- Don’t keep secrets – always be honest!
Many of you have probably heard the saying, “It is better to deliver a small lie than a painful truth.” No! A lie, no matter how small, is still a lie! Always be honest. Brian and I committed, even while we were courting, to always be honest with each other. No matter what. Marriage is built on trust – and trust is built on honesty. I tell him stupid little things that seem so miniscule, but I want to be 100% transparent with him. Lies always start as tiny deceptions. One day it begins as a little snowflake, a secret left untold. It does not even have to be a secret you’re not telling, but even something as small as hiding a text message, or keeping them in the dark about something. But one day, it becomes a snowball that is harder bring up and talk about. Then, before you know it, it’s a giant ball you cannot even bear to discuss, so again, you hide it. Suddenly, it has become an avalanche that comes crashing down on not only you, but your spouse, and ruins your relationship forever. Brian and I made it a point to discuss the snowflakes so that they would never even get snowball-sized. If I am having a conversation on Facebook with a guy from church, I tell him about it. Just so he’s aware. If a customer at work was flirting with him, he mentions it to me. We are accountable to each other. We know each other’s passwords; not because we snoop, but just to keep the accountability there. He knows he is welcome to go through my phone at any time, and I know I am allowed to look at his.
- Always sleep together naked!
This may seem odd, or even funny, but it is so important. When you are nude in front of someone else, it forces you to be vulnerable. They are seeing you at your most exposed, your weakest, your most intimate. In marriage, vulnerability is necessary – it forms trust! Both vulnerability and trust are foundations of a marriage – your relationship will not prosper without these two things.
Sleeping naked together keeps you close. There is something uniquely special about laying in bed, cuddling without any clothes on. Skin-to-skin contact is very sensual, and it makes you feel more connected to your spouse. It is also symbolic as it represents the fact that in marriage, honesty and the bare, naked truth are always to be exposed…just as you are naked and unveiled, so should all secrets be out in the open. Nothing kills a marriage faster than secrets and dishonesty! Also, being naked means that you will have sex more often. Again, the more love you make, and the more often you connect, the stronger your marriage bond will be. Even after a disagreement, it is impossible to stay irritated when you feel the naked body of the person you love next to you. Again, it makes sex happen more often, and what better way is there than to make up with love-making after a disagreement?
*Note: Never withhold sex from your spouse as a way to “get back at them” after an argument. Intimacy is a powerful tool, and should never be used against your partner. This causes countless problems. Work things out outside the bedroom and then use love-making as a healing, revitalizing method…not as a punishment!
- If you are hurt by your spouse, say something to them.
Use your judgment and pray about it – sometimes, little comments are really no big deal and should not be mentioned again, but if something done or said to you honestly hurt you, let them know. Often, they honestly have no idea that what they said wounded you. It is important to keep the communication open and honest! Offense and bitterness usually start as little hurts and continue to fester until they are gaping wounds that are very hard to heal.
A comment could be made that cut you to the core, but you choose not to say anything. It bothers you for a while, but you tell yourself you will get over it. A few days later, another comment is made, one that really is no big deal, but because you are already hurt, that one cuts deep too. Again, it started off as one comment, but because you did not discuss the snowflake, everything is adding up and accumulating into a boulder. Nip the issue in the bud, before it gets any bigger, and talk about it. Heal the wound when it is a small scratch and do not let bitterness and offense create a gaping wound.
When you do mention it to them, do not start off with, “What you said was rude and callous…” but instead, tell them gently, in love, that what was said really hurt you. When you talk about how ‘you’ feel instead of how ‘they acted,’ the less it feels like an attack on them, and the more willing they are to listen and feel moved to apologize. Brian and I also made this a ‘rule’ too, where again, we are always open and honest. There have been times when we have both made comments which we thought to be no big deal, or was meant to tease, but the other was hurt by it. We were just honest about it and told them that we were hurt by the comment. It is usually a surprise that the other is hurt because we did not mean it that way, but we apologize, kiss, and everything is back to normal again because we did not allow the enemy to plant offense and make a mountain out of a mole hill.
