Oh my, why am I putting up a picture of us that is over 6 years old and we are skinnier and cuter. Oh well, I guess it is just to show you when it was that I really started getting some of this stuff. That’s a fat little Henry with us at a fancy restaurant.
It is December 26th. A wonderfully lazy day around this house. A nice time to just think a little. And my thoughts have led me to this, ladies. Yes, they probably go for guys too, but I will let the guys teach the guys. This is all about what YOU (I) can do.
Here is my unofficial list of 7 things that create a happy marriage. Of course, there are probably a lot more and of course, different strokes for different folks, but…..at the same time, I think these 7 can apply to most. I may think of some more later. But these have been swimming around in my brain lately.
They stand out.
One more thing. Sometimes marriage can seem so complicated. I believe the truth is, it is very simple. We can over-think, over-analyze and make the whole thing a quagmire. If you tend to do that, STOP. Just stop. Ok, enough already.
7 STEPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
1. Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle, including your husband.
Every time I meet a couple that has been married 30, 40, 50 years, I always ask them what the secret is. And almost every time the response has been:
Be kind. Be polite to your spouse.
Those older folks say this because, whoever they are, after all those years of life together, they have figured out that the “stuff,” whatever it is, is irrelevant and it all comes down to just a little kindness. You know what I mean. In an instant, we can choose to be nice to the person that calls on the phone 2 seconds after we have reamed someone in our house up one side and down the other. We made a choice in that moment to be kind. So we know we are capable of it. But are we motivated to do it?
Zip Your Lips!
The bottom line is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, ZIP YOUR LIPS!” And I mean it. And yes, I need to hear all of this too!! Just because you have an opinion about something, DOES NOT MEAN IT NEEDS TO BE EXPRESSED VERBALLY. Ok, now we can go on. :)
2. Get your finances in order and be in agreement about it.
Disagreement in this area is the #1 reason for divorce. Guess what? That means we have to change whatever was hardwired into us from childhood and be willing to think and act differently. We have to die to our own ideas. Remember, those ideas are what have gotten us into trouble.
Stop the debt. Stop living beyond your means. Go to cash (no checks or debit cards) if living within your means is difficult for you. That means you cannot spend more money in any month than you are bringing in. Get radical. Be different. Stop having a consumer mindset. Stop buying stuff.
We spend the first half of our lives acquiring things and the last half getting rid of them. So we might as well stop the massive acquiring part as soon as possible. Here is a link to a post I did about Dave Ramsey. He will totally motivate you. Here is a post I did about EXACTLY how we handle our finances. (After we took the Dave Ramsey class)
And here is a post I’ve read several times lately about simplifying, owning little, etc. This guy talks about the “100 thing challenge.” Personally owning only 100 things. This does not include joint items or family items. Here is another good post on the same thing. I’ve started making a list of the things I personally own to see where I stand. I may get back to you later on this whole idea, but I’m not promising anything :)
3. Make your spouse your first ministry.
I know that might sound a little weird. It did to me when my friend first mentioned it to me. But after simmering on the idea for a good 5-6 years I definitely think this is the mindset we women must have if we want to be truly happy. It IS the nature God gave us. Feminist or not. We ladies brought up during and after the feminist revolution of the 60’s and 70’s have some very difficult hardwiring to undo. It doesn’t mean we can’t have gifts and use them to the fullest capacity, but we had better slow down and stop steamrolling the men in our lives, and we had better prioritize the elements of our lives correctly.
Who is the first man in your life?
Is a boss at work the lead man in your life? Do you do more for him that you do for your husband? Is a ministry at your church taking priority over how you are helping or loving on your husband? Or are your kids the center of your life? Do they take precedence over your husband? If so, I can pretty much promise you this will not lead to anything good.
Be willing to change
There are a ton of books out there on this subject. I will give you the one that has helped me the most. Yes, I’ve mentioned it before. And yes, you will likely want to throw it across the room a few times. I’m stepping out here and bordering on pleading with you. If you could just, for a moment, be willing to think outside your own self-made box; to think that maybe, just maybe there could be wisdom in these radical ideas……All I can say is you may never know ultimate joy until you lay down your own life and decide to be a servant in whatever way God has gifted you. The book is called “Created To Be His Helpmeet.”
