Mastering the Fundamentals for Marriage
- Wednesday, May 25, 2005
When we want to be successful at something in life, we usually don't attempt to "wing it." That's why those who want to play the piano take lessons. No one can sit down at a piano for the first time and play Mozart or Beethoven. Sure, most anyone can peck on the keys long enough to figure out "Chop Sticks" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but that's hardly musical success. An instructor can teach us what keys produce certain musical notes, what techniques to use to access those keys and how to determine musical notes from written symbols in order to play pieces of music.
Once we've received basic education and training, it is up to us to practice and develop what we we've learned. After years of practicing, one can become adequate at making music with a piano. Clearly, success does not belong to a beginner.
Yet we often assume that success in marriage will come without any instructions or practice. Many times, we rely on some mysterious shared chemistry or compatibility and then when things don't run smoothly, we assume that individual differences are to blame. In the saddest cases, those differences are labeled "irreconcilable."
Usually those struggling in marriage don't question their relational techniques and many are hesitant to seek out resources or professionals. Unmarried couples rarely seek to learn correct fundamentals and techniques to practice in their future marriage. As a result of this widespread tendency to "wing it," many people are setting themselves up for failure.
If your marriage is in trouble, I recommend putting aside hesitation and pride, and contacting Christian professionals who can help you learn the fundamental skills in marriage you may have missed in the early days of romance. Regardless of your situation, the following three points are skills each married couple should master if they want to build a successful marriage.
Things to remember and practice:
1. Marriage is a team sport. In talking to couples in crisis from around the United States, I often hear only one side of the story. The side I hear is usually one spouse blaming the other for all the problems within their marriage. "If only he'd _________." "If she wouldn't ________." I've been involved with enough couples to know that it is never completely one-sided. Sure, one spouse might share more of the guilt in hurting a marriage, like in cases of infidelity, but it is nearly impossible for one spouse to deserve all the blame. Don't expect your spouse to do all the work in your relationship. Each marriage partner has enough to work on within without attempting to change or manipulate his or her spouse. Be a team player in your marriage and your spouse will likely do the same.
2. Become your spouse's dream. When you were young, it's likely you had ideas and dreams of your relationship with your future spouse. Your spouse did as well.
Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes people make in marriage relationships is to stop the courtship process. You remember that time in your life don't you? When you were polite, kind, supportive, selfless, thoughtful, attentive, forthcoming and sensitive to your spouse? You made yourself into that dream. You learned what he/she liked you to wear. You learned what bothered, scared or hurt them and you avoided those things. You found out what was important to him/her and you made it important to you even if it wasn't before. Do it again! You'll likely find that your spouse will do the same for you.
3. Tell people good things about your spouse. In front of him or even when he's not there (the same goes for husbands about wives). If you focus on the positive in your spouse, you will find that he/she not only does more of those positive things but also adds new positives to the list. Thank him for cutting the grass or taking out the trash. Thank her for a delicious meal and tell others that she's a great cook. Be sure to compliment him on his strong arms or intelligence in front of your friends. Tell her how beautiful you think she is. Tell him he's handsome. Not only will your spouse appreciate the compliment, but you'll find it easier to treat your spouse as you should because you will be programming yourself to respect and appreciate him or her.
Marriage takes practice and work, but the rewards are for a lifetime. Remember that great marriages don't happen over night just as troubled marriages usually don't become disturbed in a few days. Start on the path to being a team player in your marriage and don't look back.
Lee Wilson is a ministry consultant at Family Dynamics Institute, a marriage and family ministry that works with churches and concerned Christians to build strong, healthy marriages. You can visit their Web site at www.familydynamics.net or call them at 1-800-650-9995.
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