If you want to have a healthy marriage, you must learn to listen. Listening leads to understanding. Once I understand what my spouse is thinking and feeling, I can have a meaningful response. When I speak before I listen, I’m simply throwing words into the wind. May I give you a practical suggestion? When your spouse begins talking, about anything, imagine yourself having huge elephant ears.
Have you heard the expression, “I’m all ears”? That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t think about how you are going to respond. Focus on making sure you understand the thoughts and feelings of your spouse. Then, when it’s your turn to talk, your spouse can put on the elephant ears.
I was giving a lecture on the five languages of apology. At the break a man approached me and said: “For the first time in my life I understand the value of apologizing. My father’s philosophy was that ‘apologizing get’s you nowhere. Do the best you can and never look back.’ That’s pretty much the way I lived until my wife committed adultery.”
“So, what would it take for you to forgive her,” I asked? “I want her to admit that what she did was wrong and to promise me that she will never do it again. If I knew that she would never do it again, I think I could forgive her.”
This husband was demonstrating the necessity of apologies. There are no healthy marriages without apologies and forgiveness.
Recently a wife said to me, “I’m sending all of my friends to your marriage seminar.” “Really, why?” I asked. “Before the seminar, Bob never helped me with anything. We both had our careers, but it was always my job to do all the house work. After the seminar he started asking me, “What can I do to help you this evening?”
“I’ll have to admit that at first there were trying and humorous times. The first time he did the laundry he used bleach instead of detergent. Our blue towels came out with white polka dots. But eventually he learned. It’s wonderful. And, it’s been going on for three years now.” Why was this wife so happy? Because her husband learned to speak her love language.
Before marriage we are carried along by the emotions of the “in love” obsession. After marriage we revert to being the person we were before we “fell in love.” This reality has implications for the single who is contemplating marriage.
Before you marry, you best find out what your potential spouse was like before the two of you “fell in love.” Ask parents, siblings, work associates and friends, but by all means ask questions. Did they have an anger problem? Where they depressed? Were they friendly of selfish? Dependable or irresponsible? Did they have a problem with alcohol or drugs? Get the facts. Don’t let the “in love” experience blind you to the truth.
Many people view marriage as a contract. “I’ll do this if you will do that.” But the Bible views marriage as a covenant. “I will look out for your wellbeing no matter how you treat me. I view our marriage as a permanent relationship. I will not walk out on you. Because I love you, I will confront you when I see you doing things that I believe are harmful.
I will speak the truth in love. When you confess wrong doing, I will forgive you and never hold it against you in the future. I am committed to helping you accomplish God’s will for your life. You can count on my support.” Where does one get the heart and the power to live out such a covenant? I know of only one source – God. He is a covenant keeping God and will help you keep your covenant.
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Does that sound “otherworldly”? I, for one, am fully willing to admit that apart from the work of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life I am not likely to be that kind of husband. I am in fact, self-centered and often selfish.
However, there is no question that this is God’s expectation of me and all husbands. As Christians we must not accept the cultural norm as our standard. Rather, we must recognize that in Christ we have the ability to transcend the pull of selfishness and truly become lovers. Few wives will run away from a husband who is loving as Christ loved.