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Monday, December 24, 2012

Building a Happy Marriage

I thought about calling this blog, “Five Habits of Highly Successful Marriages.”  In 2013 I am scheduled to lead six marriage retreats and teach at two conferences on marriage and family relationships.  This blog offers a concise summary of the five key lessons I will be teaching on these occasions.  

1     Happiness/Joy.  The essence of joy is being happy to be together.  You can think of joy as a gift you give to someone else.   The gift of joy starts with the mindset that “I’m not going to wait until you are happy to be with me, before I am happy to be with you.”  In biblical terms, “I am going to treat you the way I would want to be treated.”   Here are four practical ways to offer the gift of joy in your marriage.  

2    Appreciation.  The two most powerful forces in any relationship are appreciation and resentment.  Appreciation builds joy and intimacy.  Resentment ruins relationships.   Heart-felt appreciation expresses in words what it is about the other person that gives you a warm feeling when you think of them.  Take time to think of those moments in the past when you have had a warm feeling of appreciation about this person and share that with them.  

3    Resentment.  It is easy to develop a view of other people that is built on resentment.  When this happens, our image of the other person gets distorted and we lose our joy in being with them.  Resolving resentments quickly is a crucial habit to cultivate in any joyful relationship.  We resolve resentment primarily through forgiveness and through taking thoughts captive.  Learning to recognize when resentment is taking root helps us deal with it quickly and can save us a boat load of heartache.  

4    Preparation.  In a real sense, romance is about preparation.  The time you take to prepare relational experiences shows people that you have been thinking about them and how much value they have to you.  One example of this is preparing to meet your spouse after work.  I know one man who made it a habit to stop at the park on the way home from work.  He just took about two minutes to let go of the day’s events and prepare himself to meet his wife with joy.  Little moments of preparation like this can go a long way to infusing marriages with joy.

5    Spirituality.  An important aspect to maintaining joy and happiness in marriage is developing the habits that let you replenish your joy through your relationship with God.  No matter how much you love someone, that one person is not divine.  They cannot supply you with all of the joy that you need to deal with life.  In fact, sometimes you need extra joy, just to deal with them!  Learning to see God as someone who is happy to be with you is crucial to your own spirituality and to your ability to renew the joy you need for the investment required by marriage.  
In my next blog, I will talk more about taking thoughts captive and offer some practical advice on how to do that. 

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