On Monday, I posted a review of Sheila Wray Gregoire’s 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage and asked readers to comment on one thought that positively impacted their own marriage. The feedback was fabulous!
After reading through the comments section, I concluded my readers could write their own blog post with all this terrific wisdom. So this is it—the blog post my readers wrote. Or at least a summary of your thoughts on how to nurture marriage. (I edited some for clarity and combined some comments.)
The responses seemed to fall into four categories: Choosing Your Attitude, Resolving Conflict, Growing Closer, and Taking Action.
Choosing Your Attitude. Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Proverbs 4:23 says: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It matters what we think in our minds and believe in our hearts. Sometimes changing how we view ourselves and our spouse makes all the difference in the world. Here are the attitudes my readers recommend:
- True intimacy with your spouse is worth the effort.
- It is not a failure to ask for help.
- Respect your husband.
- I am not my husband’s Holy Spirit.
- My husband cannot fulfill all my needs. I need God first of all and I need trusted friends.
- I don’t have to be right.
- God does not intend for me to change my husband—that is His job. My job is to support and help my husband as he becomes the man God shapes him to be.
- Assume with love. Meaning everything your spouse does, assume they did it out of love and respect for you.
- Focus on the positive things my husband does and not the negative.
- The only thing I can change is myself.
Resolving Conflict. Proverbs 20:3 asserts: “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” I dare say many of us have been fools in our marriage. But how can we avoid strife and resolve conflict? Here are your ideas:
- When a problem arises within the marriage, it is the husband and wife vs. the problem, rather than the husband vs. the wife.
- We’re doing life together, and whatever comes up, we’re going to figure it out because neither of us is going anywhere.
- Sometimes I have to be the brave one and bring up tough topics.
- Talk honestly while problems are small to keep them from becoming big problems.
- Be a peace maker, not a peace keeper (Sheila’s book covers this well!).
- Be patient. We’re not always on the same page. but we eventually get there.
- Think the other person is saying something unkind or unloving? Ask for clarification. Most times, they didn’t mean it to sound the way it came out.
- Extend grace. Your spouse will fail you (a given with imperfect people). But the ability to forgive and love in spite of the failures is priceless.
- Try to step back and see the issue through his eyes before just saying that’s not right.
- Turn toward each other, not away from each other, when things get rough.
- Don’t have a conversation if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT).
Growing Closer. Resolving conflict keeps you from being at each other’s throats, but that’s not enough to get you in each other’s arms! In marriage we’re aiming for: “I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10). Here are your thoughts about growing closer:
- Spend 15 to 30 min face to face daily. Once a week go out on a date night. Once a month stay out one night. Once a year take a week-long vacation.
- Have a date night with no talking about kids or problems. Just enjoy each other’s company.
- Keep things light-hearted.
- Sign the kids up for Awana (or another youth Bible program). Instant Wednesday night date night. KEEP it as date night, do not, I repeat, DO NOT fall into the “let’s do laundry and clean the house” night. We call it “Doyawanna” night.
- Never leave the house without saying I love you.
- Say yes to sex. Win-win.
Taking Action. 1 John 3:14 states: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” These final ideas are miscellaneous action items:
- Thank God for your spouse before you get out of bed in the morning.
- Choose to engage in sexual intimacy, even if the feelings or desire aren’t there—they come eventually!
- Never assume you know your spouse so well you read their mind and predict their behavior every time. Study them instead.
- He can’t read my mind: I need to tell him what I need and want.
- Set boundaries with your in-laws early on.
- Take the word “divorce” out of your vocabulary. When quitting is not an option, whatever comes your way, you have to work to improve.
- Always build up your mate.
- Invest in a personal relationship with God. Your relationship with Jesus is a higher priority than the relationship with your spouse.
- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I believe wholeheartedly that “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). Pick a few golden nuggets from these lists and start putting them into practice . . . then see what happens in your marriage.