By Ron Thomas
In the July 27th (2014) edition of Parade Magazine there is an article on the happily married (“Happily Ever After”). The gist of the article is accentuating the positives in marriage to make it last until “death do us part.” Some 40 years ago, after some research on the topic, psychologist John Gottman identified, with 90% accuracy, four things that encourage (or move) marriages to end in divorce (p. 8). They are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt (rolling one’s eyes), and stonewalling (or, the silence treatment). That which contributes toward such behavior is stress. If you reflect for a moment you will easily recognize these things to be so.
What are some suggestions for a happy marriage then? Once again, there are four things identified. Offer some tenderness. Not always easy to do, and one may have to travel further than the other, but its usefulness is obvious. Second, soften conflict with humor. Wisdom and experience helps one (or the other) to know when to make use of it. Third, support, but don’t smother. Especially when there are problems, or there is a problem; when the other knows his (her) spouse is there to help and support through the weakness (that is, helping to overcome), then the marriage is strengthened. Fourth, share the emotions of the other. When there is joy in one, share it. When there is sorrow, share it.
As I reflect on these pieces of practical advice, I note the Lord said such things long ago, and He did so in fewer words than marital counselors make use of today. In Matthew 7:12 one reads: “In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets” (NET). Later in His ministry, when asked about the greatest command, Jesus started first with love toward God, then love toward one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). If these were implemented in each and every marriage, under what conditions would that marriage (or any marriage) fail?
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org