27 Sep Excellence in Marriage
Writing on excellence is never easy and writing on excellence in marriage can’t get any harder. Let me confess; this article is not a result of an excellent marriage but certainly it is our (my wife and mine) deepest desire and goal and we hope this becomes your goal, too, if not already. Most people in life including Christians consciously or subconsciously are in the pursuit of excellence in several other areas of life – career, ministry, children’s education, wealth accumulation, etc., – because of the immediate gratification, tangible benefits, glory, and pride it brings to self. However, very few understand that excellence in marriage brings glory to God, fulfils God’s purposes for us, provides immense satisfaction and has the potential to produce blessed generations.
What could possibly constitute an excellent marriage? Well, what we have seen in marriages that has made us imitate, we think are excellent and this is what we would like to share and hopefully make all of it ours, someday.
Level 3 Communication: Marriage is a relationship far above all other earthly relationships and therefore calls for the best in communication. Bruce and Carol Britten in their book, Answers to Marriage, mention 3 levels of communication in marriage. First level is where you talk with your spouse about what is happening in your life. Second level is where you talk about things that affect your life – your children, your money, your relatives that at times may lead to decision making. Finally, the third level is where you share your deep feelings, opening the door of your hearts, allowing your partner to see you and know you as you really are. From my experience in marriage and knowing several families, I think women are gifted in reaching this level of communication and men need to take this up as an endeavor until they have learnt this art. Unless you both reach this level of communication in marriage, excellence in marriage is a distant reality.
Cultivating good habits: Cultivating good habits that impact our marriages is desirable. Setting aside regular times for prayer and intercession, going for regular walks where you do walking and talking, reading together Couples Devotionals (some that we recommend – Moments together for Couples by Dennis and Barbara Rainey or Night light for Couples by James and Shirley Dobson, available on crosswalk.com), are some that we have copied from others and have cultivated in our marriage which we believe have had enriching effects on our marriage and we cherish them. These habits compel couples to spend quality time with each other and become close friends and over time it becomes a way of life which you will find hard to break.
Forgiveness as way of life: Getting hurt in relationship is common and couples who want to get closer will be hurt but those who learn to keep short accounts and forgive their spouse at the earliest are those who progress and blossom. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness and bitterness in marriage is like dirt and impurities that get into a smooth working engine, reducing the optimum potential of the engine and eventually stopping from functioning. Unforgiveness brings up old hurts whenever new conflicts come up. Have you forgiven your spouse from ‘your heart’ of all the hurts he or she has caused you in your married life? Be honest, only then you can live marriage to the fullest.
Mutual Admiration Company: Do you praise your spouse more than you criticize or is it the other way? A critical spirit is easy to develop because it comes naturally for many and especially in marriage where there is more liberty to do so. Praise and appreciation for one’s spouse can end very soon in marriage unless one consciously and actively practices it. When did you last appreciate your spouse? Send a text (sms) message with an encouraging note, surprise him or her with a letter or e-mail full of sincere and honest appreciation for all he or she has done and do this as often as you can and your marriage will strengthen deep inside.
When the going gets tough: If you follow cricket you would have come across statements like “I would rate this as my best knock” by some of the cricket greats like Sachin Tendulkar or of late Virat Kohli. More often than not these best knocks are never when their teams have had everything going on well and smooth or when they have created world records but when they had to score runs when all hope seems to have lost and they had to rise to the occasion and score big and win the match for their country. In marriages like any other thing in life, its not smooth sailing all the time. There are many challenges that come our way – Conflicts, trials, sickness, financial crisis, weaknesses in spouse, past emotional baggages and many others things that threaten us and at times all hope seems to have lost. It is times like these our trust in God and value that God places in our marriages should help us get up and rise to the occasion and give our best knock. Excellent marriages are not made on smooth sand but hard and sharp rocks and that’s the reason they are not moved with the strong winds and harsh tides of life.
Your needs interest me: Marriages have potential to fulfill needs of both spouses. In fact God created woman for man to be a suitable complementary soulmate so that they would fulfil each other’s needs. Many marry with this intention, too. However, many marriages can end with only one side’s needs being met or neither sides needs met. As Christians our aim and goal should be the third option where both husband and wife meet each others need. As a matter of fact there are some needs only a spouse can legitimately meet and any other person trying to meet can destroy the marriage. How blessed and excellent is the marriage where both spouses needs are met to the maximum extent possible? How glorious is the marriage where meeting each others needs is not a burden but a pleasure? While only God can fulfil some of our deepest need, the spouse is the second best person nominated by God to do that and so we should strive hard.
Leveraging each other’s spirituality: Leveraging is a word used mostly in Finance and it means “The ability to influence a system, or an environment, in a way that multiplies the outcome of one’s efforts without a corresponding increase in the consumption of resources. God’s eternal Word is the source of all truth and blessing, even in marriage. Those who neglect this aspect of their Christian life are bound to fail in God’s kingdom in every area including marriage. And there is no greater blessing in marriage than learning from each other on what God is speaking from his word to each of us. Share your learning with your spouse on a regular basis and it is like a “buy one get one free” offer where you are leveraging on each other’s spirituality. How often do you share each other’s quiet time notes?
Power of a praying spouse: It is impossible to grow in maturity and fulfillment in marriage without prayer because our marriages are on a constant attack from our enemy who hates God’s plan of marriage. If we do not pray we are keeping our doors and windows wide open for the devil to infiltrate. Spending time in prayer for your spouse is one of the best things you can do to your spouse selflessly but in the process it benefits you yourself and the marriage. Stormie Omartian brings out this aspect of marriage very clearly in her books, Power of a Praying Wife and Power of a Praying Husband.
Think long term not short term: There are only some things in life that have long term and eternal impact and one of them is marriage. Ironically, those that do not have long term impact are the ones we spend most of our time and energy in planning and execution. For e.g. buying a property or making investments, which are temporary. When we think of our marriage and all that concerns marriage, we should always realize it is going to be long term and so we need to spend much time in planning and carefully executing our plans regarding marriage and parenting. If anything goes right or wrong it is going to impact our future generation and eternity. The best example I always like referring is the life of Lot whom the Bible mentions as righteous, who spent most of his time on temporal things and so might have neglected his marriage and parenting and the negative long term impacts were far too many. He left behind an ungodly legacy. Leaving a godly legacy is a byproduct of an excellent marriage.
These are just few thoughts from us but there are several more which you yourself may want to add. If you were to draw principles from these thoughts you would observe that excellence is all about giving God highest priority, spouse priority over self and going beyond the normal and so requires lots of effort and hard work from both but the results will bring loads of peace, joy and satisfaction. Let me end this with something that I just read and very applicable for our marriages “Sea is common for all… Some take pearls, Some take fishes, Some come out with just wet legs! World is common to all; what we get, is what we try for!
Norbert has been associated with UESI for the last 21 years and is part of Hyderabad EGF, living with his wife and 2 daughters. He works for a US based Mutual Fund in Hyderabad.