Marriage can be very difficult. You’ve chosen to commit your life to another person until death parts you. You’re flawed; your spouse is flawed; eventually, you could have children and they will be flawed. It is hard. But there are things you can do to protect your marriage, strategies you can implement. Even single people can begin developing the right habits and mindsets to prepare for a time when they might be married. Below, I’ve explained three important strategies Sue and I have used throughout our 48 years of marriage.
1. Never use the word or consider “divorce” an option.
I’d like you to read the following story from Sue’s perspective:
“Our first year was rough. We were young, and we fought like cats and dogs. One time, I was so mad that I went to the car, and I sat in the car and cried and pouted, and he did not come looking for me. Then I was really mad! I have to confess we had started using the D-word. We’d say, ‘Well, we’ll just get a divorce. This is not working out. This is not what I thought.’
“And I have to tell you, Robert was nothing like my daddy. NOTHING. And I expected everybody to be like my daddy, but he wasn’t.
“Finally, I went back up to the apartment and sat on the stairs, and I think he must have heard me sniveling on the stairwell or something. He came out, put his arm around me, and he said, ‘Sue, this is ridiculous. We cannot do this. We made a promise before God and our friends and family. Divorce cannot be a part of our vocabulary. We can’t use that word anymore. We’re married, and we’re going to stay married.’ For us, that worked. It was one of those things where we had to learn to get along, and we did. It doesn’t mean we still don’t have our disagreements. I’m pretty strong-willed and so is he, but for us that worked.”
We made a renewed commitment that we would never use the word “divorce.” We still have big arguments and can disagree strongly about things, but in the end we talk. Even after the frustration, anger, and tears, you have to talk. Don’t give up.
If you’re single, think like this now. Once you’re married, divorce should not be an option. That means you need to date and choose your spouse carefully and prayerfully.
2. Don’t let things build up.
Guys, we don’t talk as much as women. If that’s a stereotype, I’m sorry. There’s an old joke that sociologists say that a woman has about 10,000 words every day she has to use, and a man has about 3,000 words. So by the time the man sees his wife at night, he’s used up all his words. And she still has some words she needs to use! It’s sort of a stereotype, but I think men tend to grow silent more easily than women do, so you have to speak up.
Don’t bring up an old fight or try to get even with somebody. A big problem I have is I can get frustrated about something and not deal with it, and it can build up over time. Don’t let it build up. Just say, “Hey, honey, I’m not happy about that. Can we talk about it?”
3. Let one thing go unsaid every day.
You don’t have to say everything that comes to your head. Sue has a friend who said, “Let one thing go unsaid every day.” It’s usually more than one thing. You simply do not have to say everything you think, and it will help your marriage if you don’t.
These communication habits are not isolated to marriage relationships. We could all learn something from being honest with our friends and family in a gentle way, as well as letting the little things go unsaid. Say the things you need to say while also pursuing peace.
Related Marriage and Dating blogs:
- 6 Questions to Evaluate Your Dating Relationship
- Practical Advice: Dating and Long-Distance Relationships
- Table Talk: Marriage, Purity, and Flirting
- The End of Marriage? God’s Design for Family
This blog was adapted from a talk President and Mrs. Sloan gave to the students of Houston Baptist University in 2013.
Edited by Joannah Buffington