This week’s Marriage MIssions article is very good! And it’s well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. You can find a link to their website with more amazing articles at the end of this one.
Just because you’re married and you live in the same house together, and just because you love each other, that doesn’t mean that you still LIKE each other, or at least SHOW that you like each other. It may be one of the best kept secrets around! Or maybe it isn’t.
NOTE: "Only five out of a hundred teens interviewed in a major marital study desired a marriage like their parent’s. Just five. Why? There were a number of reasons given, but I ultimately believe it’s because your kids are watching. You may think you’re hiding the anguish produced by your inability to connect and love, but you’re only kidding yourself. They hear it in your every word to each other and see it in your lack of contact. It charges the air" (Dr Tim Clinton, from the book, "Before a Bad Goodbye").
There’s an advertisement that appears on television that has an older couple commenting on how much they enjoy being together even though they’ve been married for many years. The husband says, "There are only a few couples our age that we know still like each other." As I heard this, I thought, "What a sad but true testimony!" After years of marriage, many couples get to the point where they tolerate each other more than they like each other. Kids pick up on it, others pick up on it, and so should you, if that is what is happening in your marriage.
In Gary Thomas’ book, "Devotions for a Sacred Marriage", he writes about the "brides-to-be" and the married women he talked with at a marriage conference. Those that were not yet married "gushed with enthusiasm" about the things they liked and loved about the men they would be marrying. But the married women emphasized the faults they saw in their husbands, rather than their good points.
He asked himself: "Where is the bridge that leads a woman to stop defining a man by what he is and start defining him by what he is NOT?" He said, "The sad answer, unfortunately, is marriage. All our hopes, expectations, dreams, and ideals get poured into this real relationship. Because we marry a sinner, each day brings a new and often legitimate disappointment. Before long, we stop seeing what attracted us and instead become consumed by what disappoints us. Whereas before marriage our eyes filled with the glory of the person we had chosen to spend our lives with, now our eyes get filled only with their shortcomings."
Some of you are dealing with HUGE shortcomings and HUGE bridges that have fallen down between you — bridges that seem impossible to rebuild. It’s difficult for us to say if that which is separating you right now can be bridged. But, "with God all things are possible." Please don’t keep focusing on the impossible, but rather on what is possible with God.
A few weeks ago we were with Clint and Penny Bragg, who were divorced for over 11 years. God worked within both of them in separate parts of the country and drew them back together. They eventually remarried. Their differences were as far as the East is from the West, but it didn’t stop God. You can hear their testimony at www.inverseministries.com. Some of you may want to read their testimony in the book, "Can My Marriage Be Saved" (featured on our web site in the "Save My Marriage" section under links and resources). What’s great is that it has 21 other testimonies of marriages that were on the brink of, or were already divorced, and yet God resurrected their marriages. Even when there appears to be no bridges that can be built, it’s amazing what God can do when even one partner is open to approaching things differently. All of these couples now love AND like each other and keep working to keep it that way.
The problem can often be that because in marriage we can see each other’s flaws, we concentrate on what we don’t like about each other, rather than what we do. We stop making the effort to continue to romance and encourage good feelings about each other. Many of us believe that marriages go bad because of the fighting that occurs. But, "The issue isn’t whether you fight, it’s HOW you fight and how rich your stockpile of GOOD feelings is about each other to weather difficulties and keep your basic attitude toward your partner positive" (Dr John Gottman).
Dr Willard Harley, founder of the "Marriage Builders" ministry, refers to stockpiling "good feelings," as depositing "love units." He writes: "Inside all of us is a Love Bank with accounts in the names of everyone we know. When these people are associated with our good feelings, ‘love units’ are deposited into their accounts, and when they are associated with our bad feelings, love units are withdrawn. We are emotionally attracted to people with positive balances and repulsed by those with negative balances. This is the way our emotions encourage us to be with people who seem to treat us well, and avoid those who seem to hurt us."
The point we’re trying to make is to emphasize the importance of building upon the love and respect you gave in the beginning of your relationship to "stockpile" and add to your good feelings for each other. Surprisingly, the "love units" you give to your marriage partner, usually don’t have to be big. As a matter of fact, they can and usually are a lot of little choices you make to show your love and "like" for your spouse. As Simone Signoret once said, "Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years." The problem is that we after marriage, many of us forget to keep sewing. Our love and "like" for each other dies of neglect.
Marriage expert Dr John Gray talks about the importance of doing little things to help the romance to stay alive in marriage. He says, "Doing little things to create romance is like building a fire. You cannot start it with the big logs. You have to start it with some paper, then adding kindling and the big logs. In the beginning of a relationship, we naturally start out with the paper and kindling. After we put the big logs in, we stop. However, to keep the passion alive in our relationships, we need to start out EVERY DAY with paper and kindling as well."
Annie Chapman wrote an article that appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of Marriage Partnership Magazine titled "Staying in Like." In it she wrote, "People get married because they love each other. But they stay married because they like each other." She goes on to tell a key to "staying in like". It’s to "Be likable. When you choose a friend, don’t you look for someone who’s pleasant, attractive, and enjoyable to be with? I don’t tend to stay in long-term friendships with people who are always negative, boring, or unhappy, and I shouldn’t expect my mate to either. Since he and I are committed to each other, we want that ‘staying’ to be as fun as possible."
Ask God and keep asking God, to show you things you can do to build "love units" with your spouse. Read your Bible. There are thousands of things written there to apply in your marriage. Our Wonderful Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will guide you as to what you can do. If you don’t like or love your spouse, ask God to show you how to begin again. (We have a "Romantic Ideas" section on our web site that could help you among many other things to get good "sparks" going again in your relationship.) Ask your God, whose very name means LOVE to guide you how to love your spouse so eventually you both love and even like each other. WORK on liking each other.
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Blessings in Him,