Dr. John Gottman has spent his life studying what REALLY works in marriage. He’s made a number of astounding discoveries, not the least of which is the reason counseling only works in turning around a marriage about 25% of the time: much of what we have been taught was not designed for a marriage application, but rather for a counselor working with a couple. The active listening methods employed by counselors are nice in relationships, but teaching couples to solve marriage problems by actively listening really doesn’t change the outcome.
So what does?
It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s all in the Bible.
100% of “Happy” marriages have something in common – an absence of contempt.
The opposite of contempt is RESPECT.
Ironically, I ran into someone recently who had nothing but contempt for her boss – so much so that she actually considered stealing the boss’ intellectual property and starting a competing company.
Surprisingly enough, both are Christian.
But wherever contempt is present, whether in a company, ministry, marriage, or family, separation or complete dissolution of the relationship will likely occur if nothing is done.
And the Bible is very specific about giving away respect regardless of whether or not our boss is perfect, or whether our husband has earned it. Please note that I’m not equating marriage to a boss-employee relationship. The Bible is also clear that we are our husband’s equal. In marriage, if you are feeling contempt toward your husband, (and maybe this applies to your job in ministry or your family, if you are a teenager) there are, however, some things you can do RIGHT NOW that will help impact the outcome and start the process of getting rid of contempt. We work on these in The Respect Dare book and Daughters of Sarah quite extensively, along with a number of others, but for today, here’s three:
- CHOOSE to respect the position he holds. Understand your husband’s responsibility before God. Like a business or ministry owner’s responsibility to make payroll, pay the insurance, deal with all the government regulations like FLSA, taxes, OSHA and EEOC, just to name a few, your husband is the one God will hold accountable at the end of the day for your family. Understand as well that he probably needs your help doing this well – but you’ll get in the way of his receiving it if you don’t get #2 and #3 right. (please understand I’m not speaking to those who are married to tyrants, although you CAN influence them as well, but it usually requires a Matthew 18 intervention)
- STOP undermining his authority by openly being disagreeable. It’s one thing to respectfully state a differing opinion (which you should do, unless it’s over every stinkin’ thing), and quite another to say, “You’re wrong,” or “That’s foolish,” or “You’re an idiot,” or “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” or anything even remotely like that to him, especially in front of others. These behaviors are not only destructive and immature, they undermine your own influence with him, so stop. Be mature. Be diplomatic. If you are not, you will lose your influence as he will stop listening to anything you say, even if it’s really good, if you can’t disagree in an agreeable way. Eventually, he will begin to stonewall and shut down, and grow his own version of contempt, which may result in an affair, divorce, or at the very least, lack of intimacy physically and relationally with you and the family.
- START paying attention to what he does right or well and give voice to it. If all you do is disagree and complain, criticize, find problems, vent, you are creating TOO MANY NEGATIVE interactions. Successful marriages have a ratio of 5 positive interactions to each negative 1. A positive can be a touch, a praise, an act of service, etc., but take inventory on your communication content and STOP being negative and START being more positive.
The Bible’s pretty specific about not criticizing (that’s the sin of judgment – plank in eye style) and bringing life to others through our words. Let’s build each other up 1 Thessalonians 5:11-style instead of tearing down our homes with our own hands.
And for some of us, God might be asking us where we are with our employer, too. In this day and age especially, we should be thankful if we even have a job – are we being disrespectful to our employer by criticizing, being disagreeable, or filling our environment with negatives?
What about you? Are you struggling in this area? What have you been learning?
And join us in the journey by doing The Respect Dare with us. We start Dare 7 next week, doing just one at a time, dialoguing with you as you journey.
And if you are parenting little people, you should totally follow Leah and Debbie if you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings. Like us on Facebook so you can know when Daughters of Sarah becomes available in video format this year, or schedule one of our weekend retreats for your church. 2014 is nearly full, but 2015 might be an option. I’m also active on Twitter as @NinaRoesner. Come join the discussions!
Love to you,