Start Building Up Your Marriage
Counsel and sound judgment are mine… Proverbs 8:14a
Show an optimist a glass of water which is only partly filled and he would describe it as half-full, but show the pessimist the same glass and he would call it half-empty. What is the difference? It is how we see life. It is whether we put the accent on the negative or the positive, and when it comes to home and relationships, the principle is just as true.
How do you look at your wife? Do you see her as somebody who is just not organized? “She just cannot get it together!” you complain. Or rather, do you look beyond that and see her artistic ability or the way she builds others up?
How do you wives look at your husbands? Do you see him as a little lazy, as he parks himself in front of the TV and checks out for the duration of the football season? Do you constantly think of his shortcomings–those little things that irritate you? Such things as his socks on the floor by the bedside? If it is Monday, you know that Sunday’s socks will be there, and the same thing can be said of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and the rest of the days of the week. He can’t seem to find his way to the clothes hamper, just three steps away.
What about taking out the trash? Picking up the kids from school or activities? You would think with all of the talk about changing roles in marriage, it would be easier to eliminate the knock-down drag-out fights over these small issues. Now, you may smile and think what silly matters to get all steamed up over, but those little irritations often begin to develop negative thinking and you begin to suffer from an infectious pessimism that can hurt. Scripture says it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyards (Song of Songs 2:15b). Very often it is by focusing our thinking on the little negative things that the more important things are hurt.
Quite often when I counsel with couples, I will say, “Tell me about the good qualities in the life of your husband or wife; because I am sure that someone as sharp or beautiful as you would never have been attracted to someone who did not have many good qualities in his life.” Are you a pessimist or an optimist when it comes to your partner in marriage? In his letter to the Colossians the Apostle Paul wrote that we are to forbear one another in love, (Colossians 3:13a KJV). The word “forbear” could better be translated, “putting up with one another in love.”
Psychologist, Dr. Carl T. Clarke, pioneered an approach to marriage counseling that begins by asking participants to take inventory of all the good traits of a mate and the things that they have in common. Then he asks them to reach back into their memory and remember some of the bonds that have drawn them together–children, anniversaries, even tragedies that they have weathered together.
The third step recommended by Dr. Clarke is to begin rewarding each other with a compliment instead of criticism. “Positive reinforcement” he calls it. Actually, what this psychologist recommends is a good dose of biblical ethics. Paul wrote to the Philippians and urged, “Whatever is true…noble…right…think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Andre Maurois wrote that “marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.” By building this edifice on the positive you can eliminate a lot of frustration and make yourself a happier person at the same time. When you pick up those socks, try saying, “Thank you, Lord, for a husband who loves me, and thank you that I can be sure I’ll know where to find his socks.”
Resource reading: Philippians 4:4-8