Love is not something you feel. It’s something you do. ~ David Wilkerson
In a day and age when marriage seems to be losing both its popularity and appeal, as Christians, we need to guard our relationships. Whether it’s at work or even within our circle of friends, someone at some point will make a derogatory comment about their spouse. While it may seem like innocent banter at the time, in actuality it is influencing our feelings about our relationship. Being aware of our inherent tendencies can help us avoid snares and keep us focused on truth.
Perhaps you are guilty of it (I know that I have been). At one point or another, a co-worker has come into work and started complaining about their “other half”. Maybe to fit in or not make the other person feel bad you chime in with your own tale of woe. If this isn’t an isolated incident and you develop a pattern of criticizing your spouse, chances are that over time you will devalue your relationship and begin to see it in a negative light. This is true even if you were content prior to rehashing every cross word that’s been said over the years.
Thankfully, there are several ways to safeguard your mind. For starters, include God in your relationship. First and foremost our hope lies in God; He can mend wounds and repair broken hearts. If there are hurt feelings, turn to God and ask for His help in forgiving. Ask Him for help in safeguarding your relationship and pray with your spouse regularly. One of my favorite expressions is, “The family that prays together, stays together.” I am a firm believer that when you make God the foundation in every endeavor, He makes life’s challenges easier to bear. Turning to Him for advice, for healing both physically and emotionally, for wisdom and guidance as well as giving thanks for all that He has already done is the key to success because He will walk with you through the fire.
The second way to safeguard your relationship is to show love. Actions do in fact speak louder than words; so if you love and cherish your spouse, show them. I’m not talking about standing outside of their window every night serenading them, but I am talking about making an effort to speak kindly to, and about, each other. Being genuine when you apologize for offending one another demonstrates love as well. Sending a nice text message in the middle of the day just to say how grateful you are for them is a nice, unexpected surprise. Letting them pick the movie or television show that you watch together is also thoughtful.
Try to keep your partner’s failures and shortcomings from people who will be judgmental. This will circumvent people from forming a negative opinion about your partner and about you for that matter. Just because you are critical of your spouse doesn’t mean that you would be okay if others were critical of them as well. In fact, you may become offended if somebody else was critical. If you have a hard time discerning whether something should be shared or kept private then a good general rule is to think about whether or not you would still say what you are saying if the person that you were speaking of were standing next to you. If the answer is “no”, then that should be your cue to stop talking.
All of the things that I’ve mentioned are inexpensive ways to show love. The general theme is to show kindness and consideration for the feelings of others and to forgive their faults.
Finally, take care of yourself. It always amazes me when I hear someone say that now that they are married they feel like they can let themselves go. This is such erroneous thinking and, honestly, it’s self-centered. It basically presumes that because you are married, your partner has no choice but to stay with you no matter how bad you let yourself go. Doing this sends the message to your partner that you do not care about them or their feelings and breeds an attitude of resentment. The world is not going to let itself go and neither should you. Think back to when you first met. Did you dress nicely, use a little cologne or perfume, eat a healthy diet and floss regularly? You may have even hit the gym every once in a while. Don’t lose that desire to attract your mate just because you’ve already sealed the deal. Doing this says, “I love you” and “I care how you view me and want to give you my best”. Always give your best and do it unto the Lord. Just because we are in a losing battle against aging does not mean that we have to throw in the towel before our time.
All in all, it’s important to remember that our Heavenly Father is watching us. Not only is He watching, but the world is watching with an especially critical eye. The community is examining us, as Christians, to see how we act and how we’re different. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Make your response to the co-worker or friend one that reflects Christ’s love and find the good in each other. No one is perfect and your position in life was not an accident. So give thanks to the Lord for your mate and show that gratitude with your actions.
Marisa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.