It was Ruth Bell Graham the wife of renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who was once asked, “Did you ever want to divorce Billy?” In a quick-witted animated response Mrs. Graham replied straight from her heart, “Divorce? No! Murder? Yes!”
Many of us, if not all of us who’ve tied the knot may be apt to respond in the same fashion, for understandably, getting married and staying married, in any generation, has it’s challenges. With the coming of spring and summer and the marriage season, it might be wise to spend a few moments reflecting on some of the straightforward and simple principles that help to make a marriage work, for according to Statistics Canada in their last reporting on marriage and divorce in 2011, more than 40 per cent of those who say “I do” will eventually call it quits. I’m writing this today not as an experienced marriage counsellor with a Master’s degree in counselling, but simply as a guy who’s been wed for 48 years and it’s out of this experience, almost half a century of marriage that I’m writing these words. People often say to me because I’m a pastor, “Well you must have a perfect marriage being a minister!” “No!” I respond, “There’s no such thing here on earth.” And there isn’t!
When two people get married or live together in a common-law relationship, we’re talking about two imperfect specimens. And out of that evolves the first simple principle for a successful marriage. Realize you’re married to someone who is imperfect. What that means of course is we make mistakes, we disappoint our partners and we hurt one another, so you need to learn to say in the aftermath of those disappointments and hurts with absolute sincerity, “I’m sorry. I hurt you. Please forgive me. I really do love you.”
Secondly, in marriage, you need to be a good listener. I’ve ran into so many marriages that could improve 100 per cent if one of the partners was a good listener. We have two ears and one mouth for a distinct purpose. God wants us to focus on listening. “There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak,” says the Bible. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
Let me challenge you. Tell your spouse some evening, “You have my undivided attention for the next 20 minutes. I will keep quiet and listen to you without interference, defence or rebuttal!” The ultimate test of your listening skills will be, if at the end of your spouse’s words, you can pretty well restate what your partner has said. To listen like that is really to love.
Thirdly, do a self-evaluation of how you communicate. Communication has three components, content, tone and volume and body language. Every married couple I’ve met could improve in this whole area. Have a real good look at yourself in the midst of a marital disagreement. Are you too loud? Are your arms flailing? Do you point fingers? Shake a fist? Do yourself and your marriage a big favour, do a self-evaluation! P.S. Be scrupulously honest with yourself!
Fourthly, be quick to forgive. That’s so essential. In order to really make up, you need to forgive. I heard about the older gentleman who had been married for 60 years and he was asked by an inquirer what was the secret to the longevity of his marriage. “We’ve never ever gone to bed angry with one another,” he responded. “We’ve always obeyed the Biblical admonition, ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath’.” (The Bible, Ephesians 4:26) “Mind you,” he added, “sometimes we haven’t got to bed until three in the morning.”
Fifthly, in the midst of a real hot argument, back off. Sometimes in marriage both of us strongly disagree and in the midst of such disagreement, tempers can rise and it ends up in a ‘shouting match’. Have you been there? Ever thrown a pot or a pan at your spouse? Used a profanity? Stormed out the house? Got drunk? All of the foregoing! Look! There are moments in a marriage when both need to back off, and agree to sit down and talk about the issue some other time, when tempers cool. “Don’t,” I repeat “don’t, let things get out of hand!” There are some marital issues should I say that need the wisdom and unbiased objectivity of an impartial professional counsellor. Get one, and maybe save your marriage! Sixthly, work at making your marriage better than it is. The people that I know who have good marriages have worked at them, they’ve read books, got good online advise, attended seminars, they’ve embraced the belief, “What I’ve got is good, but it can be better.” Seventh. Look at a model marriage and ask the couple with whom you are in close relationship if they’ll mentor you. If I was turning the clock back this is what I’d do. Find a couple in whom you can confide, seek advice and wisdom. Eighth. Buck the break-up trend. Make a determination when you get married or when you cohabit, that you are in this for keeps, as far as you’re concerned this is permanent.
I well remember the day when some of our friends split up and it looked as if the divorce rate was spiralling. I recall taking my wife aside and saying to her, “Look, I want you to know this, I will never ever divorce you!” And I meant it. You need to be ‘a one-girl guy’ or ‘a one-guy girl’. Buck the trend that says “Abandon this relationship, there’s more fish in the sea!”
I guarantee you if you put into practise all of the above, you are well on your way to a successful marriage! Oh, and by the way, for you folks out there who’ve been together for a decade, or you’re coming up to 25 years, or getting close to the 50 or 60 odd years together, and beyond, God bless you. Thanks for the great example you’ve set. It’s wonderful, let me tell you, to see you still holding hands after all these years! Keep it up!
Source: The Daily Observer CA