If marriage is a font, then ours is a Wingding. My husband Carey and I have tried being something more respectable, like Times New Roman or Courier, but alas, some couples are destined for weirdness.
Before you picture us as The Addams Family, let me assure you that we have a happy, loving marriage. Carey and I have been married for 23 wonderful years—and a couple we don’t talk about. We’ve had our fair share of highs and lows, but whatever the circumstances, we’ve tried to have fun together and stand for, not against, each other. Besides the Lord’s grace, laughter has been a key ingredient in our union.
Maybe you’re just starting your matrimonial journey. You’re both full of hope and dreams, with the starry eyes to prove it. Perhaps you’ve been married for decades, and things are beginning to seem a bit…well, stale. Let me encourage you—whatever stage of marriage you’re in–to make each other your first priority (besides the Lord). Determine to be for and not against each other. And don’t forget to have fun along the way.
It takes some creativity and effort, but you can get your smile back…even if, right now, you can’t remember where you put it. Here are three ways to bring more “love’ and less “fight” into your union.
1) Rehearse a helpful phrase.
Marriage is a melding of two very different cultures. Even if you’ve spent a great deal of time together before getting married, you’ll still have to compromise and accept the ways your spouse is different from you. Of course, you’ll eventually find new ways of doing things as a couple. But as you join your lives together, practice communicating…a lot. Talk about habits, quirks, traditions, and celebrations. Ask questions before judging or jumping to conclusions.
Also, be willing to compromise and change for the sake of unity. Jesus calls us to sacrifice our own desires and treat our spouse as we would want to be treated.
You might also implement a phrase that has often saved us from plummeting into all-out spousal warfare: “Your way is not worse or better than mine; it’s just different.”
2) Remember to Fight Fair
Speaking of warfare, becoming one flesh didn’t just magnify the blissful parts of being together; it also intensified our differences. He likes all the windows and blinds shut; I love to fling everything open and (sing it with me!) “Let the sunshine in…” That is just one of the hundreds of ways we’re different, because opposites attract.
In relationships, our differences can actually be part of our sanctification. Many times, if something is difficult, it’s that way for a reason. God wants to use your union, even with all its speed bumps, to make you both more like him.
One way God did this in our marriage was by helping us learn to fight fair. Even though we had been friends for years and were deeply in love, after we said “I do,” we fought—a lot. Our arguments were loud and abrasive, and they often left both of us emotionally wounded.
Through a lot of trial and error, and the help of wise counselors, Carey and I learned to ask the following questions when conflict happens:
- Are we really listening to each other? Most of the time, we are just trying to get our own point across. It takes intentional, sustained effort, but we can learn to give our mate the floor and listen to his/her point of view.
- Am I honoring my spouse? There’s a way to disagree/argue so that the other person is not disrespected. If Carey resorts to sarcasm, eye-rolling, or yelling, I will emotionally shut down because I feel belittled. If I disrespect him, he gets angry, insecure, and defensive.
- Are we actually getting somewhere? As Carey says, “If you just want to let off steam, go for a run. If you’re not learning something about each other or coming up with a game plan, then, as the school crossing guard tells Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, ‘you’re doing it wrong.’”
3) Re-boot your perspective.
As comedienne Rita Rudner says, “I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”
When you’re dating, your loved one’s quirks are endearing. A few months (weeks?) after the ceremony, those traits become annoying. It’s inevitable…but it doesn’t have to be disastrous. When we re-boot our perspective, we can—almost—see their quirks as endearing once again.
So, the question is, how can we keep from plummeting down into negativity, especially after several years together? In our experience, we can consistently be FOR–and not against–each other only with supernatural help.
God can give us patience, joy, and creative ideas on finding the space and peace we need to thrive. [If you don’t have a partner who shares your faith, pray on your own, especially for your mate’s spiritual life. Prayers said in faith are never wasted, even if your spouse doesn’t seem to change.]
A positive perspective shift also leaves space and time for God to work. Our spouses are a gift from God, and even on the worst of days, we need to make room for the supernatural in our marriages. He can give us the strength and love to not only put up with our spouse but to celebrate him or her, with all their unique qualities.
Want more marriage encouragement from Dena and her husband? Check out her book, “Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples.“