How to Strengthen Your Marriage by Turning it Upside Down
- Monday, October 29, 2012
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jim Keller's new book, The Upside Down Marriage: 12 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Right Side Up (Russell Media, 2012).
Ironically, your initial instincts about how to improve your marriage may actually end up harming it. What seems logical usually doesn’t work well in a marriage relationship, because the process of two people growing together as spouses isn’t a simple, formulaic process.
But if you’re willing to turn your marriage upside down by taking a completely fresh approach to it – while inviting God to help you learn new ways of relating to your spouse – you can open your marriage up to powerful transformation.
Here’s how you can strengthen your marriage by turning it upside down:
Don’t talk so much. Concentrate on listening, instead. The more you and your spouse each focus on listening to each other, the more you can improve the communication between you, which will strengthen your marriage. Schedule at least 15 minutes every day to talk with your spouse in a quiet place where what you’re discussing can remain confidential, and take turns talking and listening so that you each get half the time to talk and half to listen. Pay attention to your body language. Be kind and compassionate with each other so you each have the security of knowing you’ll still love each other even when you’re discussing difficult issues.
Quit forgiving all the time. While it’s important to always forgive your spouse whenever he or she hurts or offends you, it’s also vital to set boundaries for the future to prevent your spouse from taking your forgiveness for granted. Keep in mind that forgiveness never releases someone from the consequences of his or her behavior. If your spouse doesn’t repent of sin and change unhealthy behavior, you shouldn’t tolerate being mistreated. Instead, you need to set and communicate clear boundaries and consequences. Seek to protect yourself from abuse of any kind: emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual. Follow God’s command to forgive unconditionally, but set conditions on how you will interact with your spouse moving forward.
Stop spending so much time together. Making a habit of regularly spending some time apart from your spouse will help you each develop a fresh perspective on your marriage and how best to solve the problems you face together. Try to spend time alone when you sense God calling you to reflect and pray, which is best done in solitude.
Fight more. Conflict is an inevitable part of all marriages, and trying to avoid it will only weaken your marriage by causing you and your spouse to neglect dealing with important issues, and becoming bitter toward one another as a result. Accept the fact that going through conflict is necessary for you and your spouse to develop stronger characters and become the people God wants you to become. So rather than trying to avoid conflict, focus on learning how to resolve conflict successfully. Ask God to use each conflict to teach you and your spouse more about yourselves, to help you both grow into more mature people, to expose issues in your marriage that He wants you to work on, and to learn more about how to best work together as a team. Fight fair, in ways like giving each other equal time to speak, avoiding absolute statements (such as “You always…” or “You never…”), clearly distinguishing facts from opinions, sticking to just one topic at a time and only involving the two of you, and focusing on the issues rather than attacking each other’s character.
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