Making Marriage Work

divorce-908743_1920How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?

Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.

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What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton

Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, writing-1209700_640he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.

So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.

    • A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.

     

    • Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.

     

    • Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject withoutnails-1420329_640 fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.

     

    • Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.

     

    • A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.

     

    • Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.

     

    • Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.

 

All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.

Would you add any suggestions to our list?

***

HNEmodifiedcoverHere No Evil:

A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.

Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?

Find out when you read Hear No Evil, Book 1 Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.

***

Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.

Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.

Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.

Connect with Mary on her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 

Team-Mentality Parenting

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Does your child know you’re on her side? That every time you ground them, take away their iPad, and ask them to clean their room, you truly do have their best in mind? Or have they begun to see you as the enemy?

When our daughter was young, I felt like I was in constant correction mode and many times our home felt more like a battle ground than the sanctuary I so wanted to create. But even in the gunk and frustration, my daughter knew I was on her team. She knew I did everything with her longterm good in mind. Well, almost everything, but I’ll get to that.

This team-mentality parenting, the kind that says, “I’m for you,” didn’t just happen. It was the result of intentional and consistent communication, a continual evaluation of my parenting choices, an ever-present awareness of my failings, and a commitment to let God use even my biggest blunders for my daughter’s benefit.

 With every parenting decision, I made sure to communicate the why.

Some may argue this point, saying it’s important our children learn to obey for obedient’s sake. While this is true, even that has a why. Or should I say, in obeying, your child has a why. Perhaps it’s to please you, or maybe it’s because they fear punishment. Or maybe it’s because they know obeying you honors God. But regardless the reason, if we don’t connect the dots for them, they’ll come up with their own reasons, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust a five, six, ten, twelve-year old’s reasoning skills.

More than that, they won’t know our heart behind our actions. They certainly won’t think longterm about how that behavior, action, or habit can affect their adulthood. Not unless we tell them. ID-10075948

I wanted to make sure my daughter knew, because my goal wasn’t behavior modification, which is often short-lived, but rather, heart change.

Here’s what it looked like:

When we were in a conflict and she lost her temper, I’d set a clear boundary: “That behavior is unacceptable. Please go to your room until we can discuss this calmly.” Then, once she had time to calm down, I’d discuss with her how that behavior might look in a marriage, at work, or with her friends. I helped her see how her behavior, if left unchecked, would ultimately hurt her. Then I always ended our conversation with, “I want more for you. I want you to grow up to be a well-adapted, successful adult.”

And every time–every. Single. Time.–her anger diffused. Because she knew I was for her, and that turned me from her enemy to her greatest ally. 

I continually evaluated my parenting decisions. 

This of course implies that my parenting choices truly are for her benefit–and not my comfort or preference. When I viewed our home life through that lens, I discovered many battles I felt tempted to fight needed to be let go. 

What she wore on Sunday morning was one of them. I loved dressing her up, and for some strange reason, carrying a well-attired child into Sunday school with her hair done nice made me feel like a better mom. Or at least, made me think I looked like a better mom … even if it took an insane amount of tears, cajoling, foot-stomping, and screaming to create that image.

What, or perhaps who, would it hurt if I allowed her to pick out her own clothes? Would wearing a pink and green polka dot skirt with her yellow rubber boots and red Elmo shirt derail her life?

I decided no, and as a result, I had the most originally dressed preschooler in church. Our Sunday mornings were also relatively stress free.

I recognized my failings and weaknesses and apologized for them.

Most of us operate on a heap of baggage that influences our perceptions and behavior. Add in our normal selfishness, impatience, and sinfulness, and we can pretty much guarantee making major mistakes.

I did. I do, A LOT. The issue is not will we fail our children but rather how will we respond once we do?

I determined to respond with humility. I refused to sugar coat my sin, justify my behavior, or make excuses. Instead, I called it what it was, apologized for hurting her, and let her know that I God was actively working on changing that part of me. In so doing, I showed her what it looked like to live in grace.

MamaMondaysjpgLet’s talk about this! Does your child know-know-know you’re for her? Does he tend to see you as his enemy or greatest ally? How have you created a team-mentality in your home? What are some things you can do, today, to further that? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

Misreading Between the Lines

Have you ever been fuming mad at someone, only to find out you totally misread the conversation? In our world of rapid-fire communication, faulty perceptions, and misunderstandings, it’s easy to get our wires crossed. Sometimes this is funny. Other times it’s downright painful, and has the potential to destroy relationships and lead to bitterness. If not dealt with.

10 For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:10-11)

What do you think of when you hear the word peace? What does it mean to “seek” and “pursue” it? Does this mean avoiding conflict? Holding our tongue? Is peace at all cost truly peace? In our effort to seek peace, are we smiling on the outside while our insides fester? And if so, how long before those bottled-in and swallowed-down emotions blow?

I believe biblical peace runs deeper than a ceasing of war. Biblical peace speaks of wholeness, of restoring things to how they should be.

Biblical peace implies authentic conflict resolution. Honesty, not superficiality. Speaking the truth in love and getting to the root of the issue. When deep hurt has occurred, this may take time. We may even need a third party to help us out.

Other times, we may find that what we thought was an issue wasn’t really an issue after all.

A few days ago, I received an email from someone I had hurt. Twice. I hadn’t intended to hurt them, wasn’t even aware I had … until I read the email. We realized it was a misunderstanding–a misreading between the lines. The person felt silly for sending me the email, but I was so glad she did. Had she not, her hurt would’ve remained, creating disunity. By honestly expressing her feelings, she gave me the opportunity to apologize–and explain.

Afterward, my daughter, her friend, and I had a lengthy conversation on communication errors, and they shared with me similar stories. Times when someone they cared about hurt them deeply–unintentionally. Only many times, they hadn’t gotten to the truth until weeks or months later–after weeks of hurt, of disunity. We decided it’s best to communicate openly *before* forming our conclusions, giving the “offending” party the benefit of the doubt.

We decided to “seek peace.” The kind of peace that holds tight to relationships, seeking restoration and intimacy.

It is so easy to read between the lines, to assign feelings, judgments, and conclusions to words and actions. But what if our interpretations are wrong?

Let’s talk about this. When have you unwittingly caused someone pain? When have you been hurt by someone else, only to find out you assigned faulty meaning to their words and actions? How can we avoid this communication jumbling?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about speaking the truth in love in order to seek biblical peace–a peace that leads to relationship-restoration and increased intimacy.

Also, the Beauty for the Broken campaign continues for two more days. With a few clicks of your computer mouse, you can help me and a friend win $5,500 for two wonderful orphan ministries. You’ll also receive a $10 Mary Kay gift card if you vote then tell us you did so here in the comments. (Vote here.)