- Do not argue or fight!
Walk away. Brian and I are nearing our 8 months of married life, and while we have had some disagreeing points of view, we have never argued or fought. They key is not needing to “win” the argument.
Growing up, my brother and I often fought – and we both felt the need to always win the argument. When the mentality is to win or lose, it means that you are on two different sides. Often, my brother and I were. This win-or-lose mentality led to countless, hot-tempered arguments and fights. This is not ok in a marriage. When the win-or-lose mindset is present in a marriage, it means that you are not on the same side, and that you are against each other. This drives a wedge into your relationship and forces you apart. This cannot be. As a married couple, you are united as one, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally; you are a team and must think like a team. There are no winners or losers on a team – you either win or lose together. There can be no winner and no loser when spouses disagree. Brian and I sometimes disagree, but we never argue or fight because we know we are both on the same team and neither of us need to win the discussion. We either agree to respectfully disagree, or we compromise, or just give in to the other.
The second key is to not give in to the temptation to lose your temper. Remember, you love this person. Do not shout, or blame them. I found that it always helps me keep myself in line if I ask myself before retorting, “What if, what I’m about to say, is the last thing Brian would ever hear me say?” That is a sobering thought. What if he drove to work just after a disagreement and got in an accident? My harsh words would be the last words from me that he would ever hear. That is a thought I could not live with. Every time we go to work, are separated temporarily, or before we fall asleep each night, we both make certain our last words are “I love you, baby!”
In the instance of a disagreement or argument, keep your voice calm and just take a break. It does not make you a weakling to say, “You know what? I think we need to take a break, go cool off, and come back after we have caught our breath.” Go take a walk. Go sit on the porch. Go build something. Go for a little drive. We have found that this is very effective. We agree to approach the subject later when we are in better frames of mind, and promptly change the topic. That has prevented so many disputes.
Your tone when you say things, even off-hand little comments, will make a huge difference too. If you always sound snarky, or snappy, this will affect not only your communication, but your marriage as well, and can easily start countless fights that could otherwise have been avoided. Also, never start a big discussion that will involve a debate when you are both tired. Believe me, they can get heated fast. Just avoid financial discussions, and other big problems until you are both rested and level-headed.
- Be your spouse’s biggest fan.
It is so, so important to stand behind, and support your spouse. This means being there for them when they need you – whether as a shoulder on which to cry, or for physical aid or support. Telling your spouse “no” when they need you is actually breaking your wedding vows. When you got married, you promised to put them before anyone else or anything else (besides God.) This even means putting them before yourself and your own desires or wants. When you are not there for them – you do not show up when they need you to, or you do not support them, you are putting something else ahead of them. You are called to be your spouse’s biggest fan, their most loyal support system, and their most faithful lover. When you fail to do this, you are not accurately fulfilling your role as a spouse, and are not completing God’s vision for marriage.
Failing to support your spouse can occur in many different ways. If they are counting on you to meet them before they talk to a potential employer and you never bother show up for the meeting, that is a big problem. But even talking badly about them behind their back is a form of betrayal and neglect of your wedding vows. You are entrusted by God, as their spouse, to portray them in a good way (now, things get tricky if they are a murderer or criminal, but I’m not getting into that here.) By mocking, or scorning your spouse, you are subtly betraying them and your sacred marriage vows. You should instead defend and uplift your spouse if you (biblically) can. (I’m not sure you should cover for them if they killed someone, but that’s not my point.)
Not appreciating your spouse is another way people often fail their partners. As my husband’s biggest fan, I need to let him know that I appreciate him and support him (again, it gets complicated if he’s a criminal or an abuser.) I need to tell him and show him that everything he does for our little family is seen and appreciated. I also need to encourage him when he is down, and be happy for him when he succeeds. Many times, spouses fail to be there for their partners when they have had a bad day, or rejoice with them when they have had a good day. This is all part of being your spouse’s support system and being their biggest fan. As a married couple, you are one. You should cry together, laugh together, and love together.