Everything that is worth having is worth working for. This old adage couldn’t be any truer than in the marriage relationship. In the context of marriage this “working for” can be labeled as sacrifice. Sacrifice has a bad connotation in our society when it comes to relationships because we are told to always look out for number one. But we admire those who sacrifice of themselves for others in other contexts- military, physicians, firefighters, etc.
When you sacrifice for someone, you show them love. And love is more of a verb than an emotion and therefore requires action. Love as a feeling is conditional and dependent on our mood or our feelings. True love however, should cause you act in tangible ways for the one you love. We think of our spouse’s well being first. True love requires sacrifice.
Men, by nature are explorers, conquerors, and protectors. The first two characteristics serve well in the context of dating. But when a commitment is made, when two truly become “won”, the role of protector should take over. As such, sacrificing of ourselves for our wives should come as a natural extension of who we are. When we sacrifice of ourselves for our wives, it communicates that they are important, that we care about them and we want wants what’s best for them. Sacrificing of ourselves more importantly puts us second. This is not only sacrifice, but it’s the basis of servant leadership.
What does sacrifice look like in the context of marriage you ask? Great question! Well, I can say I would watch “The Notebook” with my wife if she wanted me to instead of the Super bowl but I would be lying! Just kidding. But really, there would be no way I could do that.
True sacrifice in marriage means that I would be willing to do whatever is needed for my spouse’s well being. That means I will be cancelling a planned golfing weekend to be with my wife after a stressful week. This means that I will leave work early to pick up and stay with the kids if she needs time with her friends. This means that I will wash dishes after she has cooked. And it definitely means that I will help her onto a boat if I sense danger in the water while snorkeling. … Well actually this is one area that I failed since I did the exact opposite when confronted with the same situation during our honeymoon. But to my defense, it was my first time snorkeling. Ha!
The real take home point here is that when we sacrifice for our loved ones we are really sacrificing for ourselves because in marriage two become “won.”
I have to take a break from my regular post to share the fact that I recently celebrated 17 years of marriage. Neither of us did anything extremely special. Neither of us got cards, I didn’t get flowers, there were no gifts and there was no special celebration.
You would think that after 17 years of marriage I would have sent my wife flowers and a card. You would think that I would’ve made her breakfast in bed; scratch that, I don’t cook.
Instead, we gave each other our past 17 years. Sure, it is nice to get flowers, go out to dinner, a bed & breakfast or a meaningful gift. But nothing says “I love you” more than truly showing love to each other 365 days a year. How do you show love that many days you ask? Well, it’s about more than saying “I love you.” It’s about showing your love to her by being a strong leader, by being her rock, by helping her cook/clean and occasionally saying, “honey, I got the kids and the house. You go have some alone time.”
And sometimes it’s sipping coffee on the front porch and just listening to her. But most of the times it’s by encouraging and affirming each other in everything you do. It’s about being there in tangible ways. But I would like to give a word to the wise: do not attempt this if you have not nurtured your marriage relationship.
That is how a marriage should be celebrated; like everyday is your anniversary. After all, don’t we invest time on ourselves? How is this different from daily investing in your marriage? If two have truly become “won,” it is not different at all. Because investing in a marriage is investing in yourself. Scriptures says it like this in Ephesians 5:28-29: “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…”
Before I move on to other aspects of marriage, I would like to take a more serious look at communication in marriage. Because my last post regarding this topic, “The 3 C’s in Communication,” was a little tongue in cheek and because I am so passionate about marriage, I did not want to gloss over this important aspect of the marriage relationship.
As I stated previously, communication is important in any relationship. It is especially vital in a relationship where two become “won.” Without communication there cannot be understanding and without understanding any relationship will struggle. I would like to point out some areas that can plague a marriage and some tools on how men can address these.
- Arguments: Just because two people say “I do” doesn’t mean they will agree on everything. So what should we do when arguments arise? The first step would be to determine the true importance of the argument. The second would be to think about your role in this argument. Was this caused by a harsh answer, an unmet expectation, or a forgotten promise? Did you truly listen to your spouse’s point or were you just so intent on making your point? One thing that is very tempting to do is to raise your voice in response to the other person’s tone. This is a COLLOSAL mistake and only serves to satisfy you. This is contradictory to the idea of two becoming “won.” So what is the best thing to do? Sit there and listen until your spouse has gotten her load off her chest. Your next response is EXTREMELY important and this is it: Say “I hear what you are saying and I understand.” Right or wrong does not matter at this point. Nobody wins if the two of you are trying to have the other understand at the same time. When the “temperature cools down” you can both discuss the issue calmly.
