4 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage
To the seasoned couples, with a few decades under your belt, I welcome your wisdom. Right now we are sitting at 12 years and 3 kids. I feel I’m an immensely blessed woman. Here are four things I’ve learned about marriage.
1. The importance of laughter. To be able to look at one’s self or one’s situation and say, “welp that didn’t work!” The book of proverbs says, “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (17:22). Laughter can diffuse many unnecessary conflicts, but it’s harder than it sounds. Sometimes it just feels easier to choose anger, but the book of James tells us to be “slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (1:19 AMP).
Some research supports the health benefits of laughter; lower blood pressure and increased immune system capability. Gottman sites humor as a repair attempt strategy for relationships. “A repair attempt is any statement or action – silly or otherwise – that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.”
Phillip always tells me I’m guaranteed one laugh per day, and after 12 years I can tell you he has kept this promise. Even on days when I really do not want to laugh he will find a way to pull it out of me. As it turns out this is an EBP, evidence-based practice.:)
2. The importance of listening well. James also says we should be “quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words]” (1:19 AMP). We should really listen, listen beyond what is being said, to what is being communicated. Listen without multitasking. Listen without formulating our defense. This is actually hard work, some days it makes my brain hurt.
It’s difficult to admit, but at times we hear only what we want to hear. We filter our spouse’s words through our own agenda or hurt or disappointment. Listening well is a discipline that demands practice.
3. There are ample opportunities for mistakes. Fumbles, flagrant and technical fouls. Occasional train wrecks. Simply because we see each other daily there is so much opportunity to stumble into miscommunication, fumbled words that didn’t come out quite right. Ample opportunity to watch my spouse drop the ball or forget something really important. Ample opportunity to feel the embarrassment of my own mistakes.
I like to tell Phil that he’s stuck with me:) And Lord willing, if we are stuck together for 50 years or more there will be plenty of time for us to see the fullness of ALL our flaws. There has to be grace for your spouse. Which leads to my next point.
4. There will be ample opportunity to practice grace. Grace for self and spouse. Oh yes, the opportunities to live out forgiveness and second chances abound within the context of marriage. Marriage is one of the primary metaphors used to describe the relationship between Jesus and the church (Eph 5:21-23). Jesus Christ loves the church and willingly gave His life as a sacrifice for the church. Jesus shows us grace upon grace in our shortcomings.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Grace is unmerited kindness. It is the exercise of love and mercy when it is undeserved. When placed in a covenant marriage there will be AMPLE opportunity for the practice of grace.
If you have kids or work with kids, it’s likely you practice grace 100 times per day. It is much more difficult to practice grace with a spouse. But this is the way of Jesus with us and this is what we also are called to live.
So how do we live out grace? Obviously, conflict is necessary and helpful for growth in relationships. We cannot laugh off or gloss over every offense, this is not grace. The gospel does not ignore wrongdoing. Jesus dealt fully with every offense through the work of the cross (Col 2:13-14). We learn and grow through the fumbles, we laugh together when we can, we keep no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). We labor to follow the example of Christ and bring every offense, hurt, and disappointment to the cross.