It has been said that marriage can either be the nearest thing to heaven on earth, or its extreme opposite.
I ran across some papers I’ve used in the past when conducting marriage workshops or when counseling couples wanting to be married. This particular paper I pulled from my notes is a list of rules to follow if you want to create an environment for a happy and lasting marriage. In light of the flood of failed marriages listed in the newspaper each week, this bit of instruction seems eternally appropriate and timely.
Of course the best instruction on marriage is to be found in the pages of the Bible. God established the marriage relationship. He created us to be in relation with each other. But the marriage relationship is unique within the human experience because it is intended to be akin to the relationship God desires to have with us. Barely two chapters into the book of Genesis we see that God saw that the man, Adam, was experiencing loneliness. God said, "It's not good for the Man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion." So the Lord made a woman in the same fashion as the man. Adam was thrilled! He said, "Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man." Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.
Ever since the first couple was created we’ve been trying to figure out this whole business of a man and woman living together without killing each other! Marriage seems to fall into three major categories: 1) Delight, 2) Fright, 3) Flight. In a marriage experiencing delight a couple has figured out how to make the relationship work. Things are not necessarily perfect, but disagreements are worked out without the need for personal attack and criticism. Generally the couple is happy, feeling loved and affirmed. Couples in the fright category realize their marriage is suffering from an inability to resolve conflict and disappointment. Each partner has settled into an approach to their relationship that could at best be described as tolerance. They stay in the marriage, but they are merely sharing the same residence. The third category, flight, is the result of a marriage that has disintegrated, ultimately leading to divorce. The partners have exhausted themselves emotionally in a desperate attempt to make it work. When the divorce is final they look to escape from the horrors associated with the failure.
Wherever you are in the process of the marriage relationship, these suggestions are meant to help you strengthen your commitments to each other.
Unselfishness is rule #1. A selfish attitude in a marriage (or any relationship) is the beginning of rottenness in the bones. “Agree with each other, and show your love for each other. Be united in your goals and in the way you think. 3 In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. 4 Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.” (Philippians 2:2-4).
Rule #2. Never speak loudly to one another unless the house is on fire! The volume of the voice is in direct proportion to the level of hurt and frustration.
Rule #3 must be practiced if there is to be peace and harmony in the marriage. Never, ever bring up your partner’s past failures and mistakes! To berate them with their less than stellar past is to sow the seeds of ruin in the marriage. Instead, you are to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders in life.
This next rule must be followed. Rule #4 says to never make a comment or remark derogatory of your mate, either to them or in the presence of others. To do so is to humiliate them and damage your relationship, even if you think you’re being cute or funny. Trust me: You’re neither cute, nor funny!
Rule #5 is close on the heels of #4 in that it says never hold onto a resentment or hurt. Instead, be willing to forgive and be forgiven.
Often couples live with the “What if’s.” What if I’d married that other guy? Or, perhaps I was meant to be with the girl I first fell in love with. You will never know. Instead, Rule #6 says to focus on your mate and make the best of your present relationship. If you allow yourself to wander into the “What if’s,” you will gradually fall out of love with your marriage partner.
Rule #7 is the foundation of all the rules. It says that marriage is ordained of God and that his blessings alone can make it what it should be.
There are more of these rules, of course, but time and space will only allow so much. Consider these seven and see if they do not begin to improve your attitude toward your mate and your marriage relationship.