ideally eliminated. Forgive always so that resentment doesn’t germinate in the relationship. Enjoy your life together as two best friends. Be natural with each other and get to know each other. Of course, you must build intimacy if you are to have an intimate and happy marriage relationship.
There is one thing that is very important for these things to be effective. Both the husband and the wife must want a happy marriage. Both the husband and wife must want to be intimate, honest with each other, forgiving, etc. If only one wants these things and strives for them, while the other does not, then division may occur in the relationship, and that division may spawn resentment. What doesn’t build unity, destroys it. So, both husband and wife must be on the same page with regard to the pursuit of a happy marriage.
Stop making marriage complicated. Two people need to know how to live together, adjust to each other, and grow together. Communicating is a sure way to get that done as you would in any other situation. Pursue a happy marriage and make your marriage a priority. Love and cherish each other as you forgive and more about each other consistently. Be blessed!
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