Marriage and Misery Don’t Have to be Synonymous

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As an engaged couple preparing to wed, Mark and I were inundated with warnings that one day, we would have a fight. You can always count on seasoned married folk to promise that newlywed bliss will eventually dissipate into mutual aggravation. But I feel like telling some young couple that just because they say its inevitable, doesn’t mean your fate is sealed. We know because we have never had a fight.

Weird, right? I’m not saying that it won’t happen one day. I kind of think it will eventually. We have a lifetime of human frailty and weakness ahead of us, after all. But to get through four years of living under the same roof, learning each other’s weaknesses, experiencing all manners of trials and challenges without one… I think that’s pretty significant.

We don’t have any special secrets to share, but here are:

15 things that I think have encouraged a fight-free dynamic in our home.

#1           We don’t insult each other.

Ever. Mark has never uttered a hurtful word to me. If he had, it may have fostered insecurity. Insecurity becomes heavy baggage, which creates negative momentum in disagreements. We are free from this because we’ve never introduced this baggage into each other’s lives.

#2           We build up instead of tearing down.

I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times I have questioned Mark’s judgment or aspirations, but I knew saying so would be hurtful. I have always been careful to filter out discouraging content when discussing his dreams and goals. I only speak what would be encouraging to him and because of that I have peace knowing that he will not give up or fail because I have influenced him to do so. And when he succeeds, I thank God that my doubt was never an obstacle or stumbling block for him.

#3          We have no secrets.

It was an important step, before we said ‘I do’, to make sure we weren’t beginning a marriage with walls. We let each other into the most vulnerable areas of our lives. Even though it was difficult at the time to admit past failures and talk about painful memories, the result was a powerful understanding of one another. When we know each other so fully, we can exercise greater compassion and love each other more effectively.

#4           We dwell on what we love

Mark and I are aware that that we each have quirks, weaknesses, hang-ups, but we just don’t dwell on them.  There are so many admirable qualities about Mark that if you asked me to name something I didn’t like, it would make me very uncomfortable. Imagine someone giving you the keys to a mansion and then, being asked to find fault. It hardly seems grateful to complain about anything when you’ve been given a gargantuan treasure you don’t deserve.

#5           We Don’t Manipulate Each Other

Silent treatments, pressure, nagging, withholding, hanging mistakes over each other’s heads…. Manipulation has no place in our home. If there is something I need Mark to cooperate on or approve, I respect him enough to make an appeal and wait patiently, without inference, for his decision. If it doesn’t go in my favor, I submit and let it go. If I still feel strongly about it, I pray about it and let God work it out.

#6           We Apologize and We Forgive

Just because we don’t intentionally hurt one another, doesn’t mean we haven’t accidentally done it a time or two. The important thing is that we always humble ourselves and acknowledge our wrongdoing to each other, we forgive and the slate is clean. We don’t hold grudges or collect ammo or dig things up. Whatever it was, it disappeared with forgiveness.

#7           We Communicate

We don’t pretend nothing is wrong while we stew silently to ourselves. We don’t avoid conflict. As soon as it’s possible, we have a respectful conversation. We don’t try to bolster our points with volume and emotion. We listen carefully, and we share our hearts with words that will articulate our points.

 

#8           We Don’t Seek to be Right

Conflict has never been a competition for us.  If it was, we would lose our ability to be objective. The outcome becomes less about finding a reasonable solution, and more about being the winner. As a result, instead of carefully making reasonable points, you begin to lean more on emotion-laden statements. When motives drift…. Conflict escalates.

#9           We Carefully Examine Ourselves             

Several weeks ago I enlisted Mark in one of those Facebook status games where the husband answers questions about the wife. One of the questions was “How does she annoy you?” Mark wouldn’t answer it so I playfully pestered him for a few minutes. If there was something, I wanted to know what it was so I could work on it. His response is one I will cherish forever. “If I am ever annoyed that is something that I need to work on.” We both understand that the root of most conflict is self and we both actively search our hearts before we confront each other.

#10        We are Gentle

Make no mistake. There are times when we’ve had to draw attention to something. When we do though, we’re never mean about it. We bring it up humbly and consider our own weaknesses as we do it. There is no reason for defensiveness when you know your strongest ally is helping you become a better person.

#11        We Love…. A Lot

There is a ton of hugging going on in this house. We don’t hold back, and I think all of that physical affection brings about a security that fosters contentedness. So lay on the smoochies.

#12        We Give Each Other Room to Grow

We have never been perfect people, but in the short time we have been married, each of us has grown and transformed with God’s gentle working. Early on in our marriage while we were still learning about each other and adapting, we made a mess as we clumsily tested each other for qualities that were important to us.  I learned quickly that if I will step aside, God will do all the work without me.

#13        We Compromise

We don’t agree on everything, and neither of us is so haughty that we must force the other to stringently believe and adhere to everything we do ourselves.  Through the years we have navigated differences of opinions, plans, goals and personality with respectful compromise.

#14        We Under-React

There have been instances when one of us may have been sharp or snapped at the other, but it stops with the response of the other. We could easily snap back or lash-out with an insult about how the other is handling stress, but we don’t. We think about what made the other react the way they did and instead of compounding the problem, we diffuse it. Sometimes it’s with a calm response. Sometimes it’s with space. Sometimes it’s a hug that will melt you like butter.

And….

#15        We Put God First

Above all others, this is the number one thing you can do for your marriage. Serving God inherently prevents a host of problems, simply by eliminating sin. In a home where there is no lying, cheating, stealing, loose morals, jealousy, etc… the environment is pure and creates a greenhouse for love and unity. With the Bible as the ultimate authority in our lives, we have a steadfast referee that does not take sides. When there is struggle or conflict, we know that the resolution will be found in God’s Word… for it was upon that very foundation that two crazy kids established their marriage four precious years ago.