The human body needs basic nutrients to thrive and last. So does your marriage. With these qualities, marriages can thrive. Without them, they die. So, let’s learn our ABCs.
Accept Each Other
Acceptance means taking one another just as you are. The English word even comes from a Latin word that means, literally, to take to oneself. Accepting your spouse doesn’t mean you totally approve of everything he or she does, or the negative ways he or she acts. Acceptance means we’re on the same team, not competitors.
Husbands and wives know their partner’s strengths and weaknesses. Even so, rather than wishing they were married to someone else, they learn to recognize their strengths and build on them, while strengthening their weaknesses. The combination is dynamic and leads to a strong lasting marriage.
Success or failure both depend more on attitude than ability. Sure, other people might have an easier time building a great marriage because they have strengths that you and your spouse don’t naturally possess. But you are not other people. Recognize what your strengths are, and also your weaknesses; work together in mutual acceptance, and your marriage will become healthier.
Believe the Best
Human nature tends to look for the worst and believe the worst. But we chose our beliefs, so believe the best instead.
Suspicion damages many relationships, sometimes beyond repair. If you don’t have solid reasons for your suspicions, dump them.
Have you ever encountered a marriage that was infected with criticism? The children inherit it, and suspicion fills the home like a chilling fog. When that happens, even innocent acts or words take on negative meanings.
Years ago our family lived in Penang. One dark, early morning, I went to meet a friend. As I waited for him I saw two monkeys on the grass playing with a broken tree limb. As the sun rose I could see that it was really just . . . one monkey. Then, as it got still brighter, I realized that there were . . . no monkeys. I thought, “That is just how you imagine that people toy with your reputation. But in the light you see how mistaken you were.” Put your unsupported suspicions to rest. Believe the best instead.
Concentrate on Understanding
Understanding requires attentive listening. It’s harder than you think, because most of us spend more energy making our point than understanding someone else. My wife once told me that I was the only person she knew who could leave a room without using the door! Sure, my body was there, but not my mind. My mind was on the next task, the next meeting. If you are like that, start learning how to listen and how to understand. It takes some work, but its worth the work it takes.
Prejudiced? Me? Actually, most of us are, whether we admit it or not.
Prejudice means making an uninformed judgement. It’s deciding that you don’t like something before you even try it. It’s rejecting an idea because you didn’t think of it. It’s determining that you will not like your husband’s sister before you have had a chance to get to know her. It’s passing judgement on your teenager’s music just because you don’t like the rhythm or volume.
Prejudice blocks understanding. Therefore, prejudiced people live dry, shrunken lives and miss many joys. Prejudiced people use words like, “That’s stupid!” “How dumb!” Open-minded people ask for more information.
Destroy prejudice by refusing to make judgements until you know the facts. Then, allow the facts to convince you and change the way you see. You might discover joys you didn’t know existed, and your partner will feel more valued.
You can invite openness, but you can never force it. People are not oysters to be pried open with the edge of a knife. We should respect every person’s right to privacy even if that privacy frustrates the relationship. At the same time, invite openness by showing concern and being trustworthy.
Many spouses do try to force their partners to talk to them, rather than encouraging them to talk. Such forcing breeds resentment and even more silence.
The more I know that I am safe with you, the more I will open up to you. As an ancient proverb says, “A true friend is one to whom you can pour out the contents of your heart, wheat and weeds mixed together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will sift through it, keeping the wheat and letting the weeds blow away.”
All of us say words we would like to get back, words spoken carelessly or in a moment of frustration.. When your spouse says something of that kind, either let it go or ask for some clarification. Above all, don’t redefine the relationship, or person, because of one unguarded outburst. Would you want to be defined by your worst moments? Of course not.
Grace is what we need from one another when our worst comes out, not our best. Grace is unearned kindness. In any relationship, grace is an absolute essential, for all of us are difficult to live with at times. When your husband or wife wakes up in a bad mood, you can choose to react negatively or respond positively. Granting grace is the positive response. You need it, so be sure you give it.
You cannot humble your spouse or anyone else. You can humiliate that person, making him or her feel small and shameful. Some people have developed that into a real art. But no amount of humiliation will make a person truly humble.
Humbling yourself doesn’t mean that you become a doormat. Humility is simply the difference between reasonableness and stubbornness, between unresolved conflict and agreement.
Now you know your ABCs. Use these building blocks to make a stronger marriage and family.