Before founding Live the Life, Richard Albertson attended a marriage class with his wife. When asked to rate their marriage, he pridefully proclaimed a 9.5. In shock, Elizabeth showed him her 2.
She was mortified he was unaware of her misery. He was sure she was the one who needed straightening out. The oil had slowly leaked from their marital engine. Both had a lot to learn.
I don’t love him. I’m not sure I ever did.
Ever felt this way? If you have been married any length of time, you have most likely questioned your marriage. It may have been momentary because your honeymoon didn’t meet your expectations. Or perhaps a colicky baby caused months of sleep deprivation, which wiped out your emotional gas tank.
It’s unreasonable to believe that any marriage can escape the changing seasons of life: times to love, hate, heal, tear, mend, weep, laugh, mourn, and dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Hence we acknowledge these anticipated seasons in our wedding vows by promising to stay together for better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness and health until death parts us.
While feeling uncertain is not abnormal, it should not be ignored. It’s a dashboard indicator letting you know the engine is not operating according to the manufacturer’s (God’s) specifications. If you don’t tend to the problem, your marriage engine will be broken beyond repair.
Satan’s favorite pastime is diverting our attention from “us” to “me.” In the Garden of Eden, he successfully diverted Eve’s attention from what she did have (perfect garden life) to what she didn’t have (power). See Genesis 3. Isn’t sin’s focus rooted in covetousness — what we don’t have?
Ironically, the statement, “I don’t love him,” is absolutely true. When you say this, you are not doing what you promised to do (action) at the altar — love (verb) your spouse. What you are really saying is that you are not feeling loved (an emotion). That’s self-focused and Satan wins.
Are you an unconscious incompetent?
That’s the question posed in Live the Life’s Adventures in Marriage class. Sounds insulting, doesn’t it? It means you don’t know what you don’t know. If your car is low on oil and you don’t know you’re supposed to check it, then your engine may seize up, rendering it useless. If your blood pressure is elevated and you don’t know to get periodic physicals, you may not find out until you have a heart attack or stroke.
Some estimate that over ninety percent of us are unconscious incompetents when we get married. Most have not been trained to look for trouble indicators. Without training, we can do irreparable damage to our marriages by doing the wrong things and getting into bad emotional cycles. Sadly, skills that can be easily learned are not, and we lose our marriages without understanding what went wrong.
If I had only known…
These are the words that haunted my husband and me when we facilitated DivorceCare. Not wanting to ever hear these words again drove us into marriage and relationship ministry.
The best way to know what to look for and apply preventative maintenance is to get the skills. The information is everywhere. Churches and ministries offer classes and marriage conferences. Marriage experts have produced materials in the form of books, videos and online teaching. The more you learn, the healthier and more enjoyable your marriage. There is no excuse for being an unconscious incompetent.
My Top Ten
If I had only known when I was 20…
1. Tell your spouse everyday what you appreciate about him or her. It’s hard to be self-centered when you are focused on the other’s good.
2. Ask how you can pray for your spouse daily. Pray with and for him or her.
3. Share your daily events, dreams and hopes. This keeps you connected.
4. Share sexual information – what you enjoy and how your lover could make it better. Don’t assume your spouse knows.
5. Listen to your lover when he or she is are upset about something. Don’t interrupt and don’t defend yourself. Empathize with how he or she feels and find an “us” solution.
6. Never assume you know why your spouse did something you don’t understand. Ask. My assumptions are usually wrong.
7. Learn to fight fairly. If you win an argument, your relationship loses, and Satan wins.
8. Never criticize your spouse in public. Your job is to protect, defend and encourage. If you don’t build your spouse up, someone else will.
9. Figure out your spouse’s love language so that you can recognize that love for you and you can know how to love your spouse more perfectly.
10. Don’t make children the primary focus of your marriage. Your connection will be with them instead of your spouse. When they leave the nest, you won’t know your spouse. Marriage is dynamic. Either you are growing together or growing apart. Focusing on your marriage is the best gift you can give your children.
What skills might you learn that could supercharge your marriage? Even marriage experts get regular tune-ups. For information on Live the Life’s Adventures in Marriage, visit LivetheLife.org.
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA (www.khwcpa.com) and author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com. Twitter @CPrenuptial.