How to strengthen your marriage.
Great marriages take work. And with the challenges to marriage and faithfulness in our society today, that work is probably more needed than ever. That’s why I enjoyed reading Tim Lane’s article on “The Most Important Ingredient to Improve Your Marriage.” Like most advice on marriage, it’s strength is in its simplicity. (Spoiler: The most important ingredient to improve your marriage is friendship!) He cites John Gottman’s 40+ years of research and looks at several ways that couples can build their friendship together over time:
- Never stop getting to know your spouse. It’s not a surprise to me that great marriages are characterized by people who work at getting to know one another. Many spouses feel lonely even though they’re married and have time with their spouse, because they don’t feel understood. I could be wrong but in my experience the lack of “knowing” in marriage if it’s to be fixed, needs to start with the husband. When Jennifer and I aren’t growing in our knowledge of one another it’s usually because I’m not opening up enough or pausing to listen. I think that’s one of the reasons 1 Peter 3:7 commands husbands to“husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” or as the KJV puts it“dwell with them according to knowledge.”
- Express your appreciation for your spouse. I don’t think couples ever intend to fall out of love, but if we allow critical thoughts and words to affect our daily conversations together, it will inevitably affect our feelings. He quotes Gottman in this: At first, this may all seem obvious to the point of being ridiculous: People who are happily married like each other. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be happily married. But fondness and admiration can be fragile unless you remain aware of how crucial they are to the friendship that is at the core of any good marriage. By simply reminding yourself of your spouse’s positive qualities--even as you grapple with each other’s flaws--you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating. The simple reason is that fondness and admiration are antidotes for contempt. He’s right, the phrase, “people who are happily married like each other,” should be obvious. But we nurture and guard that “like” of one another (even as get to know more about each other’s flaws) by reminding ourselves and expressing to one another what we appreciate in our spouse.
- Respond to your spouse’s hints for support. Relational laziness is something that every marriage eventually has to deal with. It’s easy to stop working at the relationship and listening to your spouse’s quietly stated appeals – what Gottman calls “bids for each other’s attention, affection, humor, or support.” We see the need and we turn away. We miss the opportunity to show kindness, step in to help, or just offer a listening ear. I was glad to be reminded that by listening for my wife’s cues and responding to them, I can strengthen my marriage and deepen our friendship. Relational laziness is a problem.
I pray that God would strengthen the marriages in our church family and help us to grow in our friendships. Check out the article by Tim Lane and see if there’s something else that stands out to you.
In awe of Him,