Today’s post is by a good friend of mine, Mike Teston. Mike is a marriage coach and pastor who has previously spent the last 10 years working with Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church, one of the largest churches in the country. Enjoy the article.
My wife and I are about to reach a huge milestone: 40 years of marriage. They have been 30 of the best years of our lives – and 10 of the worst.
These are round numbers, but they accurately represent our relationship, and I suspect your marriage is somewhat like ours – a mixture of both good and bad. Your ratios may be different (hopefully better), but you know that marriage can bring out the best and the worst in everyone.
So as 40 year seasoned veterans, we want to offer two simple things we believe will help you reach your own 40-year milestone. They aren’t new or revolutionary; they are just two basic things that need to be practiced repeatedly.
We know this for certain: nothing has been as fulfilling as our long-term marriage in spite of the lost years we experienced.
Here are Two Things Every Married Couple Needs to Practice:
1) When the worst comes out in you: humble yourself, put on your big boy/girl pants, own it, and ask for forgiveness.
If you are human, you will do something stupid. So stop excusing, justifying, blame shifting, lying or denying. Your spouse knows, the kids know, even the parakeet and the dog know. Owning your stuff increases your integrity as well as your credibility – it is the right thing to do.
Try something like, “Wait a minute, I shouldn’t have said that. It was unkind and uncalled for. I was wrong and ask you to forgive me. Can I try this again with a little more kindness?”
If you are not accustomed to doing this, I understand. I wasn’t either. But trust me, it will get easier, and your marriage will benefit.
2) When the worst comes out in your spouse: remember those words, “for better or for worse.”
You meant them, didn’t you? At your wedding, you just didn’t know the extent of your promise.
First a disclaimer: we aren’t suggesting here that you endure physical endangerment or sexual unfaithfulness without protecting yourself. Please get help from your family, church or counselor.
When your spouse is being unreasonable, unkind, or downright childish, what should be your response? Keep calm, don’t allow yourself to escalate the tension, and be willing to offer forgiveness.
Try something like, “I don’t understand what you just did. It seemed disrespectful and unnecessary, and I am trying not to respond in my usual bad way. I want to forgive you, and hope we can move our conversation to a more productive place.”
As you read these responses, you may be finding them unrealistic or simplistic. We can assure you that it will take courage and willpower to actually practice them. Both of these responses are rooted in the ancient wisdom of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32. While you may not see immediate external results, your choice to follow his counsel over time will make you better on the inside.
When the worst comes out in you, remember v. 31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
When the worst comes out in your spouse, remember v. 32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Every couple has disagreements, misunderstandings, and fights. It is a matter of when, not if.
Research has shown that fighting, or the frequency of fighting, in marriage is not the issue. It is HOW couples fight and HOW they resolve fights that can make or break a marriage.
In other words, you can have many spirited disagreements and still have a great marriage. But you cannot tear each other apart, leave your fights unresolved, and make it to 40 years with a desirable good/bad ratio.
So the next time “bad” shows up in you or your spouse, remember the wisdom that has stood the test of time. Happy future 40th.