Gail had the habit of griping at Andy every time they drove together. Instead of a casual "Would you mind if I turned the radio down a bit?" she'd snap, "Must you have that so loud? Every time I get into this car, you have the radio blasting!"
Focus on respect. Gail would never have said that to a friend. What if she carried similar respect into her conversation with her husband? The same goes for choosing appropriate action. After all, respect is central to marriage.
Roger thought his sense of humor was wonderful -- even if no one did. And he carried his jokes as far as he could. One afternoon, he was at the apartment pool when his wife stopped down to let him know she was going to run a couple of errands and would be back within an hour, in plenty of time to leave for the Sunday school party. She pointed out that she was all dressed, so they could leave whenever he'd like.
With the sudden mischievousness of a nine-year-old, Roger splashed her repeatedly, styled hair and all. And then he was upset that she was upset. A good sense of humor is wonderful, but childish pranks denote meanness -- something that has no place in a good relationship.
Respect includes not flirting with anyone but your spouse. It amazes me when couples think they can flirt "harmlessly" without their mates being hurt by the special attention given to another. I'm convinced more marriages are damaged by a mate's insensitivity in this area than we know.
Anne and Bernie had weathered eleven months of rocky adjustments as newlyweds when they attended a New Year's Eve party with several friends. After a pleasant evening of table games and snacks, the couples watched the big red ball drop on the Times Square television broadcast. As the thousands in New York cheered, Bernie put his arms around Anne and kissed her passionately. To Anne, the kiss represented sweet hope that the new year would be better than the old, filled with deeper love and greater commitment. With Bernie's arms still around her, Anne leaned against his chest, savoring the special encouragement that surged through her.
The moment was short-lived, though, as another guest, Kim, turned away from kissing her own fella and sauntered over to Bernie. "Happy New Year, big guy," she said as she kissed Bernie solidly on the lips. Then, to Anne's astonished disappointment, Bernie wrapped his arms around Kim and kissed her back. Suddenly, the embrace that had seemed so full of love and promise for Anne meant very little. The party was over for her in that moment -- and so was the hope of a fresh beginning.
Perhaps you're thinking, Yeah, I should have such little problems. You don't know what I'm living with. True, I don't know everything that's going on in your marriage, but I know about the normal husband-wife tension. So let me ask you, do you want a good relationship? Do you want a bad one mended? Are you willing to make the effort?
In John 5, Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda and approached a man who had been infirm for 38 years. Day after day, those who were ill watched for the stirring of the pool's water that would herald potential healing. Into this intense scene, Jesus strode to ask the man an important question: "Do you want to get well?"
Interestingly, the man didn't say, "Yes, that's why I'm here everyday." Nor did he say, "Well, to be honest, no. I'm comfortable in this familiar routine." Instead, he answered there was no one to help him into the pool. In other words, it wasn't his fault he wasn't healed.
So, I'll ask you: Would you like your marriage to be healed? Or are you still offering excuses? And don't think life would be simpler if you were single. I've been a single mother for many years since my husband's death, and I can assure you there is no harder job in the world. So put your energy into working on this relationship -- and making it as good as it can be. Sure, it's hard work. But believe me, the reward is worth the effort.
Originally posted September 2007.
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds--and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996. Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For booking information, she may be contacted at [email protected]