Improve your Marriage
I was recently asked to speak at a wedding. That’s right – the soon-to-be-married couple asked a professional couples counselor to give them some relationship advice during their ceremony. And there’s plenty of advice out there – you can google it! “Don’t go to bed angry.” “Continue to date each other.” “Don’t take each other for granted.” “Secretly snoop through each other’s phone.” Wait – definitely don’t do that.
So after counseling hundreds of couples for thousands of hours, here are 3 general principles that will help any marriage… and they all begin with S.
THREE S-WORDS that will help your MARRIAGE
Selfishness, Sharing, & Sacrifice
By selfishness I don’t mean, “Go out there and be selfish. It will really help your relationship.”
I mean, watch out for selfishness. It will continually invade your relationship. Nothing on this planet will reveal your own selfishness like Marriage.
Selfishness attempts to get me to put ME first, when your marriage needs you to put WE first.
I once had a mouse living in my garage. I never actually saw the mouse, but I would find evidence that he was there. Selfishness is like a mouse living in the garage of your marriage. It’s hard to spot, it’s hard to trap, it’s really difficult to remove, but left unchecked, it leaves damaging droppings all over your relationship. That’s right. Selfishness poops on your marriage.
I am selfish. You are selfish. Your spouse is selfish. Nothing exposes you to your own selfishness like marriage. Well, maybe also parenting, but definitely marriage. Watch out for selfishness and guard against it, as it’s the root cause of so much disappointment and disconnection.
The second concept is Sharing. Share yourself with your partner. Share yourself, your time, your body, your ideas, your beliefs, your experience, your dreams… and be open to be shared with. Send and receive.
When I was first married, one of the gifts that we received was a bunch of bath towels. I thought, why do we need so many towels? We’ll share a towel. Sounds cute right? Share a towel. 48hrs into our marriage our towel was dripping wet, couldn’t hold another drop of water, and we were clammy. Gross. We did not need to share a towel or a toothbrush. We needed to share ideas, dreams, struggles, experiences, hopes, failures. You need to share your life with one another. Be available to each other – physically & emotionally. Stay engaged with one another. Respond to each other. It’s not enough to simply share your bed, or your address; you’ve got to share your life.
The third S-Word is SACRIFICE, and believe me, for some people that sounds like a 4-letter word! A wedding is the establishment of a union. Two parts united into one family. One US. And sacrifice understands that what I do for US, ultimately benefits me. But sacrifice also knows that what I do for me, may hurt US. Sacrifice puts US before Me. Ask any couple that has been married a substantial amount of time (20+ years), and they will describe the give-and-take of sacrifice.
The truth of love is that you have to work at it. You have to work at maintaining it. Love is much more than a feeling. You have to work at guarding against selfishness that builds a wall of distance between the two of you. You have to work at sharing yourself, as much and as often as you can, with each other. You have to work at Sacrificing for US. And you have to work at this persistently. As I frequently say, your wedding is just a day, but your marriage is a lifetime – a brilliant, beautiful lifetime together.