Monday, August 05, 2013

Marriage Lessons from Experience

Yesterday, August 4, Ginger and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary by posting in Tenth Press some of the lessons we have learned. Here is the article.

On top of a hill overlooking a bay on Cape Cod in a small stone church, the idyllic setting for a wedding, my bride approaches the aisle for her procession, her train blowing in the wind…blowing in the wind? The cameraman stumbles forward to hold it down;
finally, someone thinks to shut the door which had been opened because the beautiful church had no air conditioning for the hottest day of the year! But my bride keeps her composure and begins down the aisle; she is almost by my side…when half of the guests pull out their flash cameras and start clicking away, blinding me. Somehow we make it through the service. The minister says something about gas prices.

After 34 years (today to be precise), my bride has managed to keep her composure through all sorts of weather and church settings. Gas prices are still a topic, though I vowed never to speak of them in a wedding homily. We freely admit we were naïve about marital bliss, and we are still learning. But here, on the thirty-forth anniversary of saying “I do,” we offer some lessons we have learned.

Be courteous: Follow the common rules of courtesy. We live in an age in which courtesy is equated with being artificial. We are courteous with those whom we need to do business with, but with our friends and family, especially our spouses, we want to “be ourselves.” But being ourselves usually involves being our sinful, self-centered selves. True courtesy requires thinking of the other person; in marriage, that is one’s spouse. Who else should receive courtesy more than your spouse to whom Scripture teaches you to be a helpmeet for or a head who shows sacrificial love? True courtesy shows respect and love. The practice of courtesy will keep conflict to a minimum. Marital difficulties are made worse because of the discourteous manner in which both spouses speak and act.

Be considerate: Pay attention to the needs and weaknesses of the other. Pay attention to when your spouse is tired, and be considerate. You may need to take a task usually performed by your spouse. You might need to hold off from complaining about your day. You might need to take that extra step to put her or him in a better frame of mind. “What about me?” you ask. Ask that question in a prayer to God. If you have a real need, he will provide or give you wisdom to know what to do. More likely, you will find such a complaint hard to make as a Christian. Like courtesy, being considerate in the midst of differences will minimize any conflict. Couples get themselves in trouble when they take the attitude of “if you don’t do this for me, then I won’t…”

Be clear: Explain clearly what you want and expect. We have learned that we cannot read each other’s minds. Surely he/she must know, we think; but we think wrong. Most couples come ill-equipped with the ability to detect the subtle messages we think we are communicating. “How can he not know?” “How could she not see?” There are reasons why he or she cannot pick up on subtle messages, but the point remains that clear communication beats out “subtle” communication. But don’t mistake clear communication with blunt communication, which leads to the next lesson.

Be clever: Be wise; think through how to communicate in a way that it is received well. Proverbs 16:21 teaches: “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Verse 23 adds: “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” Blunt speech rises out of frustration, anger, or plain rudeness. It is not considerate. The spouse does not pay attention to its affect on the other spouse. It is not courteous. It is not even clear. How can that be? Because the speaker communicates more than he or she intended, such as “I think you are stupid” or “What’s wrong with you?!” That might not be what you were saying, but it is what your spouse heard in your blunt speech. So now, communication between the two of you becomes more “complicated.”

Be Christ-honoring: Keep before you the one who is to be honored – Jesus Christ. You do have an enemy. It is Satan. He tries to rob your witness for your Lord, and he will aim to do it through your marriage. Spouses will be rude and inconsiderate toward one another in ways they would never consider in their dealings with others. But if we remember that our marriages are to reflect the marriage of the Bridegroom and his Church; if we remember our vows made in his name and strive to honor our Lord through the respect and love we show our spouses, then Satan cannot rob us, and we will be rich both in marriage and in our Christian walk.


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