By Mark Merrill
There’s a growing trend for couples to individualize their wedding day from personal vows to unique settings, but there are still two elements that are common to many. First is the playing of “Here Comes the Bride” as she makes her special entry for the service. And then there’s the reading of some very familiar words that can actually set the course for a successful marriage.
Even people unfamiliar with Scripture will recognize the words. Chapter 13, verses 4-7 of that book declare, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.”
Hanging on the wall, these words might be a bright reminder of your special day. Hung in your hearts, they can be a roadmap to a rich future. Usually, we are told to avoid saying always and never because they are unhelpful absolutes, but not in this case. This inspiring passage offers wise dos and don’ts for a meaningful, enriching marriage. Let’s look at seven of them.
1. Don’t be self-seeking.
Most of us like to think of ourselves as nice people, considerate and caring even, but the reality is that we’re all born with a selfish bent. Nothing makes that more apparent than spending your life in close proximity to someone else. Rather than look to your own interests, determine to focus on how you might help your spouse and children be more loving and giving. A good place to start is with yourself.
2. Don’t be easily angered.
Identify those things that prompt a knee-jerk reaction in you and try to understand what’s going on. These 3 ways to get to the root of anger may help. Likely it’s not so much what your spouse actually said or did as some hurt or unresolved issue it’s brought out in you. So don’t take it out on them. Better to bite your tongue than to bite their head off. I have written about how to practice patience from my own struggles in this area.
3. Don’t keep a record of wrongs.
Some couples seem to view their relationship a bit like a business arrangement—a series of agreements. This kind of thinking can encourage you to focus on what they are doing or are not doing to hold up their end of the bargain rather than concentrating on what you are offering. But marriage isn’t a fifty-fifty partnership; you need to be all in….giving 100%. Tear up that mental list of the ways they have let you down. Choose to forgive. My blog, Forgiveness: It’s Not What You Think will guide you through the process of forgiveness.
4. Always protect.
Think of your marriage as a field. To harvest a rich crop, you need to take care of it, not only watering and tilling but guarding it against pests and other threats. Like bugs, little things can cause a lot of damage if they are not dealt with. Are you being careful not to let dissatisfaction or temptation gain a foothold? Keep alert to negative outside influences. Eternal vigilance is the price of a good marriage. Read about how to protect your marriage against online infidelity.
5. Always trust.
One couple I know included in their vows a pledge I like, “We will assume the best intentions of each other.” Remember that you are on the same team, not opponents, even when you may be at odds. Believing the best of and in each other is a helpful perspective to have when there are differences of opinion, maybe even harsh words; it draws you together rather than pushing you apart. And if your reaction to all this is, “Well, trust has to be earned” I’d ask, “What are you doing to earn your spouse’s trust?”
6. Always hope.
The right actions are important in marriage, but attitude is critical, too. Chances are that if you don’t think things can get better, they probably won’t because you are closing your eyes to the possibilities and opportunities. Forget about your marriage glass being half empty, if that’s how you feel or even half full for that matter. Instead, concentrate on pouring more of yourself into the glass so that it’s filled up. Reading about these 4 Marriage Myths You Should Bust can help you see things from the right perspective.
7. Always persevere.
A wedding is about saying “I do” one day. A marriage is about saying “I do” every day, rain or shine, good or bad. You made a promise, you made a commitment. Every marriage will face its challenges, that’s a given. You must keep pressing in and pressing forward. That takes intentionality and effort. There’s a world of difference between resignedly staying together and growing together.