Belinda and Eric didn't have godly examples when they were growing up, so they didn't know how to do marriage "right." They had the Bible as a guide, of course, but they needed someone to apply those principles to today's challenges. Fortunately, their church had a system matching successful older couples with younger ones--for friendship and mentoring.
The arrangement was the lifeline Belinda and Eric needed when they disagreed about where to live. When Belinda was young, her family moved from one bad apartment to another. To her, security meant a house, which she wanted now. Eric, though, wanted to stay in their apartment for another year so they could save for a bigger down payment. Their discussions were turning into arguments.
During one meeting with their new mentoring friends, Clyde and Grace, the housing issue came up. Within a few minutes, the older couple had gotten to the root of the disagreement--the young couple's differing sense of security. When they parted that day, both couples were happier--Clyde and Grace because they had made a difference and Eric and Belinda because they understood the dynamics driving each other.
Those dynamics don't have to be limited to the "big" challenges. I remember one long-ago morning when my husband, Don, made several trips to the hardware store to get the proper gizmo for our dryer. By the third trip, he was starting to call himself names, saying any "dummy" should be able to do this. I could have suggested he call a friend or even a repairman. But I remembered an older friend who had once remarked that little jobs can grow into personal challenges.
"Donnie, you're not dumb!" I said. "Dummies wouldn't know what part to ask for. Sure, you don't do this stuff for a living, but I know you can do it."
He grinned, made a final trip to the store, and finished the chore by lunchtime.
But what if he had needed to call someone else? That would have been the time to remind him he could do things other husbands couldn't, including putting up with me--a statement that always brought a quick smile--and filling out the tax forms and calming down hotheaded relatives. My older friend had helped me get my husband to concentrate on his personal worth.
Another woman reminded young wives in our Sunday school class that men need space. Often when we women are troubled, we call our friends to help us work through the situation. But, she said, a man often needs to be alone to work through the alternatives. That meant I mustn't follow Don into the garage and then back into the house and then out to the mailbox, all the while whining, "What's wrong? What have I done?"
I needed to remember that a better route was to acknowledge he was upset, ask if I had done anything wrong, and if so, ask how I could fix it. Sure, it was okay to ask if he wanted to talk. But if not, I was to say I was available if he wanted to talk later, and leave him alone. I saved myself--and my husband--much grief when I finally understood he needed to process a situation before he could comfortably discuss it. And I tried not to jump to conclusions while he was doing that.
I remember one young couple who desperately needed guidance. The sailor husband was trying to live a godly life while away but was surrounded by worldly shipmates who accepted every port's temptations. He needed encouragement and trust from his wife, but her cousin continually taunted her with stories of his own wicked choices in those same ports, adding comments such as, "He's probably at that little pink house right now!"
What a gift his wife could have given him if she had stressed her trust in him, first to her cousin and then to her husband. But out of her fear, she turned every phone call into a tirade of accusations about where he had undoubtedly been. He was thousands of miles from home, terribly lonely, and feeling as though he was fighting a losing battle. Sadly, that marriage didn't survive. What a difference mentoring would have made in that couple's relationship.
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds -- and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.