4. Great Marriages Study Each Other-You should be an expert on your spouse. If I'm going to please my spouse, I'm going to have to know her likes and dislikes, her strengths and weaknesses. One of the things that helped us early on in our marriage was a tape (remember tapes?) we heard of Dr. Gary Chapman on "The Five Love Languages." (If you'd like to know more about this, here's a link to his website: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/). We discovered that some of the difficulties in the early years of our marriage had to do with the way we expressed love to each other. I thought I was loving her in doing things that made me feel loved. She was trying to love me in ways that made her feel loved. Sometimes, this can go on for years with neither spouse really making a connection. One example from our marriage: I would love her with words of affirmation, as in telling her "I love you" often. This was a good thing. Couples should say this to each other often and we do this multiple times a day. However, what she was really needing was for me to SHOW HER that I loved her by listening to her, by spending quality time with her. Now, I thought I was listening to her, but I wasn't LISTENING to her! I was hearing what she had to say, but not really paying attention the way I needed to. And she didn't feel loved. In fact, she felt very unloved. My words of affirmation (my Love Language) were actually galling to her at times because I wasn't spending quality time (her Love Language) with her the way she needed. Believe me, this is something we're still working on! And by no means have I arrived. But I hope that I'm listening better than I used to.
5 Great Marriages Accept Each Other For Who They Are-a mistake that young couples often make is to try to mold each other into the person they'd like for them to be. When people get married, they soon make the startling discovery that their spouses have faults! The natural instinct is to try to fix the faults. However, this is almost always counterproductive. In fact, many marriages founder in the first few years because they haven't been able to learn to love the person that they're married to, faults and all. In our marriage, when we discovered each other's faults (my many, her few!), we just had to adjust our expectations. Over the years, we've just learned (and are continuing to learn) to accept each other in our own skins. We're comfortable in each other's presence because we love each other just as he or she is.
6. Great Marriages Are Strengthened Through Trials-Let's face it-this life is going to have trials. In fact, Jesus promised that "in this world, you shall have tribulations..." (John 16:33). We've had our share...struggles with raising kids (including the additional challenges of raising adoptive and foster kids), struggles with health issues, struggles with family problems, struggles with money (pretty much all 30 years!). Any or all of these could have blown our marriage apart if we had let it. However, I believe our faith in Christ (see #1 above!) made these seeming obstacles actually become a reason for us to lean on each other. Kathy and I were cooks for five years in a church summer camp. Our pastor, who was also a cook, had made a canopy to put over the outside equipment that was a real bear to put up! It took a whole crew of men to put that canopy in place. However, I remember Pastor Mike saying that the design of the canopy was such that when it stormed and the rain blew, the canopy actually became stronger. Because the foundation was solid, it wouldn't go anywhere. I got to see this for myself one evening when we had a whale of storm blow up. It was a real toad strangler, as the old folks used to say! After the storm, I went back to see the canopy. Sure enough, it was right there like it had always been! Nothing ripped. Nothing torn. As good a condition as before. I look at that canopy like a marriage rooted in Christ. The troubles that might blow some away actually become a source of strength for those whose marriage has a firm foundation. As we look back at all we've gone through, our marriage is stronger because we made it through all these trials together. We know, that whatever we face in the future, we will face them together.
Want to read more? To Read Part 3, click here.
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