As we have discussed pretty often in the past few weeks, our culture is POISONOUS when it comes to marriage. Absolutely poisonous. So in order to keep your relationship going in a healthy direction, you need to be intentional in your approach. Ask yourself, “How can I leverage my time to strengthen my marriage?” After all, relationships do not strengthen themselves. So ask yourself: what steps can I intentionally take, on my side, to build my marriage relationship?
As you ponder that, here is this week’s edition of “Marriage Builders” – precepts, principles, and prayers from around the web that may help you to keep a Godly perspective on your marriage.
* First, and right off the bat, a prayer penned by Charles Swindoll. I encourage you to read this, and pray these words or some variation of them. This is powerful.
* Matt Kimel sends along this article by Dr. Tony Evans. (The men who met for breakfast last Saturday morning used this as the springboard for their discussion. Be on the lookout for the next Men’s Breakfast coming up soon. An excerpt from this excellent article:
The first duty of a man to his woman, or a husband to his wife, is to love (Greek word agape) her. Now, you might say, “Well, that goes without saying! Move on to number two!” Your wife probably wants me to stay at number one. Because, often, what goes under the name of love has little to do with love. The word ‘love’ has become a misunderstood word. For example, people say, “I love my job. I love my home. I love chocolate cake.” Generally what they are talking about is what those things do for them. “The home makes me comfortable. The cake satisfies my sweet tooth. The work satisfies my desire for a career.” The word ‘love’ has become a word to describe the lusts of the flesh, and nothing more.
You see, when the scripture talks about love, it talks about the sacrifice that you make for the betterment of someone else. You can only measure love by your sacrifice, not by your enjoyment. If you talk about loving your wife, and you mean by that that she does a lot of good things for you, that’s not love. That’s her loving you. To say that a man loves his wife is to talk about the sacrifice that you make for her.
* This is a video clip by Paul Tripp, a popular author and speaker, talking about the power of WORDS in relationships.
* After you watch the video clips, and look at this excerpt from a lesson from our 2009 Marriage Retreat: “So, what do your words have to do with your marriage? Everything. Your words have everything to do with your marriage, because we’ve already said that your marriage is headed somewhere – it’s on a path – there’s a progression to it – and your words are steering it down the path. Your words are driving your relationship. They are giving it direction.
“Let’s be specific. We’ve all been around a couple at some point that used words poorly with one another. I think we all know that awkward feeling when they start to pick at each other or insult each other or criticize each other, and you kind of stare at the floor and pretend that you don’t hear. You want to say, “Hey, I’m here. I can hear that.”
My point is, I think we all have a picture of ways that words can damage a marriage. So let’s be very specific for moment. Let’s identify the types of words that damage a couple:
Criticism — Let’s start here, because this is easily the most common. We all occasionally criticize our spouses. She does something and I think it’s wrong, so I may casually mention that I thought she should have done it differently – and of course I know the correct way that it should have been done.
This isn’t always bad. Part of having a partner in life is accountability. If I do something that needs correcting, I need to be able to trust Tonya to be honest with me and let me know. No problem – but the way criticism is carried out matters a bunch.
Ladies, don’t correct your husband in front of other people. You don’t have to “straighten him out” right now, with everyone watching. There’s no value to that. None. You don’t need to lecture him or ridicule him, ever, but especially in front of friends. I have seen this a hundred times – “Honey, get your elbows off the table. Use some manners!” “Dear, sit up. Try to look interested.” “You’re not going to tell that joke again, are you? Honestly. I can’t take you anywhere!” “Did you really think that those clothes matched? You look ridiculous!”
Think about how you use your words – both what you say and how you say it. You’re not his mother, ladies. Don’t try to be. When people ask how many children you have, don’t say things like, “Two—three, if you count my husband.” Don’t tell him to wear a coat when it’s cold and take an umbrella when it’s raining, as if he can’t figure it out on his own. Don’t make him feel like he’s three years old. You don’t have to tell him how to live his life, down to the smallest detail. Because when you do, it not only shows incredible disrespect – (btw, respect is almost the number one thing your husband NEEDS from you) – it also emasculates him. You destroy his masculine spirit . . . with your words.
