Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Our attention spans are near zero. We easily move from job to job, home to home and friend to friend. Sadly, our limited tolerance for frustration and tension also makes it easy for us to abandon a most prized possession—our marriage.
Yes, it’s true. Divorce rates continue to rise, anywhere from 40-60%, depending on what source you read. There is little question that many seem to have little stick-to-itiveness when it comes to the work of marriage.
Anyone who has been married knows why. You know it’s not always Easy Street, and the grass always looks greener somewhere else during the tough times. Divorce is easily attained; the stigma against it seems to have lessened. You may be at one of those more difficult times when you’re wondering if you should remain in your marriage.
Listening to a sermon this morning on the topic, thanks to Pastor Ireland, reminded me of the power of sticking it out even when the going gets tough. He reminded me that when the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it might be a good idea to “water your lawn!”
As a Marriage Specialist and Clinical Psychologist, I receive calls every day from people wondering why they should hang in there. Their prayers seem to have bounced off the ceiling, and they remain stuck in a loveless marriage.
But, it doesn’t need to be this way.
I’m not offering simple solutions to complex problems. What I, and Pastor Ireland offer, are words of encouragement. We are reminded that things are not always as dire as they seem. Seasons of isolation don’t need to turn into years of regret and heartache. The bridge between hopelessness and hope is not always as long as it seems.
Scripture reminds us of God’s design for marriage: “and the two are united into one.” (Mark 10: 8) There is power and hope in these words. When we live by God’s standards and design, we enjoy unparalleled closeness and intimacy. We are literally “one flesh.” We live to mutually serve one another, enjoying connection with our mate.
What are a few steps toward enjoying this closeness? Here are three steps to practice that will reap rich rewards in your marriage.
First, take time for each other. Even as I write these words my wife, Christie and I are enjoying a time away. Being beach people, we find refreshment in being near the water. And so, as part of Christie’s birthday celebration, I took her away to a wonderful California beach community. Here we have slowed our pace, collected our scattered thoughts and sat for hours listening to each other. We feel close and connected.
Second, offer tenderness to each other. We’ve sadly forgotten the art of kindness, both random acts and more intentional displays that are meant to meet our mate’s deepest needs. We cry out for love and affection, and yet seem to withhold giving it. Don’t. Give your mate loads of affection, kindness, words and actions that convey tenderness. Your marriage is fragile—handle with care.
Third, tell the truth. Tell the truth, but speak it “in love” as Scripture commands. Speak words of encouragement to your mate. Find traits about him/her that are truthful and speak them abundantly. Notice the things they do that are unique to their personality, and with a big smile, tell them you notice.
Speak also words of apology. When you have wronged your mate, be quick to say those magical words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Make no excuse for your actions. Simply acknowledge your wrongdoing and vow to rectify the situation.
In like manner, speak truth when your feelings have been hurt. Take your mate aside and share how your feelings have been hurt. Do not expect anything in return. Only speak your truth in a respectful way. If they offer an apology, great. If not, you will have spoken truth into your marriage.
In summary, this is your marriage, and you are responsible for keeping it strong. No one else is going to do it for you. It will not remain strong and vibrant on its own, but rather requires upkeep and constant renewal. God is for you and certainly for your marriage. Maintaining a right relationship with Him will offer strength enough for this journey. Be part of a growing number of people who reiterate the vow, “We still do!”
Please read more about these issues in my best-selling book, “When Pleasing Others is Hurting You” and explore more about my Marriage Intensives and Wildfire Marriage Interventions at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recovery Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and When Pleasing Others is Hurting You. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities. You can also find Dr. Hawkins on Facebook and Twitter.
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