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Making Marriage Work: Tips to Bring Out the Good in Each Other

Truth is, no two people are completely compatible, but here’s how to become one with your partner, says Joel Osteen, author of Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day.

One of the greatest threats we face in the twenty-first century is not a terrorist attack or an ecological catastrophe, but an attack on our homes. The enemy would love nothing more than to ruin your relationship with your husband or your wife, your parents, or your children. Too many homes are being destroyed through strife, lack of commitment, wrong priorities, and bad attitudes. If we’re going to have strong, healthy relationships, we must dig our heels in and fight for our families.

The Old Testament records a time when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The walls had been torn down years previously, and the enemy was coming against God’s people, against their homes, their wives and children, while the men worked on the construction crews. The situation got so bad that Nehemiah instructed his men to work with a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other. He encouraged them, “Men, fight for your sons, fight for your daughters, fight for your wives, fight for your families” (Nehemiah 4:14). He went on to say, “If you will fight, then God will fight.”

I believe God is saying something similar to us today. If we will do our part and take a strong stand for our families, God will do His part. He’ll help us to have great marriages and great relationships with our parents and children.

Certainly, not everyone will get married, but if a man and a woman choose to marry, two issues must be settled first. Number one: As a couple, we are committed to God. We’re going to live a life that honors Him. We will be people of excellence and integrity in all that we do.

The second settled issue must be that as a couple, we are committed to each other. Occasionally, we may disagree, say things we shouldn’t, we might even pout or get downright angry. But when it’s all said and done, we’re going to get over it, and we will forgive and move on. Leaving is not an option. We’re committed to each other through the good times and the tough times.

If bailing out of the relationship is an option or an alternative, then you will always find some reason to justify it. “Joel, we just can’t get along. We’re not compatible. We tried, but we just don’t love each other anymore.”

Truth is, no two people are completely compatible. We have to learn to become one. That means we may have to make sacrifices; we may have to overlook some things. We must be willing to compromise for the good of the relationship.

The perfect spouse does not exist. Victoria sometimes tells people, “Oh, my husband, Joel, is the perfect husband.”

Don’t believe that for a minute. She is saying that by faith!

Stick with your spouse and make that relationship work. As one lady quipped, “My husband and I got married for better or for worse. He couldn’t do any better and I couldn’t do any worse.”

When you do have disagreements, learn to disagree from the neck up. Don’t let it get down in your heart. Victoria and I don’t always see eye to eye, but we’ve learned how to agree to disagree. When you present your case, don’t try to make that other person change his or her mind. Give others the right to have their own opinion. If you’re not going to be happy unless they agree with you, then really you’re simply trying to manipulate your partner. You’re trying to force your opinion on that person. The better approach is to present your case, share your heart, and then step back and allow God to work in that person or situation.

As long as we are argumentative and we’re trying to force our opinions, then there’s going to be strife in our homes. Wherever there’s strife, there’s confusion. And there’s nothing worse than living in a home that’s tense. Everybody’s on edge. You feel that at any moment something could explode.

You don’t have to live that way. Do your best to create an atmosphere of peace and unity in your home. When you’re tempted to pop off and say hurtful, critical, counterproductive things that you know you shouldn’t, next time you have that opportunity, do yourself a favor. Take a deep breath, pause about ten seconds, and think about what you’re going to say before you speak. Words can cut like a knife. You may say them in a matter of seconds, but three months later the person to whom you spoke them may still be feeling the sting.

Have you ever touched the stove and then pulled your hand off immediately? But weeks later, it still stings. That is what hurtful, critical words can do.

Never threaten your spouse with divorce. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if you ever do that again, I’m out of here.” “If you don’t do this, I’m leaving.”

No, don’t even let those words out into the atmosphere. Your words have creative power, and when you speak like that, you’re just giving the enemy a right to bring it to pass. Besides, the Bible tells us “to be angry and sin not.” Certainly, at times we’re going to get angry. Anger is an emotion God built into us. But we don’t have to blow up and say hurtful things that are going to damage our relationships.

Learn to take a step back, collect your thoughts, and think about what you want to say.

One time, my mother and father got into a disagreement. My dad was extremely upset, so he decided he was going to give my mother the silent treatment. When Mother spoke to him, Daddy would answer back in the shortest, most unfriendly way he could. This went on for an hour or two, and he was doing his best to ignore my mother.

