Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Ways to Help a Marriage

Everybody's doing it--telling others how to do this or that.  Since I have now been married 30 years, I figure it's my turn to offer my experience, realizing the risk:  I will probably get in a big fight with Ron before the proverbial ink is dry... This list is not exhaustive, just the 10 that came to mind first.  Some of these I'm good at, some not so much, but I know they are all important. 

Ron and I have a good marriage, though we do fight... some might even call us "the Bickersons" at times... However, we do love each other deeply, are best friends, and are each other's greatest supporters.  I think the most important reason we stay together and grow as a couple is that we take our marriage vows seriously.  Now, I don't exactly remember exactly what those vows were, but basically I was promising to be married to Ron forever--no matter what--til death do us part.  Even if I didn't know it then, and sometimes over the years have been exasperated to the point of doubt...deep down in my heart I know that we are one.  Ron would say pretty much the same thing.  When there's no "out" you just have to keep trying.

These are not in order of importance.  So here goes...

1.  Don't let the sun go down on your anger.  This one comes straight out of the Bible--Ephesians 4:26, but long before I knew where it came from I had heard this saying and recognized it as true.  I really cannot rest when there's trouble between anyone and me, but especially Ron.  I am in turmoil; there is no peace.  As difficult as it is to swallow my pride and make up sometimes, it's at least easier than trying to sleep filled with fury and bad feelings.  Thanks to this God-given discomfort, though we may not always come to a perfect peace, in general it keeps accounts short between us.

2.  Never part without saying, "Goodbye," and if possible, "I love you."  I am kind of neurotic about some things but once in a while it has a good effect.  Like, whenever I am parting with someone I love, I think to myself that I may never see this person again.  We don't do perfectly with this one, as Ron often leaves in the morning while I am asleep.  But I have to admit it makes me sad whenever I awake and discover he's gone.  We are never promised another moment with someone in this life.  It is always sad to me to say goodbye, but it is also precious to be able to do so--to have someone you hold in your heart so much that you yearn to be with them again.

3.  Be as transparent as possible.  I must confess that this one is also easy for me.  For one, I am female.  Also I spent some time in a support group that taught openness as a key to survival.  I am most likely too open.  But in marriage I think it would be deadly to have secrets from each other--in most cases.  Ron doesn't know every tiny detail about my life, and there is a lot I don't know about him.  Some things would be hurtful for us to know about each other.  For instance, Ron doesn't tell me if he finds some other woman attractive.  He's not going to act on it, and if he were to tell me it would crush me, and might even be more painful for him (picture me wielding a cast-iron frying pan).  Okay, so I am extremely jealous.  But at least I'm not trying to hide it!

4. Pray for each other. 
I cannot overstate the importance of this one.  God has shown me time and again how important it is for me to pray for Ron.  I can't think of any other instance where my prayers are so clearly and consistently answered.  If you are a Christian and you are married, pray for your spouse! And pray for your relationship, and for help in fulfilling your role in the marriage--continually.

5. Show respect for your spouse. 
Okay, here's where it gets hard for me.  It's not that I don't respect Ron, I do.  I probably have more respect for him than anyone else on the planet.  The problem is, I don't always show it.  I get all puffed up and act like a total jerk.  It's really no reflection on him, but it hurts him just the same, and causes more destruction to the marriage than anything else I can think of.

Once, in line at the grocery store, there was a woman in front of me disparaging her husband (who was standing right there) to the cashier.  She was speaking about him like he was a stupid child. It was horrifying.  Though I haven't done that exact thing, I have done other things eerily similar enough to be ashamed of.  It is helpful to remember and appreciate Ron's good qualities and to readily show that admiration publicly. 

6.  Try to be quiet.  As a segue between this point and the last, Philippians 2:3 comes to mind:  "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."  There is, according to King Solomon, "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;"  the trick being, for me, the first part.  I think the main thing to avoid is criticism, and that is not easy.  I definitely need God's help on this one.  Which brings us back to prayer. 

7.  Show affection.  Now, I am not trying to be gross here.  I am not a fan of too much public display.  But a little warmth, like a touch on the hand, goes a long way.  Especially in private.  After years of being together, it's nice every so often to remind one another that we do still like each other.

8. After God, put your spouse first.  That means before other family, friends, work, even kids.  This may seem obvious, but it's one of those things that can be slightly tricky.  Kind of like how not having any other gods can be tricky.  When someone is first, that means first always.  Even when you feel lousy, or when you really want something, or when you disagree.   It helps to simplify life, and really, would I want any other kind of marriage?

9. Be united in financial matters.  I have heard that money is a big cause of marital problems, and I believe it.  I was going to call this one, "Don't spend money in secret," but that actually goes under #3 as a part of transparency.  Ron and I started out our married life without any money. In fact we were in debt (a little bit of debt).  That was really good for us. It was so helpful for us to work through that, to pay off our debt, to take responsibility for our finances as a couple at a young age.

We quickly learned to abhor interest payments, and decided as a couple that we would rather have only the things that we could afford.  And it was even fun--a challenge seeing how cheaply we could live, getting through Christmas with only what was in the change jug... We were happy, and we enjoyed a great freedom in not being tied to "things," because we had nothing.  It has become a bit more difficult as we have acquired some wealth, but basically this one is easy for us.  Neither of us makes large money decisions without the other.

10. Compromise.  I know, overused word--practically has no meaning anymore.  But with two very different people united in marriage as one, it's absolutely necessary.  As close as we are in our feelings on most things, there are areas where Ron and I hugely disagree about things.  Usually these things have to do with the kids.  He thinks I'm overprotective and I think he's a maniac.  This is one of the areas where we might get into a fight, but eventually we come into some kind of agreement.

I think we are getting better at this.  It takes so much energy to argue, and having raised two kids already we know that you don't actually have that much control anyway... so we seem to resolve things more quickly.  Other areas of division can include family activities, what to do with free time, and extended family.   Ron has learned over the years that although my initial response to most things is, "NO," given time and a bit of space it generally morphs into a probable, "okay," and an occasional, "YES."  A woman's prerogative and all that...


  1. Thanks Meridee...When are you going to post a new blog entry?? Soon I hope. :)