We have experienced a number of funerals in our church family over the last 12 months. Most of them left behind a mourning spouse with the trauma and challenge of facing the future alone. Blessed is the living spouse full of memories of a shared experience in marriage that has been qualitatively blessed, vibrant, happy, trusting, unselfish, and growing.
This summer we are anticipating a number of weddings. For most this will be a first experience. I wonder what memories they plan to build into their relationship. I have never heard of a couple who started their marriage with a view to divorcing after 10 or 20 or 40 years. It is always “until death do us part.” So, what makes for a marriage that will leave me with good memories after my spouse dies? Here are some pointers on my wish list if I could do this marriage thing over again.
1. I would be better prepared. The way I tried to do it was to read all those self-help books. Did it work? I still haven’t read them. I need a real person to give me the bottom line and cut to the chase. I don’t have time to wade through pages and pages of “how to” lists. So, I would find a marriage coach, someone that can help me understand who I am, and what I need for the journey.
- Who I Am: Discover my temperament or personality type, and that of my fiancé. This will save me many headaches and frustration in trying to figure out why she can’t understand me and why I am having such a hard time getting her to be like me. This understanding helped me to accept myself, and see her differences as attractive and unique, and not as mistakes that need to be corrected.
- What I Need: Learn how to communicate! It’s as simple as that. What are the main communication skills that are essential for a good relationship? Listening, talking, and problem-solving. I always thought I knew how to talk and listen, but discovered that it is a skill that does not come naturally. We learn communication from our parental upbringing, which is often flawed. It usually oscillates between giving in to demands for peace’ sake, and outbursts of anger that gets us what we want, but at a cost to the relationship.
2. I would choose better priorities. God would always be first, and that does not mean a quickie in the morning before I rush off to work. My spouse would be second. That means that she is more important than my family, my friends or my work! That means that I will not gossip about her to my parents, put her down in front of my friends, or choose to work late on her birthday.
3. I would be more open, transparent, and honest. I do not believe it is helpful to open your mind like a TV screen to your spouse, but I do believe it is important to ask her to help hold you accountable about your thoughts and feelings. If someone of the opposite sex came on to me, my natural tendency was to keep it a secret and see how that developed, allowing my ego to glow in the attention I was receiving. That’s playing with fire. A better way would be to share it with her, ask her advice, and for her to hold me accountable.
4. I would do more of life together. We only have a brief time on this planet. Why not maximize our time with the one we love most? Most men who work in an office environment spend more time on average with their secretaries than with their spouses. When they come home, men want to unwind from the stresses of the day and what do they do? Vegetate in front of the TV or get lost in their PC or other digital device. In our neighborhood it’s so great to see spouses working together in the garden, walking the dogs, going on bike rides, and even shopping together.
This list is not exhaustive, but it does reflect some of my personal marriage priorities. Discuss them with your spouse, and make some decisions that will revitalize and energize your marriage, especially during the warm, delightful summer months ahead.