- Anger: There will be times in a marriage relationship where anger will set in. This may be as a result from an argument, a harsh response or an unmet expectation. No matter what the cause, it is important to take 5 minutes, breathe deep and consider the possibility that you may have caused an anger response. If you thought about it and find that there is absolutely no way that you could have caused the anger issue, take 5 minutes, breathe deep and forgive your spouse. The sooner this is done the better. A loving, kind word will diffuse a train wreck of a situation. The most important aspect relating to anger is actually mentioned in Ephesians 4:26, Paul wrote: “Do not let the sun go down in your anger.” A husband should never, ever go to sleep without kissing his wife good night no matter what has transpired. Although this may feel awkward, what is communicated is “I know we just had a disagreement, but I love you.”
- Disagreements: Is the item of the disagreement vital in the relationship as a whole? Is compromise an option? Listen carefully before you speak and for the love of God, DO NOT interrupt your wife while she is talking. When people feel like they are heard, they tend to be calmer. This is because there is a general feeling that the other person genuinely cares and wants to listen. Furthermore, your spouse will be more willing to listen to you if she feels that you have listened to her. For men, as the leader in the marriage relationship, it is really important that we do not abuse this position in disagreements. In the latter part of Ephesians 5, Paul continues his thought on mutual submission in marriage and how the husband should love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church. And in verse 28 he wrote, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies, he who loves his wife loves himself.”
- One and Done: We are all imperfect and fall short of the glory of our Creator. This couldn’t be any truer than in times of stress or arguments. Sometimes, when in a new argument, we can have a tendency to bring up past hurts or mistakes. This is should NEVER be done. Once a hurtful comment or a mistake has been forgiven, it must not be brought up again. Doing so only serves to satisfy our momentary feelings of anger and can only fuel an already bad situation.
- Peace: It is very important to remember that peace does not always mean absence of conflict. There will be some tension occasionally in any relationship. This is especially true in marriage. When two imperfect people become a part of each other they do not magically perfect themselves. How we handle occasionally tense situations is the key to maintaining peace. This may mean being the first to say those dreaded words: “I’m sorry.” But the idea of saving face and pride has no place in a marriage relationship. So always try to diffuse a small problem before it becomes a bigger problem.
So to recap, it is vital to listen first then speak. Although arguments and disagreements may arise, do no let your emotions control your response. In disagreements remember to treat your spouse with the respect that you yourself would like to have. And finally, remember that even with peace there may be conflict. But it is in the proper handling of the little problems that we avoid bigger ones. Most importantly, remember that love is not a feeling so your love for your spouse should always determine your thoughts, actions and responses. I would like to close with one of my favorite passages of scripture that was recited in our wedding:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8- “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
So in my last post I alluded to the fact that marriage takes work. Everything that is worth having is worth working for. I want to expand on this and share my view of the kind of work that is involved in a marriage. I have tried to condense the work involved in marriage into the three C’s.
Whether it’s work, organizations, or relationships they all require communication to function. In marriages this is vital in order for a couple to survive. In too many marriages however, this communication is one sided. The stereotypical picture is a woman talking to her husband while he stares aimlessly and dumbfounded at the TV. But is it really true that women talk more than men? Actually, it turns out to be an urban legend according to a study by researchers at the University of Arizona. But I digress.
Without a two way communication it is impossible for the institution of marriage to function as it should. Where there is poor communication there is misunderstanding. Where there is misunderstanding there is bitterness. Unresolved bitterness over time leads to divorces. If we can communicate at our jobs and within groups, shouldn’t we work just as hard in our marriages?
This may be occasionally difficult at times but it is worth it. Remember if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! : )
The Rolling Stones had a hit song called “you can’t always get what you want.” This couldn’t be any truer in the marriage relationship. But should it be about getting what we want? If two are truly becoming “won”, then the focus will be her or him instead of me or I. When a couple can compromise, communication improves. When communication improves there is understanding. The focus then shifts from getting what I want to getting what’s best for “won”. Don’t we look for athletes to think of the team rather than themselves? Why should the thinking be any different for a marriage relationship which is so much more important? This does take work but again, it is worth it!
Finally, we arrived at the last C of marriage work. In a marriage relationship there can be a lot of distracters such as work issues, children activities, family issues and emotional issues (No disrespect ladies) that can alter or change communication and compromise. What happens then? Well, we must be flexible. Also men – we must be sensitive to times when our wives may require a little “extra grace.” One thing to remember during these times is the following: Chocolate saves lives.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the 3 C’s of marriage work. Sure, this may be an over simplification. But the 3 C’s are at the starting point for everything else. Next we can tackle roles in a marriage.