My mother is rather feisty, so she decided to do something about the situation. She went and hid behind a door, and she stayed there as still and quiet as she could be. Before long, my father realized that she wasn’t around and he began searching for her. He looked all over the house, and he couldn’t find her anywhere. The more he looked, the more frustrated he became. He said, “It’s terrible to try to ignore somebody and you can’t even find them.” This went on for about fifteen minutes.

Finally, Daddy started getting worried. About that time, he walked past the door where my mother was hiding. Quick as a cat, my mother leaped onto my father’s back, wrapped her arms and legs around him, and said, “John, I’m not getting off until you cheer up.” They laughed so much that my father forgot what he was mad about.

Try to create a fun-filled atmosphere in your home. Everyone experiences stressful times; we all get uptight. We all have disagreements, but we should not allow that to linger. Too often we get complacent. “Well, I know I shouldn’t say this, but I’m mad. I’m going to say it anyway.” Or “I know I need to forgive, but I don’t feel like it.” Little by little, the relationship gets worse. Don’t play those petty games. Do whatever it takes to keep the peace.

Victoria and I have been married for more than twenty years, and we don’t agree on every single thing, but we are committed to each other. We’re committed to our children, and to our extended family. We have committed in advance that we will work through any differences with each other that we may have.

Some people are committed while they’re dating, or for the first few years of marriage. They’re committed while everything is rosy, but how about when the sizzle subsides? Now, instead of scintillating romance, you are picking up his dirty socks or washing his sweaty workout clothes. That takes commitment. Or when you were dating, she always looked perfect, dressed to the nines. You never saw her without her hair in place and her makeup perfectly done. Now, you wake up in the morning and say, “Who is that woman over there?” But marriage is a commitment, not a feeling.

I heard a true story about the president of a prestigious university. He was an older gentleman and a well-respected leader. Later in his life, his wife developed Alzheimer’s. Month after month, her condition grew progressively worse. Several years down the road, the disease had so impaired her mind that she could not even recognize her husband anymore. They were a relatively affluent couple, so the gentleman hired nurses to help care for his ailing wife.

Then one day, he went in and announced to the university board of directors that he was going to resign so he could spend his full time taking care of his wife. The board members tried to talk him out of it, reminding him how needed he was. One board member spoke up and said, “In all respect, sir, why would you want to do this? Your wife doesn’t even know who you are.”

The university president looked the board member in the eye and said, “I made a commitment to this woman over fifty years ago. She may not know who I am, but I know who she is.”

That’s the kind of commitment that we need to have in our relationships as well.

Interestingly, God holds the husband and father responsible to keep the family together. The word husband comes from a Latin word that means “house band.” Think of a rubber band that wraps around something, holding it together. That’s a picture of what a good husband is supposed to do for his wife and family.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. His book of wisdom encourages a husband to look his wife in the eyes and tell her, “There are many beautiful women in the world, but you excel them all.” Solomon started his day off by praising and encouraging his wife. Men, you can imagine how our relationships would improve if we’d start complimenting our wives like that. Some women haven’t had a compliment in years, not because they are undeserving, but because they are not appreciated. All they hear is what they’re doing wrong. How the dinner wasn’t any good. The kids are too loud.

Listen carefully to the words and tone of voice you use with your spouse. Are you complaining all the time and telling her what she’s not doing right? Or are you doing like Solomon—blessing, encouraging, and uplifting that woman?

A Word from the Wise
The Song of Solomon is a biblical love story. In eight short chapters, Solomon praised his wife forty times. He wrote of her strength, beauty, and intelligence.

“Well, Joel, you don’t know my wife,” Chuck said. “She’s the problem. She’s argumentative. She’s hard to get along with.”

“Maybe so, Chuck,” I replied, “but if you start praising your wife, if you start telling her how beautiful she is, and how glad you are to have her in your life, when you talk about the good, you will draw out the good. If you talk about the negative, you’ll draw out the negative. It’s up to you.”

Men, learn to speak blessings over your wife and you will see that woman rise to a new level. She will respond to your praise and encouragement. Your words don’t have to be poetic, fancy, or profound. Tell her simply but sincerely, “You’re a great mother to our children. And you are a great wife to me. I’m so glad I can always count on you.”

When you talk about the good, you will draw out the good.

Joel Osteen, author of Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day (Copyright © 2007 by Joel Osteen), and his wife, Victoria, are the pastors of America’s largest church — Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.




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