This morning I woke up listening to a podcast interview on marriage with Matt and Lauren Chandler. They’ve gained attention for their book on marriage entitled, “The Mingling of Souls,” and are promoting an upcoming conference that will be offered on-line in February. Several things stood out to me:

1. Value your covenant commitment
Matt and Lauren’s marriage was in a really bad place. They both brought a lot of baggage to their marriage and frankly admitted that starting over with someone else looked a lot easier than dealing with their issues in the early years. To their surprise, they felt attraction to other people and realized that there were other people who were probably more compatible than their spouse. But it was a high view of their marriage covenant that helped them keep divorce off the table when times were hardest.

Matt writes, I’ll never forget this: Lauren came around the corner… and grabbed me. Then she pulled me really close to her, and she began sobbing. She cried and cried as she held me. She said, “I don’t know what happened to you, but I’m not going anywhere.” … It broke me. It wounded me in the good way, in the right way. It startled me and helped me in a way I could never foresee or imagine.… and that’s when I said, “I’m going to get help.”

2. Accept your responsibilities and give God your expectations
Matt said that he spent the first six years of his marriage trying to fix his wife. As you can imagine, this wasn’t a happy time. He finally realized that his whole attitude toward marriage needed to change.

I don’t have a very good memory. But I remember at least a couple of things I learned in pre-marital counselling twenty-two years ago. I remember being asked to picture what it would be like to be married to someone just like me. It wasn’t a scenario I was envious of. And it helped me approach marriage with an appreciation of our differences that I might not otherwise have had.

The other lesson that stood out was about expectations. I don’t know if guys are the only ones who try to “fix” their spouses, but as I heard Matt talking about his approach to marriage I could completely relate. I think I was poised to go into marriage with exactly the same mind-set, but I learned from the couple who worked with Jennifer and me, and heard the message reinforced in other teaching in our early years together, that I needed to focus on fixing myself not my spouse. Specifically, the encouragement was to focus on my responsibilities in marriage and give God my expectations. Framing problems in marriage as “How can I help in this area? What are my responsibilities?” rather than, “How do I make my spouse change?” has helped me immensely.

3. Be gracious even in conflict
Matt and Lauren talk openly about conflict in their marriage. It’s healthy to do so. But they also talk about how they learned to establish boundaries in their conflicts. Just because you live with someone doesn’t give you the right to speak to them any way you want. He mentions things like not shaming your spouse or bringing up the past or criticizing your spouse’s family in the midst of an argument. When we can hold off on dealing with hard talks until we have the self-control to speak graciously and respectfully with our spouse, we can deal with the issue without hurting each other in the process.

James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

May God add His blessing to our relationships in 2016!

In awe of Him,
Paul