How to Improve Your Marriage Today with One Simple Act

Before I go further I want to give you a disclaimer:  simple does not equal easy; simple is just simple, meaning it is not difficult to grasp the concept I’m going to give you.  Applying it is not easy, but if you do, it will improve your marriage or any other significant relationship right away.

The principle is this:  judge your own judgments.  What do I mean?  Well lets use a common marital interaction to illustrate.  I come through the door from driving the school bus and walk into the kitchen where Tina is sitting at her desk  I say hi and give her a kiss.  She barely looks up and gives me a half-hearted kiss in return.  I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by Tina to me must have something to do with what I said to her last night or what I forgot to do before I went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into her about why she isn’t responding to me right now.  How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in her place and treated her cooly, it would be because she offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why she is acting the way she is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view Tina’s actions is my own actions in the same situation.  This is crazy!  And it is killing plenty of relationships.

None of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does to, it takes a different Jan2011-March2011-autocritica_799671110path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment.  Recognize first that you only think they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.

How to Get that Bad Smell Out of Your Marriage

Our first apartment was in Ocean View.  The day I went to see it was a hot one.  The power was off and had been since the previous tenants moved out several weeks before we rented the place.  When I got to the kitchen and opened the fridge I got a rude surprise. Someone left a box of frozen chopped broccoli in the freezer.  It was not frozen anymore.  It was a pile of rotten green goop.  The smell was like a punch in the face.  One minute I was enjoying my new place and imagining how fun it would be to get married and move in, the next minute I was gagging.  It took hours of scrubbing, a bottle of bleach, and a week with all the windows open to get rid of the stench.  I was so glad I opened that freezer before Tina moved in with me.

If your marriage stinks it’s probably because you or you spouse never looked in the childflowersfreezer.  Or maybe you did but you weren’t willing to do the work to clean up the rotten stuff in there.  It could also be you’d rather keep it to yourself.  Listen, there is no such thing as being in a fully committed marriage relationship where you can’t or won’t take out each other’s trash.  The rotten broccoli belongs to both of you.  Open the freezer and admit it is there.  Help each other clean it out.  If you don’t clean it out you are going to end up with a bigger problem in the end.  You’ll end up with a smell that is overwhelming.  A smell that gets into every nook and cranny of your life.  It will make your spouse stink and your kids stink and everything else stink.

It takes courage to open up places we’ve never opened or opened and then slammed shut and threw away the key, but it is better than rotting from the inside out and taking your family into the rottenness with you.  How bad can it be?  In the Navy we have a saying about bad days.  We’d say to each other, “They can’t take away your birthday.”  Right.  It was a way of reminding ourselves that the Navy had limits to its power.  Whatever bad things are inside of us or our marriages have limits.  The gospel speaks of being “born again” and that “the old has passed away and the new has come.”  If this is true it is comprehensive.  It is a new that comes from beyond our abilities and delivers a re-creation that cannot be taken from us.  When things stink don’t run away from them, go after them together with your spouse, but do it in light of what God has done for you.  He cleans us so that we are clean and can only be dirty if we insist we are dirty in spite of all the evidence he gives us to the contrary.  If your spouse seems hesitant to go there, you go first.  Show that you believe the gospel first.  Show that you have a clean that is really clean.  Gospel clean can’t rub off because its rubbed all the way into us; to our very core.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-16 The Message)