What marriage advice can you give to those who are married? What are the strongest encouragements or strongest points of exhortation that you could give as you look back on what you’ve learned in your 40 years of marriage?
Communication is Big
Well, communication is a big one. You can’t exist in a happy marriage apart from communication. Sooner or later, the problems are going to mount up and they can be traced to that one fountain head: you don’t talk about things. And so that’s a big one. We’ve got to talk, shouldn’t we. It’s a necessity. And then there’s such things as ministries to one another – a ministry of comfort. When one is bereaved, when one is grieving, one is going through a difficult time, the other one has got to be there as a comfort. That’s all part of the intimacy of marriage. And so that’s a big one. Selfishness. That will drive a nail in the coffin. I mean, if you have two people that are selfish or you have one person that’s a selfish individual, there’s going to be a lot of grief and heartache when it could have been a happy marriage had one person been more selfless rather than selfish. Self-centeredness – it shows up all the time. Not considering the other person more important than yourself. So that’s a big one right there.
What are some examples of the ways you’ve seen selfishness manifest itself that sometimes people might be slow to recognize that they’re even being selfish?
Insistence oftentimes has in parentheses selfishness. I insist on this or that. You know, that seems to come to mind immediately. I guess I couldn’t give a real example of it that would be useful. And it comes out all of the time. I insist we celebrate this holiday with my family. You know, that could just simply be selfish. Those kinds of things.
Marriage Advice: How to Fix Problems?
If someone came to you and they said brother, how can I fix the problems in my marriage? What would you say to someone whose mindset is maybe like a mechanic? Who is like I’ve got to fix all these things in my marriage? Is that a good mindset to have? Or are there pitfalls there? What would you say?
Well, we’ve got to pray for one another. For sure. And I don’t fault someone for wanting to improve their marriage. I mean, marriage is something you’ve got to work at. It’s a hands-on endeavor. It takes two people. In fact, the problems mount up when people don’t work on their marriage. They get lazy. They don’t spend the time together talking that they need to. They don’t minister to one another. Those problems begin to mount up. They begin to live separate lives and so on. So I don’t fault someone for wanting to fix their marriage. It could be that what they need is to prioritize the problems and not try and fix all of them all at once. Take the most dangerous ones or the most affecting ones. Work on them through prayer, through godly counsel. Not peer counsel. I’m not a big fan of peer counsel. But rather, godly counsel. Go to your pastors. You know, there’s such a thing as casting your pearls before swine when you take intimate matters and begin to talk to your best friend about them, who three months down the road is no longer your best friend, but your worst enemy. And now he knows your intimate secrets and issues. And you’ve cast your pearls before swine. They turn and rend you as it says there in the King James – tear you. So, we’ve got to be really cautious who we seek counsel from. So often, a word of counsel is very apt because that pastor is not emotionally tied up in the situation. Emotions run high in marital problems. And he can give an unbiased word of counsel from the Bible or his experience. A man who’s been a pastor and has been married for a number of years has a real advantage that way. There are some men that are pastors who are single pastors. They’re not married. And they have real difficulties, I would say, counseling married couples. They don’t have those experiences to fall back on.
So as far as a hands on approach of fix my marriage kind of a mentality, it seems like prioritizing would be the first step. This is the biggest issue right now that we have to face, so let’s just work on that one. Then we’ll move on from there. Marriage has got to be the most sanctifying institution God has put on the planet except for maybe kids, child-rearing.