What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

One of the greatest fallacies we buy into is that there is the “perfect” person out there just waiting to make us happy for the rest of our lives if we can only find them. Many of us spend our entire lives, including our marriages, dreaming of a person who would complete our life and make us happy and content. I’m convinced that person doesn’t exist and that our marriage is more about what we make it than any predestined or preordained match made in heaven. The myth of the “soul mate” has been foisted upon men and women like bad cake at a wedding.

Another error that people buy into is the illusion that love means the absence of conflict. Just as people want to believe that pain and sadness should be avoided at all costs, they believe that love means no conflict.

If you believe that the right person will come along and make you happy, you are deluded. You, not other people, are responsible for your own happiness. Every relationship, especially one of love, is painful and often difficult. That’s why it is worthwhile. With the beauty and fragrance of a rose come the thorns that scratch and sometimes draw blood. Going through the struggles of life together brings you closer and bonds you deeper. Those relationships without conflict and pain are dead, cold, and passionless. I say rejoice in your conflicts because it means your marriage is alive and growing!

One of the ways we deal with conflict is through effective communication. Some people will have read this book and say that I forgot to include the most important aspect of a healthy marriage — communication. Communication is important — very important — to any relationship, especially marriage. In fact, the way you speak to each other actually determines the quality of your marriage. If you speak to each other in a respectful, loving, affirming manner, then those feelings will follow and be ingrained in your relationship. But if you speak words of spite, contempt, and anger, then those feelings will rule, and eventually destroy, your relationship.

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The truth is that this entire book is about communication. It is about understanding the language of your spouse in order to satisfy his or her needs. However, communication is not the problem in most marriages. Dr. Laura Schlessinger says, “I don’t think that many marriages are stuck on communication problems, whatever they are. I think most marriages are stuck on people needing or hurting so much (from their childhoods, primarily) that they forget to or resist giving love.” If that is true, then what does make the difference between a healthy marriage relationship and a destructive one?

Our daughter recently mentioned to my wife that she wanted a love like we have, that we still acted like we were on our honeymoon. I don’t know whose house she’s been living in for the past twenty years, but I don’t often feel like we’re still honeymooners. But in hindsight, perhaps because my wife and I still frequently hold hands, hug and kiss, and even dance together in the living room, our daughter feels we have a great love. We like to travel together, and we enjoy each other’s company (she’s probably the only one who could put up with me). We speak respectfully to each other and try to be cheerleaders for one another. Our actions and words not only direct our feelings but also signify to others our love and passion for one another. In short, we are good friends. That friendship fuels our love for one another and carries us through those rough spots when one of us is feeling disagreeable or fed up with the other.

Many young couples today are frustrated with each other and their marriage because neither partner knows how to relate to the other. No one has ever taught them the fundamentals of building an intimate relationship, so they are starting from scratch, guessing at how a marriage works. This confusion causes arguments and disagreements. According to Robert Lewis and William Hendricks, “What these young people don’t realize is that behind much of their quarrels and dysfunction and anger is what they don’t know, not who they’re married to.” This lack of taught communication skills (which were often never modeled for them in their parents’ marriages) creates tension and prevents intimacy in a relationship.

But perhaps of more importance than even communication in a marriage is love — love that is not a feeling or an emotion, but one that is a verb, an action word. If we take loving actions in our relationships, the feelings of love will follow. There’s an old adage that thoughts become actions and actions become feelings. Your attitude is everything.

Excerpt from Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half.
Copyright © 2010 by Rick Johnson, Used with permission, published by Revell.

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