Over breakfast one morning a woman asked her husband, “If I died would you remarry?” “Probably,” he responded.
“Would she live in our house, sleep in our bed, and use my golf clubs?” his wife asked. “No,” he replied, “she’s left-handed!”
Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener! The truth is, there are times in every marriage when you just have to grit your teeth, pray for grace, and remember your commitment before God. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to celebrate your marriage.
Anita and I have been married 42 years! Some of the times have been extremely difficult for both of us. We are both very opinionated and both think we’re right. But it has taken us 42 years working through the difficulties until we know each other’s likes and dislikes like we do today. If it took 42 years to get where we are, can you imagine how difficult it would be to start that process all over again with a new partner? No way, Josè! I’m sticking with her.
The Apostle Paul defined love this way: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9-10). Many couples have a real problem with communication. They have an expectation, but don’t communicate about those expectations; indeed, they may be afraid to talk about those expectations. Here’s a good way to help you talk about your expectations of love with your partner.
Each of you should take a sheet of paper and number 1-20. Now, if your spouse wanted to say “I really love you” in ways you would understand, what are 20 different ways they could demonstrate that? In writing these 20 ways you are describing your love language.
Now, there are three rules: 1) They must be Practical (They need to be behaviorally specific and your partner already has the ability to do these, it only requires their decision). 2) They must be Positive (Do not put things you want them to stop doing, no negatives, positive behaviors only). 3) They must be Personal (These behaviors are directed toward you personally).
After you have each finished your list of ways you would want your spouse to show they love you, exchange lists and talk about them with one another. You might be surprised what you learn about your partner, and about yourself. Now keep that list as a reminder. And let me know how it goes.
Did you know there is a spiritual connection in marriage? Paul counsels husbands with these words: “Likewise [just like Christ gave himself sacrificially], you husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge [not just feelings], giving honor to the wife [as a significant part], as unto the weaker [more fragile] vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers are not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
On our Christmas tree each year we have plastic ornaments and we have glass ornaments. The grandkids can pluck one of the plastic ornaments off the tree and bounce it off the floor, and we just put it back. But the glass ornaments weren’t designed to be tough or rugged. They were made to be beautiful and sensitive and fragile. So, we use greater care with the glass ones. We place them a little higher on the tree and pack them away more securely. Its like that with your wife. She was created to be beautiful, sensitive and can easily be broken. You can be rugged with the guys and poke fun about their beer belly, but that talk will devastate your wife. She is the more fragile vessel. You need to shift gears when you walk into your home and treat her like you value her. Because a broken ornament can become very jagged and hurt you back. Put on your kidd gloves when dealing with your wife.
Because, if you don’t, and a wedge is allowed to come between you, God will not even hear your prayers. The crack in your marriage covenant will be so offensive to the God who brought you together that He won’t intercede on your behalf. Its just that important that you get this right. You don’t have to get divorced to get God to withdraw, just being stubborn enough to treat her carelessly is all it takes. If you value your relationship with God, you must begin valuing your relationship with your wife.
This would be a good time to go buy some flowers or something. And begin living with her according to knowledge [stop being stupid].
Paul also said of wives: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
This is a hard saying, Who can receive it? This instruction is to spiritual people. Carnal-minded people see only unfairness and inequality in such a bigoted statement. And, from the world’s perspective, it is a bigoted statement. Yes, it addressed the culture that was then, a culture which is passing away, and probably should. But, if we can step into the spiritual realm, we see that the wife is submitting to Christ, not her ego-centric and heartless husband. Here is how this works:
Just as a wife needs love and security, the husband needs to feel like he’s the leader, the provider, the protector of his home. To be respected is a man’s biggest emotional need. This is essential. The wife who submits to Jesus Christ lifts Him up, and He takes care of her then. Likewise, a wife who makes her husband feel like he’s the King of his castle is lifting him up. When a man walks out the door to go to work feeling like a failure, his wife loses also. However, when a man walks out the door confidently he can take on the world and Satan, and his wife also wins. Its all in his attitude, and a man’s wife does have the strongest influence on his attitude. Does he feel like he’s been defeated or is a winner?