Men, be careful not to communicate to your wife that you think your opinion is more important than hers. Listen to what she has to say. Don’t interrupt her when she’s speaking. Don’t correct her opinion as she gives it. Don’t watch television or read the newspaper while she’s speaking. That communicates something as sharply as you could with your tongue – “I’m not interested.” Your wife needs respect, too, all the time, and especially in public. Honor her in front of other people, both verbally and non-verbally. And guys, never, ever resort to name-calling, especially about things she can’t change.
Blowing Up – First of all, disagreements are part of life, and definitely part of marriage. They are almost unavoidable. And I understand that everyone fights differently. Lots of you, when you get mad, you have it out. You yell and fuss and say your piece, and then it’s over. “Let’s go get something to eat.” I’ve never been like that. I’m not an emotional arguer. (That’s one of the things that drives my wife CRAZY!)
So I’m not going to tell you how to settle your arguments – I only want to remind you to fight fair. Because the careless words that you throw around during an argument won’t necessarily go away when the argument ends. Remember what we said earlier about a small spark that can start a forest-fire? Lots of those sparks are formed during the friction of an argument!
I guess the point is, you need to be careful not to inflict pain during a disagreement. Don’t call each other names in the heat of your emotion. Don’t dredge up the past and bring up old hurts. Those words leave scars. Don’t let yourself lose control when you’re angry. Express your anger wisely and constructively. If you’re too mad to speak with self-control, wait till you cool down. Epheisans says: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Do you see that? Be careful in your anger, because if you don’t, you give Satan a foothold into your marriage. It’s like how rocks erode – a crack forms – ice pushes it further and further and further, until it just breaks. Be careful with your words – especially when you’re angry.
And by the way, one more thing about arguing – allow your husband or your wife to retreat with dignity. When the argument is over, don’t fire shots at them as they back away. Don’t make your spouse feel whipped and defeated at the end of a fight. And please, both of you, remove the phrase “I told you so” from your vocabulary.
Complaining – In our society, complaining is not just a bad habit that people have. It’s almost an expected language to master. This is the language of the selfish – French speak French. Spanish speak Spanish. Selfish speak “complainese.” Because complaining turns everything back to me. “I want something different. I want it my way!” This is the language of the American workplace, and the coffee-shop, and the ball-field. It’s a sort of common ground – even complete strangers feel comfortable communicating by complaining.
“My job really stinks. Let me tell you about my boss.” “How am I doing? Well, not so good. My knee has been giving me fits.” “All of those politicians are crooks. We should get rid of them all.” It’s harmless, right? No big deal. It’s just how people talk.
Here’s the thing – you don’t have to read very far through scripture before you figure out how much God HATES complaining. When the Israelites were in the desert grumbling against Moses and against God, God made it very clear that He has no use for complaining. Because at its essence, complaining shows a lack of faith. It’s not just that the complainer stops seeing things in proper perspective – the complainer doesn’t see that good hand of God; The only outcome he can sees is disaster; He can’t see the possibility of God’s blessing. So when I grumble, I allow my present circumstances to nullify my confidence in God’s purposes and promises. Demonstrates an ungrateful heart. Shows discontentment. It POISONS the air. And it will poison your marriage, too.
Listen, I know that a little complaining now and then is inevitable. But you need to carefully monitor how many of those types of words come out of your mouth – because they will destroy the positive spirit of your marriage. Why do you always have to do that? I hate it!” “You call this meatloaf? You should talk to my mother. She makes good meatloaf?” “Are you watching another ballgame? I’m sick of seeing you do that?” “When are you going to get that done?” “Why can’t you do that better?” “I can’t stand it when you . . .” We’ve all been there, and that’s why we all know the truth of this statement – constant complaining will suck the life out of your romance. It leaves you feeling tired and beat-up, and it breaks the romantic connection between husband and wife.
In other words, it steers your marriage in a bad direction! Go back to Proverbs 18: 21– “Your tongue has the power of life and death.” Think of that verse in relation to your marriage. Your words have in them the power to make your marriage thrive, or to destroy the soul of your relationship.”
* Here is a sermon series by Andy Stanley that I think is REALLY powerful. It is on “Staying in Love”. If you click here, be sure to click on #1 to see the first part, which explains why the key to staying in love is to make love a verb.
* Finally, for those of you who may need this, here is a book recommendation. It is written for marriages in which one or both couples has been unfaithful . . . and how it actually IS possible to pick up the pieces. If you read this book, I would be really interested in your thoughts.
That’s it for now. Again, if you have a good resource to share, PLEASE send it my way. Until next time . . .