Ahh, love is in the air. Or maybe it’s snow flurries, if you’re in the North East. Regardless, since it’s Valentines Day most folks have romance on their cognitive faculties. I think it’s fair to say we want good marriages. Whether you are married, engaged or it’s the farthest thing from your reality — when we get there, we want to do it well. And since it’s already on my mind, what better time than today to look at ways to positively shape your marriage?
Now, I’ll never profess to be a relationship expert. No doubt there are thousands of people out there more qualified to talk about marriage and all its parts — commitment, priorities, handling conflict, etc. Humbly all I can say is, my husband and I have done a whole lot of things wrong in our marriage, and by God’s grace we’ve done some things right, too.
But if I were to look at our relationship through a microscope, I can say there is one rule that has been my go-to to build a better relationship. Not only that, I use it frequently to reshape things that get out of shape. A I’m convinced this could positively reshape your marriage as well.
I’m not going to waste your time — I’ll give you the one rule right now.
Ready? It’s crazy simple:
Don’t talk smack.
Yup, that’s right. Don’t talk smack, specifically about your husband.
I know, you’re a little disappointed at how basic that sounds. But honestly, this one little rule can have incredible power to positively shape your marriage. Even though it is, quite frankly, impossibly hard to do at times.
Amongst a sea of brokeness
I started training as a 911-dispatcher when Ryan and I were just beginning to get to know each other. As a pretty shy individual, I didn’t talk a whole lot. Couple that with training on the most competitive shift in the center, well, I spent many a night sitting tucked into my computer console, listening to my coworkers talk.
There were many unhappy relationships, and a whole lot of smack talk going around. It broke my heart.
It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to realize relational brokenness is everywhere. And I would say even more so in emergency services — especially law enforcement. I’m not trying to be mean, it just happens to be where I’ve observed it the most in my different career paths.
Maybe it’s because EMS personnel tend to have black-and-white mentalities. Maybe it’s their adherence to logic and sense of right-and-wrong. Or their strong personalities. Or because they deal with the absolute brokenness of society day-in and day-out. Emergency Services are incredibly necessary, but often it takes a huge toll on its personnel, including their marriages.
Living out respect and dignity
Even though I had no clue, God was preparing me for marriage years before I was willing to admit it. He had placed certain moral guidelines in my life that were not just respectful to myself, but also respectful to my future husband.
Respect is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but we’re not very good at living it out. Especially as women (preaching to myself, here). As women, it’s much easier for us to love someone than respect them. It’s how we are wired — which is why Valentine’s Day hits us in the heart. But respect is incredibly important in our marriages, because that is how our husbands are wired.
I’m not going to go into detail about respect, because it a huge topic and can be a hot-button for so many people. A lot of us have been hurt at one time or another by someone we respected. Or, someone demanded respect but didn’t deserve it. Something I do want to say, though, is we can respect our husbands even if they don’t deserve it. Just like how they can love us, their wives, when we’re not particularly lovable.
As important as living respectfully toward our husbands, is to treat them with dignity. Back in my 911-answering days, I went through a short training course so I could, in turn, start training the new hires coming onto the floor. As we were discussing handling difficult callers with a trainee, someone brought up the point of treating all callers with respect. The training coordinator — and my shift supervisor — said something that struck me:
“You don’t have to treat everyone with respect,” she said, “but you do have to treat them with dignity as human beings.”
Dignity is defined as: the quality or state of being worthy, honored or esteemed (Merriam-Webster). Our husbands are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27). For that reason alone, we need to treat them with dignity, regardless of their character or actions. The same way, we hope, they will treat us.
After my observation, I gave myself one rule to positively shape my marriage
I’m not going to lie, I started working on this even before my husband popped the question in the middle of a frozen lake on top of a mountain. I knew marriage was going to take deep work — lots of hard, deep work. Because the deep work is deeply worth it.
I wanted to make sure I was giving my all to help our marriage succeed.
When my coworkers started complaining about their boyfriends, I didn’t even entertain the thought. When they started ranting about something their husband did, or didn’t do, or did but did incorrectly, I listened and tried to offer compassion instead of one-upping their stories.
Choosing to not talk smack is great way to positively shape your marriage. That’s because it gets us into the habit of focusing on their positive qualities and strengths, instead of drawing attention to their shortcomings. There’s a reason Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on what is good, noble, pure, trustworthy. That wasn’t just advice on how to look at circumstances, but also the people in our lives. And because we have the “mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we can choose to dwell on the positive instead of the negative.
If we’re thinking good things about our husbands, we speak good things. And speaking good things — instead of the bad, ugly and hurtful — is speaking life over them and, ultimately, your marriage.
What about the elephant in the room?
What do you do when something IS wrong with the relationship?
The struggle is real and I hope you hear this: choosing to speak life over your husband does not mean cover up real problems. Never once does Jesus command us to ignore our pain or stuff our issues into a the not-suitable-for-Christian-conversation bottle. He is always after our hearts, and part of that is dealing with our hurts.
Sometimes you need to talk, rant even. Sometimes to your husband and sometimes to someone else about your husband. Regardless, it can always be done with respect and dignity. Our first step should always be prayer (I love how Sheila Wray Gregoire talks about this in her post, Should We Really Sweat the Small Stuff). Prayer is our biggest tool in our marriages — don’t forget the power it has in preparing our hearts (and our husband’s hearts) for dealing with an issue.
It is worth the work to positively shape your marriage
This one rule is just one way I chose to help me see my husband in a positive light, and by association, my marriage. I implement it daily. And when I forget, I can always start again. Don’t be fooled — this is no quick-fix. It can’t be mastered in a day. But it is worth mastering.
We want good marriages. I want a good marriage. And it takes work. You’re reading this, so you’re open to insight on the topic. Bravo — I commend your will to fight for your relationship!
Got Valentine’s Day plans with your spouse? Share that — or a small piece of encouragement from your own experiences — in the comments below!
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