Wives, make sure your husband feels like he’s a conqueror in the home and in the bedroom. If he can’t win with you, he will be strongly discouraged taking on the world out there. Ladies, you are the key to your family’s success. If you want loved unconditionally, you must respect unconditionally. And think in spiritual terms.
Knowing he was writing to ordinary men, the Apostle Paul gave the following marriage advice: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This is not a suggestion; it is a requirement. Every woman has two essential needs: to be loved and to feel secure. The security has more to do with your love than it does your paycheck. She’ll walk through another Great Depression holding your hand if you make her feel loved. Women who feel insecure in their husband’s love will test and push and nag until they get some love back. Men resist nagging, so it backfires. But, women who are insecure panic and grab for any kind of control, and inadvertently push their men away. There’s got to be a better way.
So, every husband has a mandate to make his wife feel loved. How does a man love a woman who is nagging him? By putting his arms around her and gently say, “I’m sorry. I’ll work harder at that.” By taking some time he would rather spend on ‘stuff’ and investing in her. By trying to speak her love language and not just his own.
Christ loved the church (you and me) so much that He gave Himself up for it. The only way to purchase your wife’s heart is with time and affection. When her need for security and love is met, she has no need to nag for it anymore. Come on, guys. Its not that painful to share your life with her. And it just might open some doors you want opened.♥
We’ve been talking about the four temperaments interacting in marriage. But did I make this too black-and-white? Few people are just one of these four. In God’s amazing wisdom and quirks of DNA most of us are a combination of two temperaments, and some of us have a strong third working in us. And a few have contingencies of all four. And the male/female dimension adds to that. And we’re not even considering learned behavior changes that abuse and experience can add to the mix. How can we sort this all out so we can psyche out our partner? The truth is marriage is just too complicated to find a simple solution. We all need Jesus and God’s grace to walk through life with someone who is our opposite and we can never figure out. Marriage and love are mysteries that psychology can never solve.
Opposites attract and there is a tension in every marriage because of the opposite factor. I am a Phlegmatic/Melancholy and Anita is a Sanguine/Choleric. We think differently, have different love languages, and process decision-making differently. That’s probably a lot like your marriage. One of the first hard lessons I had to learn was to value her for who she was, not criticize her for not being what I thought she should be (characteristic of a perfectionist). I had to let her be her. I had to learn to let her think out loud and let her change her mind as she does so. She’s the perfect wife for me and I must value what God created.
I once knew a man who constantly berated his wife for not being more like himself. He left her and his children to marry another woman. He was attracted to his opposite: another woman just like his first wife. Will we ever learn? God’s plan for marriage is one man/one woman, for a lifetime, learning how to live with what you’re missing in someone that is your opposite. Go, explore that a little deeper with your life partner.
People fit into four temperaments. The fourth kind of person may be the one you’re married to. These are the peaceful Phlegmatics. A Phlegmatic is a wonderful kind of person. They are loyal to the end. They don’t want to fight; they just want to get along. Any kind of tension makes their mind freeze up. They don’t argue well because they so want a good relationship and don’t want to risk losing it. These peace-loving people can see both sides of an issue, so they make good negotiators. People get along well with Phlegmatics because they don’t want to rock anybody’s boat. Like the perfect Melancholy, Phlegmatics are introverts whose minds are always spinning and analyzing. But unlike the Perfect Melancholy, peaceful Phlegmatics are more concerned with the relationship than with the task.
It sounds like the peaceful people are the ones to get married to, right? The best thing about a peaceful Phlegmatic is that they don’t want to fight. And, the down-side of a peaceful Phlegmatic is also that they don’t want to fight. They are so focused on peaceful relationships that they won’t stand up for their own needs and rather withdraw instead of communicating what needs to be said. They can slink into the other room and ignore an ongoing difficulty rather than fighting it through to an agreement.
Don’t get me wrong, peaceful Phlegmatics can fight. But they hold their feelings on the inside until they have festered and built up enough pressure until they explode! And the spouse never knew there was a problem until its too late. How do you deal with a Phlegmatic peace-lover? Remove the tension they run from. Ask them questions. How do you feel about that? What are you thinking about… And listen to what they say, because they may be fearful of telling you the truth. Remember, Phlegmatics are loyal and seek relationship more than the task at hand. How many are married to a peaceful Phlegmatic?