(Psalm 139:13-14.) NLT
If you want to have a great marriage, you must realise that it has to be built on a commitment to give and give. Yes, I do mean give and give. Give love; give honour; give affection; give forgiveness; give support; and give plenty of encouragement.
When I was a young man, I heard people say, “Marriage is give and take”. And I understand what they were trying to say. But when I was struggling to build the marriage I had always hoped for, I heard an inner voice say, “The secret is to keep on giving”.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38.)
In most Churches you will only hear preachers talk about this verse when they are trying to take up a free will offering. But the context of this Bible truth has little to do with money. Jesus was teaching his disciples to keep giving love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and consideration, and charity. The point He was making is that His disciples (which should include you, if you call yourself a Christian) were to focus on the ‘giving’ side of the equation.
You see, no marriage can last very long if the couple involved are constantly ‘taking’ stuff from each other; if they are making huge emotional and physical withdrawals from the marriage, but are putting very little back into it. Eventually, your physical or emotional love-bank runs dry. But if you and your spouse are more eager to ‘give’ than to ‘take’, your love bank-balance will always be plentiful.
Years ago, I read a book that helped me understand this concept extremely well. The author explained that when any two people meet each other and decide to develop a friendship, they start out with an empty love-account for each other.
Say, the guy does something incredibly sweet and caring for the girl, he inadvertently increases the balance of his love-account in her heart. The more he cares and gives her what she needs, the larger his account balance grows in her heart. You could say ‘love-units’ are being deposited into his love-account in her heart.
Similarly, if the guy behaves like a blockhead and hurts her feelings, his love units in her heart decreases to the degree that he has hurt her.
Every time the girl responds in a positive, respectful and loving way to the guy, a deposit of love-units are made into his love-bank; and her love-units in his heart increase accordingly.
The writer went on to explain that this deposit and withdrawal keeps on happening between the couple until they feel that they either can’t stand each other or can’t live without each other.
Those who feel that they can’t or don’t want to live without each other typically decide to get married; and those who don’t, go their separate ways.
What really challenged me about this concept is what the writer said next. He said that most couples work doubly hard to deposit the maximum number of love-units into their spouse’s heart while courting, but often fail to continue doing so after they get married. What a tragedy!
He concluded that most couples would not inflict as much pain on each other if they only spent a fraction of the time and energy they spent making deposits into their partner (after the marriage) as they spent before they walked down the aisle.
The point I am making is this. If you find yourself adapting and adjusting to your partner during your courtship, you are going to need to double up your effort when you are married.
Your spouse is going to do a number of things differently. And when that happens I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- Is this worth fighting over?
- Is this a major issue that needs to be addressed now?
- Is this issue a non-negotiable deal?
- Is there a way to solve this issue so that both of us win?
- How can I respond to this situation in such a way that I make a deposit instead of a withdrawal?
No two human beings are exactly the same, so I can guarantee that your spouse is going to differ from you in many ways. Some of the differences may be very complimentary and you may be pleased that you have a spouse who compliments you in those particular ways.
However, a number of those differences may worry and bug you. The trick is to understand that it is okay for your spouse to be different; and to know how to adapt and adjust without losing your individuality and without inflicting unnecessary damage on your spouse.
Of course, I am not referring here to blatantly negative or immoral behaviour - like lying, or stealing, or hitting, or flirting with the opposite sex. You should never adjust to these. Get help! Talk to someone who can intervene before it’s too late. These fall into the ‘non-negotiable’ category.
I am referring here to differences in taste, or choices, or methods, or even personality traits.
Lessons from Toby and Margaret
For instance, 26 year old, Margaret has always been quiet and a bit shy. But when she met Toby, she fell head over heels in love with him. Toby was everything that Margaret wasn’t. And that was partly why she was attracted to him.
They got married a year later with hopes of a blissful future. Two and a half years into their marriage, Toby confided in his House Group that he wished he had married someone more like himself.
He complained that his wife didn’t like going out with him; and when she did venture out she preferred to sit quietly in the corner of the room. She never seems to have an opinion about anything; and she didn’t want him to throw her a 30th birthday party.
Finally, he bleated out in exasperation, “I think marrying an introvert was a big mistake.”
Now I don’t think Toby's problem is really his wife’s temperament, but his desire to make her into his image. And that never works in a marriage. God often brings opposites together so that both can contribute what makes them unique to the union.
Of course, it would be helpful if Margaret could move a little towards meeting her husbands need for companionship and fun. That’s what people who love each other do. They stretch beyond their comfort to meet their partner’s need because they love their partner. But marrying an introvert was not the mistake here. The mistake in this marriage was not adapting; not adjusting; not being patient; and not appreciating the personality traits of the other person.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.” (Romans 12:10.) NLT
... To be continued.