Hear the words of Paul the apostle, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only
to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Put that concept into your marriage and you will be well on the road to success. Two selfish people will never have a good marriage. Two people who are looking out for the well-being of each other, will find harmony. Decisions will not end in a battle if your attitude is “What would be best for you?” Of course, if this is one-sided, where one does all the giving, it will lead to resentment. Mutual respect and mutual love are the keys to a successful marriage.
Some couples have never learned how to make decisions together. So, they make decisions independently and try to force their decision on the spouse. This will never create a healthy marriage. We all have personal thoughts, feelings, and desires. Sometimes these clash with those of our spouse. Welcome to the human race. There is nothing wrong with disagreements. However, we must learn to listen to each other in order to understand their thoughts, feelings and desires. Once we understand each other, then we can look for a solution. Compromise is not a negative word. Webster says, a compromise is ‘a settlement by consent reached by mutual concession.’That is healthy decision making.
Team members who cannot agree on the game plan will never be winners. God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Therefore, God created a ‘helper suitable for him.’ The word ‘suitable’ means ‘one perfectly matched.’ The word ‘helper’ implies that the wife is to be actively involved with her husband in ‘subduing the earth.’ This principle of cooperative endeavor applies to decision making as well as other areas of life. Why should a husband be limited to his own insights when he has a wise helper? How can a wife be a helper if she is always silent? When a husband or wife seeks to control the other, they cease to be a team. This was never God’s intention.
The way a couple makes decisions can make or break a marriage. The husband-dictator style has destroyed the creative spirit of many wives. The mother-superior attitude has made children out of many husbands. Neither of these patterns is biblical, but many Christians have accepted them as normal. Marriage is meant to be two persons who are members of the same team. God is the coach, and the husband and wife are teammates. Successful teammates cooperate. “How can we help each other?” is the question asked by members of a winning team. The first step in making wise decisions is to see each other as friends to be helped, not enemies to be punished.
Separation does not equal divorce. Sometimes separation is an act of love. Love says, “I love you too much to help you do wrong. I will not sit here and let you destroy yourself and me. Therefore, I’m moving out. If you want to make our lives better, then I am willing to go to counseling with you. But I won’t continue to be a part of your destructive behavior.” If this seems tough; it is. But, it’s also love. Love seeks the well being of another. In marriage, love is doing whatever is necessary to help your spouse break sinful patterns. When separation is viewed as an effort toward redemption, it is indeed, loving.
Recently, I have had a great burden for Military marriages. So often with long and frequent deployments, marriages suffer. My concern led me to publish a Military Edition of The Five Love Languages. It is designed to help couples stay emotionally connected while they are deployed. The book is filled with practical ways to speak the love languages long distance. One wife whose husband’s love language is physical touch shared this idea. “I traced my hand on a sheet of paper, and mailed it to my husband with this note: ‘Put your hand on my hand, I want to hold your
hand.’” The husband later told me, “When I put my hand on that paper, I felt her hand.” It was not literal touch, but it was emotional touch. And that was her objective.
On this day we celebrate our Independence as a nation. Most Americans will agree that we are a divided nation. It is not as though we have not been here before. The Civil War found brother fighting against brother. Today, our weapons are not guns and cannons, but words and deeds that seek to destroy those who have a different opinion. Can we not love each other in our disagreements? Love is looking out for the interest of others; not trying to destroy those who disagree with us. As a nation, we desperately need to rediscover the power of love. For me, the answer is in turning to the One, who prayed for those who were killing Him. May God give us, the ability to demonstrate Christ-like love, even when we disagree.
When people disobey God, they hurt not only themselves, but others. In a marriage, sinful behavior will fracture the relationship. What are we to do when a spouse persists in destructive behavior? In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus teaches three levels of confrontation. Tell the spouse how their behavior is affecting you. Request change. If they don’t respond, then take someone with you and confront them again. If this does not produce repentance, then share the problem with church leadership. If the church leaders confront your spouse and there is still no turning around, then Jesus said, they are to be treated as an unbeliever, not as a brother. This calls for tough love, tough love is the only kind of love that some people understand.
Tomorrow is July the Fourth. The fireworks will fill the skies. But I want to ask you a question. Will there be any fireworks in your marriage? I’m not talking about arguments. I’m talking about romantic love. What many couples do not understand is that romantic love has two stages. The first, is the euphoric stage that we normally call “falling in love.” No effort is required. We are swept along by our emotions. But the second stage is ‘covenant love.’ It requires effort and information. We must first know how to express love in a way that will touch the heart of our spouse. Then we must choose to do it. I call it, learning to speak the ‘love language’ of your spouse. When you speak their love language – there will be fireworks in your marriage.