In June, I will celebrate two years of marriage. Wow! It really does feel more like two days than two years, but at the same time, I can definitely look back and see two years of the goodness of God.
In many ways, it feels like I am still so young and immature in my marriage, but I am thankful for the gracious lessons God has already been teaching me. And I wanted to share them with you. They’re really pretty simple, but they aren’t just principles for marriage. We should be applying them to all our relationships. Still, marriage (home life) is somehow always the hardest place to live what we teach and believe. At least, it is for me.
These certainly aren’t truths I’ve mastered at living out, just ask Daniel. 😉 But they are truths I am trying to live out, and I hope they bless you too.
The other day, my niece commanded me to turn on the lights as we walked into a room. I, not wanting to encourage bad manners, reminded her, “Please, turn on the lights, Aunt Sharon,” as I started to turn on the lights. And she corrected herself. It was just a little incident, but I began to think about how all the time I and other adults around me are reminding those children around us to be polite.
“What do you say when someone gives you a piece of candy?”
“If you need to get by me, say ‘excuse me,’ so-and-so.”
It seems strange to me that the same manners we want from our children, we find difficult to use in the confines of marriage. Why is that?
I suppose there are many reasons we forget to be mannerly. We get lazy or busy or just too used to our spouse. But it seems to me that if we would say “Thank you” to a friend, how much more ought we to say it to our spouses who we’ve vowed to love for all our lives? If I really stop and think about it, I have many reasons to be saying, “Please, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me” every day of my life. And I bet you do too.
It’s not so much the words that matter as it is the attitude behind the words—an attitude of appreciation, humility, a graciousness that, as Christians, should be an everyday part of who we are. We say “thank you” not just to check off a necessary task, but because we appreciate the person and are thankful for what they’ve done, whether great or small. And that mannerly attitude really does make a difference in the overall tenderness and kindness of marriage.
One Word of Criticism, Ten Words of Praise
I first heard that rule in a teaching class I took in college. It’s meant to be applied to students, but I think it’s applicable to all relationships.
The truth is that no one likes to be criticized. Now sometimes we need gentle constructive criticism, but in general, praise is ten times more effective than criticism. If you criticize your spouse more than you praise him, you are, in short, askin’ for a heap o’ trouble. Bitterness, hurt, distrust, anger—these are just a few of the natural responses to the acid of criticism. Criticism, like dripping acid, always burns, and eventually, it will destroy what it continually falls on.
And romance is one of the first things that acid burns away. I’ve been told many times that the romantic love of my young marriage will fade, and I can’t help but think that if it does, then my marriage is in terrible trouble. Romance ought to be a normal part of any healthy marriage no matter how long that marriage has lasted. (I can think of many couples, my parents included, that can testify to this.) Of course, that romance changes, but it should simply grow stronger, not disappear. I’m not trying to negate the fact that marriages go through hardships. Clearly, everything isn’t always diamonds and roses. Romance is certainly not always at the forefront of marriage, but it is a part of marriage. And in my experience, one certain killer of romance in a marriage is criticism.
Still, the real problem with criticism is that it undermines the work of the gospel. We know from scripture that a Christian marriage is an example of Christ and His church. It sends a loud message to the world, this is what Christ did for His beloved; this is how His beloved responds. In short, your marriage is a testimony of the gospel, and criticism is one way to destroy that testimony.
Where the gospel redeems, criticism condemns.
Where the gospel forgives, criticism reminds.
Where the gospel encourages, criticism discourages.
Where the gospel enables, criticism disables.
There is no room for gospel truth in the words of criticism.
I feel so guilty as I write this because I am so guilty of criticizing. It is such an easy trap to fall in, which is why I am so thankful for the gospel. Because even a wicked critic like myself can be forgiven and given a second chance. I am also thankful for a loving, gospel believing husband. 😊
I have found one way to help myself avoid criticizing Daniel is to ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?” Because, honestly, if the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, maybe I shouldn’t either.
Everywhere I go, everyone is saying this, and finally, I realized, there’s a reason why. It really does change lives. I don’t know what else can be said about it other than, do it. Get on your knees and pour your heart out to God as often as you think to, and if you aren’t thinking to, set an alarm on your phone. Write reminders on sticky notes, on your mirror. If you have too, put a sign in your fridge, cause if you’re like me, that’s one place you’ll see every day, multiple times a day. The best thing you can do for you, your spouse, your marriage is to pray.
Even if you don’t get the laundry done that day, pray.
Even if you don’t fix supper, pray. (Okay, maybe try to fix supper.)
Make it a priority, always.
I hope these thoughts encourage you. Marriage is an incredible adventure, and learning to love your spouse is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. It’s so hard because it’s two sinners in close quarters, but it is so good because Christ is there every step of the way helping us to love and offering grace when we don’t.
I’ve only been married for two years, so my thoughts on marriage are still pretty simple, but I’d love to hear your marital/relationship advice in the comments below. 😊