4. Let Your Husband Take The Lead
One Captain. One CEO.
That last one leads nicely into this one. If you are still living and loving the feminist life, this might be a hard pill to swallow. But hear me out, please. I was once very strongly in those shoes. You and your husband are equal partners. Definitely. No doubt about it. He is not better. You are not better. He is gifted, as you are, in certain areas.
The smart couple will draw on each others gifts to create a marriage and a family that has something to offer the world. Whether it is awesome children that you raise together, products in the business world, or a tour guide company in Madagascar. BUT, and this is a big BUT: Your family is a corporation with one CEO trying to lead the team to success. Your family is a ship with one Captain trying to steer. If his crew isn’t “with him” he (and you all) will run aground and have all kinds of difficulty fixing the boat and being able to set out to sea again, or worse, you may all capsize and die.
Do Not Fail
If you, as the woman, fail to stop trying to lead, if you fail at bringing up difficult subjects of discussion with your husband when you know deep down the timing is right (this is an art to perfect), then you will fail altogether. Women: almost all of us have to relearn the art of being a wife.
Don’t be the bad guy
You may be thinking, “My husband is a jerk, he cannot lead, he is ruining our family.” I ask you what are you doing to help him lead. Are you criticizing him or building him up. Are you focusing on his gifts and abilities or his faults.
I’ve talked to many women about this next part and it is not pleasant, but it it true. When children watch a father trying to lead while his wife is battling him every step of the way, criticizing, scoffing, rolling her eyes, walking off in a huff, whispering under her breath, ignoring, etc: The children will wish the mom would hush up and leave the dad alone. EVEN IF HE IS DOING A BAD JOB. They don’t know the difference. They just know he is their dad and they love him and they simply wish you would close your mouth, leave him alone and love him too. That’s enough to make me stop right there!
5. ” Take Up Your Cross And Follow Me.” -Luke 9:23
We all have issues
We all have areas of difficulty. We always will. Maybe something will be with us for a lifetime. Maybe just a season. The question is how do we deal with it from God’s perspective? How does He see us? Maybe our cross is a bad habit you just cannot seem to kick, maybe it’s a disease, maybe it is the death of a loved one, maybe it is a difficult spouse that is hard to love, maybe it is abuse from our own childhood and it’s effects, maybe it is addictions and the list goes on…..No one is exempt.
Pick that cross up. Hand it over to Jesus daily. Start new each morning. And follow Him. This is the most promising avenue if you have any hope of overcoming that cross. Remember what He said: Take heart, I have overcome the world.
6. Have God-Time
Stress and worry
When I am stressed and worried; When my mind is racing about this issue and that issue; When things have been difficult in earthly areas such as marriage, parenting, etc. I can ALWAYS, without fail tell you that in the immediate past, oh maybe several weeks or months, I have let my regular God-Time slip away. I have not set that daily time aside for it.
For me, if I don’t do it immediately upon waking while I drink my coffee, it will never happen that day, because the day is off and running all the way ’til bedtime that night. But when I do sit and read the Bible, any part of it, the peace it imparts to my soul surpasses all understanding. All the issues of the day don’t really matter anymore. I can handle anything that comes my way. It’s that simple. And that essential.
7. Persevere. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9
Check out this statistic from a new study on divorce and marriage. What is says to me is awesome and needs to be heard by many. Here is the link to the full story.
Does Divorce Make People Happy?
Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages
Call it the “divorce assumption.” Most people assume that a person stuck in a bad marriage has two choices: stay married and miserable or get a divorce and become happier. But now come the findings from the first scholarly study ever to test that assumption, and these findings challenge conventional wisdom. Conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, the study found no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married.
Even more dramatically, the researchers also found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
I will attest to being one person in that statistic.
And I will tell you that I had a terrier-like hold on the fact that I WILL NOT get divorced. I have children. I was married once before already (no children) for 2 years way back in another life (it seems) and this time it will stick. I will do whatever I have to do to make this work and not only that, make it awesome, because I refuse to have a miserable, unhappy life, in this ONE life God has given me. And mostly, what that has meant, is to lay down my pride, to lay down my opinions, to lay down the stuff that has been hardwired into me, and chill out!