July-August 2013 – My wife and I recently went to a Weekend to Remember marriage conference hosted by Family Life. At the three-day getaway, I learned many truths and practices I need to implement in my marriage. The following 10 are a good start.
10. Never quit learning
On the first night of the conference, speaker Clarence Shuler, asked who in the audience was married the shortest time. He had those married under six months stand. Then he asked those married under five months to remain standing, then four, then three, then two, then one. When two couples were left standing he asked one couple how long they had been married. The husband shouted, “Saturday will be one week.” The other couple sat down.
Then Shuler asked who had been married the longest. He asked those who had been married 45 years to stand. He increased the number, one by one until he reached 55 years and only one couple remained on their feet.
Seeing the two couples in their early 20s and late 60s among a sea of other couples caused a truth to land solidly on my heart. No matter how long I am blessed to be married to Allison, there will always be something new to learn, something new to practice and a new way to express my love for her. Forever is possible.
9. My marriage (and yours) will have a long-reaching influence.
The last session of the conference focused on leaving a legacy, something I had never considered. My marriage will impact my children, which will impact their children and their children. Am I honoring the legacy passed down to me from my great grandparents? Am I passing a legacy that will be honorable for my great grandchildren?
8. I am selfish and so is my wife.
Speaker Larry Kayser, a marriage expert, said, “Selfishness is as pervasive as gravity.” I didn’t realize how right he was until I examined my heart and my attitude toward my marriage.
A surprising way selfishness crops up in marriages is the 50/50 partnership concept. Marriages across the U.S. usually begin with both spouses believing if they do their half of the work and the other spouse does the other half, they will be happy. However, marriage, as the Bible defines it, is a 100/100 covenant.
7. Satan is actively trying to destroy marriages.
He has tools to destroy, and he uses each one to his advantage. Commercials, no matter the product, first promote discontent. Why would you buy a car if you are happy with the one in your driveway? Why would you need a superabsorbent towel if yours works fine? Commercials sell the idea that your life isn’t complete unless you have what they are selling. Through the use of sexual appeal and discontentment, ads convince us that our lives aren’t complete unless we have the adoration of the attractive person in the commercial as well.
Satan has even more destructive strategies. For example, he can use innocent friendships, professional relationships or social media to bring temptations that can destroy marriages. Satan even uses good things to destroy marriages. Spouses are spending more and more time attached to work by cell phones and the Internet. This always-connected, always-available for work mentality can lead to the starvation of the marriage relationship.
6. Communication is to marriage what location is to real estate.
Kayser told a story about a man fighting with his wife. He was giving her the silent treatment, but he had an early flight the next morning and was afraid he would oversleep. Rather than asking his wife to wake him, he placed a note on her nightstand that said, “Wake me up at 6:30 tomorrow morning. I have to catch my flight.” When he woke up the next morning, the clock showed 7:30. He missed his plane because his wife didn’t wake him. He was angry until he looked on the dresser and saw a note saying, “WAKE UP. IT’S 6:30.”
Lesson learned: Good communication is not only about what we say to our spouses, but also about how we say it.
5. Marriage has a large story and a short story. Focus on the right one.
We live in mundane moments. We follow the same routine every morning, taking the same route to work and returning home via the same predictable route. Each of those tasks is a small story. When an argument arises, realize every marriage has them. You have a choice to focus on the story of today or the story of a lifetime together. What’s more important?
4. We need healthy couples around us.
It was not good for man to be alone in the garden. Neither is it good for a married couple to face the problems of the world alone. Marriages need the influence of other healthy marriages, not only couples at the same stage of life, but also older couples willing to share their wisdom and experience.
3. Compare your assumptions with your knowledge.
Kayser told a story of washing his wife’s car. He said, “Every spring I wash the family cars. I take an entire afternoon and spend it on a single vehicle. I wash, wax, shampoo carpets, clean windows and tires and do whatever needs to be done. Two weeks ago, I washed my wife’s car. When I came in, sweaty from my exertion, she took her car to grocery shop. She came back, set the groceries on the counter, looked me in the eye and said, ‘The windows are streaked.”
Kayser then related that he was upset with his wife, and didn’t speak to her for a few hours. But after comparing what he assumed she thought (he didn’t do a good job cleaning the car) to what he knew (she loves and appreciates him), his anger dwindled. She thanked him for his work and he cleaned her windows again.
2. Difficulties should challenge your resources, not your marriage.
This truth applies in many areas: finance, intimacy, in-law relationships and conflicts. When Kayser told the story of fighting with his wife, I looked around at the 200 other couples attending the conference. Some nodded as if saying, “Yeah, we had a similar fight on the way here.” Some looked relieved, thinking, “Wow, we aren’t the only couple that fights.” Others looked shocked, “If the marriage expert doesn’t have a perfect marriage, maybe there is good reason mine isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”
In the case of arguments, Kayser counseled, “When you fight, if one wins you both lose.”
1. God does not command your feelings.
We have all heard the adage that love isn’t an emotion, it’s a decision. God understands that better than anyone. We disrespect Him, dishonor Him and betray Him on a regular basis. Yet He still loves us. Sometimes marriage isn’t about marrying the one you love but loving the one you married. Sometimes you just have to trust that God led you to marry your spouse for a reason and trust Him above everything in the world telling you the grass is greener on the other side.
To illustrate this, Kayser said, “Imagine a box comes to your door with a priceless gift inside. The box has obviously not been taken care of. It is stained, bent, torn and looks dirty. You are annoyed by it and are tempted to reject it. Now you examine this box and notice that it is from your best friend. You suddenly find it easy to look past the imperfections and look inside to see the priceless gift. No matter the circumstances surrounding your marriage, your spouse is a priceless gift.”
Not everyone can travel away from home to participate in a marriage getaway. AFA’s Bert Harper and his wife Jan travel across the country to conduct CPR (Christ’s Plan for Relationships) marriage confer-ences in local churches. For more information, see the March 2012 issue of AFAJ, visit www.repairingthefoundations.net or call 662-844-5036 x302.
Marriage resources from Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference
▶ Staying Close by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
▶ The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
▶ Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
▶ Crazy Love by Francis Chan
▶ Fight Fair by Tim and Joy Downs
Conference information: www.familylife.com or 1-800-FL-TODAY