What does a Healthy Marriage Look Like?
To be healthy in any area of our lives, it takes work and being intentional. If you want to get healthy physically you need to eat right and exercise. This does not mean perfect but healthy. When one area of our lives is out of whack or unhealthy it affects all the other areas of our lives. When we are struggling financially, it causes stress on our relationships and work. When we are struggling with a relationship with our spouse or children, it causes us to be distracted, unfocused and can even affect our work performance and work relationships. Many times we try to compartmentalize our work, our family, our faith and our person time, but the reality is that they all affect each other either in a positive healthy way or a negative unhealthy way.
Marriage is one of the most difficult relationships we will ever have in our lives. I believe marriage is hard work, because we all struggle with selfishness and unhealthy views of what marriage should or shouldn’t be. Many times we have learned about marriage from our parents, from television or the movies or from other people we see from a distance. Many of the things we have learned are not healthy. The way in which we handle conflict; the way we communicate; the way we approach sex; the way in which we parent; the way in which we handle our finances; the way in which we handle extended family issues; the way in which we do household chores.
What I want to share with you today are some of the best practices I have learned over the 23 years of my own marriage and also what I have learned as a pastor over the last 10 plus years in meeting with couples.
1. Understand & Speak the right Love Language
- Fill your spouse’s Love Tank or Bank Account by practicing the right love language
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
2. Recognize & Stop the Fear Dance or Crazy Cycle
- The Dance – I hurt, I want things to be different, My core Fear is touched, I react in an unhealthy way, My spouse is hurt, they want things to change, their core fear is tapped, they react in an unhealthy way, you are hurt even more.
- The Crazy cycle – I feel disrespected, I react in an unhealthy way, She feels unloved, she reacts in an unhealthy way, we both are hurt.
- Identifying your core fear, helps you to stop the crazy cycle
- My story – I was in the Kitchen fixing a salad, my wife say’s “leave everything out for me, so I can fix a salad as well.” When I was finished with my salad I start putting lids on, she says didn’t you listen to me I told you to leave it out (sarcastic), I immediately get defensive and start explaining what I was doing, she says, “well you don’t have to yell at me”, I say, “I am not yelling!” – We just did the fear dance and the crazy cycle. I felt disrespected, she felt unloved, my core fear of being inadequate and a failure were pushed and her core fears of feeling invalidated, ignored & unimportant were touched. That is how quickly we fall into this unhealthy routine and it soon becomes a way of life.
3. Understand & Nurture the three types of intimacy needed in marriage
- Emotional intimacy – Friendship
- Spiritual intimacy – Deep Connection
- Physical intimacy – Need I say more
4. Understand & Improve the way in which you communicate
- Really Listening – Eye contact, positive body language, repeat back what you heard, ask questions
- Having the Floor – Allow the other person to have the floor and explain their position. You only ask questions and repeat back what you heard. Once the other person is satisfied that you heard them, you get the floor and repeat the process.
- Be interested not interesting – Spend 5 minutes within 5 feet of your spouse everyday
- Know Your Filter – men & women are very different. Your background, your experiences all are used to filter what you see and hear.
- Settle disagreements – don’t allow conflict to go unresolved for long periods of time
5. Understand How Powerful Forgiveness is – Every relationship has to practice forgiveness.
- It is not forgetting, but it is the first step toward forgetting
- Forgiveness trumps anger – unforgiveness breeds anger and bitterness
- Be quick to admit when you are wrong and ask and give forgiveness
- Don’t let arguments go unresolved – Are we OK?
These five practices are vital to having a healthy marriage, but it takes work and practice. It also takes humility to admit that you need to make a change and do things differently in order to improve you marriage. Sometimes it takes working with a counselor or mentor in order to make the necessary adjustments and changes. The good news is that your marriage can change and improve and be healthy and all the work is worth it. Remember that you cannot control your spouse and what he or she does, but you can control what you do.