Last week we began an article series outlining the building blocks of a healthy marriage. We discussed the first and most important: Frequent Communication. This week, let’s build on the cornerstone of communication by adding Unwavering Respect.
I would hope that all married partners have some amount of respect for each other. If not, it’s time to search your heart and theirs and begin building this important attribute into your relationship.
Like communication, you can grow your respect for your spouse (and theirs for you!) by beginning to shift your focus. And just as when you begin communicating more, it can, at first, feel a bit awkward and contrived. Follow the process through day after day and you will begin to feel more natural showing respect. And in showing respect you will begin growing respect!
I want to begin by reminding you that every person has an inherent worth and is deserving of your utmost respect as a fellow human being. Disrespect is a heart issue and you should work to banish it from all aspects of your life, especially your most intimate relationship, your marriage.
Here are several goals to implement in your relationship. Work to focus on the positive and minimize the negative. Give compliments often. Use the communication skills you’ve been practicing to express your needs and wants instead of resorting to yelling, nagging, name calling, eye rolling, or passive aggressive actions. These actions are degrading and will destroy your marriage relationship if you don’t work to control them. Listen carefully when your spouse is speaking. Eye contact is important, so avoid distractions like television and your phone. Avoid the use of sarcasm in your relationship with your spouse as it can be too easily misinterpreted and is always disrespectful. Be gentle with your spouse when he or she makes a mistake. Take responsibility for your own mistakes and make amends whenever possible. Respond quickly and thoughtfully to your spouse’s stated needs. Pray for and with your spouse daily.
Practice Unwavering Respect in every interaction with your spouse and notice how your marriage grows stronger.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
We’ve been discussing, in our sermon series recently, the various Storms of Life. I have counseled many couples over the years and it seems that of all the relationships – parental, work, friendship, etc. marriage storms are the most critical and most difficult. Since marriage troubles impact every area of life, working on issues and learning healthy strategies will have an immediate positive all-around result. There are many building blocks to a strong, healthy marriage, but the first is the cornerstone and, I think, will improve nearly every difficult situation a married couple may be facing.
The first building block is Frequent Communication. This is more than a perfunctory ‘good morning’ or even a discussion of the day’s schedule over the breakfast table. Frequent Communication means you constantly seek out ways to share your thoughts and ideas with your spouse and look forward to hearing theirs as well. It might mean a text in the middle of the day just to say hi. It might mean a phone call on the drive home. It certainly means discussing your day, your plans for the future, your ideas, hopes, and dreams. If you find that at first it is difficult to think of things to talk about, make it a point to read about your spouse’s interests/hobbies or read up on current events that might be of interest. It may feel awkward at first, but the more you talk and the more you listen, the more natural it will feel and greater conversational skill and intimacy will develop. Build Frequent Communication into your day and see an immediate improvement in your relationship.
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
You know that feeling when you’re several hours into a road trip and you finally stop for a break? You know that feeling when you finally step out of the car? The aching back, stiff legs, every muscle protesting? What do you do when you feel like that? Have you ever jumped directly back into the car? It might make sense to say, “I wasn’t hurting in the car! Let me get right back in!” No, of course not! We stretch. We stumble around on legs half asleep. We take a bathroom break and buy an energy drink. Then, limber and refreshed, we continue the journey.
Have you ever had this experience in your spiritual life? Maybe it was the time you stepped out of your comfort zone to lead worship or teach a Bible class. Maybe it was the time you invited a co-worker to church and they asked a lot of questions. Maybe it was the first time you volunteered to host a devotional or another event. Maybe it was when someone challenged your traditional viewpoint and you struggled for an Biblical answer. There are many, many moments on our spiritual journey where we could (and should!) experience the aching and stretching caused by growth. It’s natural to shy away from the discomfort, to back away from what seems painful. However, you do yourself a disservice if you step away. It’s like getting back into the car on your long road trip without stretching your stiff and burning muscles.
It’s natural on this journey of life in Christ to face discomfort. The next time this happens to you, remember it’s a time to learn and to grow for the continuing journey.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4
Have you ever felt alone? Alone and helpless. Hopeless and afraid. Have you ever wondered how you would survive the next few weeks, or days, or hours? Most of us have felt this to a certain degree… usually emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
Harness your memory of that time of despair and bring it to the forefront of your mind. Add to it the weight of the physical world in addition to your mind, heart, and soul. Add to it now a fear and a helplessness that is not only for yourself, but for your children, your parents, your friends, your neighbors, your neighborhood, and your wider community. Hold on to this feeling and this image you have conjured and imagine not knowing when it will end. Imagine not knowing what will be left to you when it ends. Will you find food for your hunger, water for your thirst? Will you find medicine for your sickness? Will you find shelter from the elements?
Gather this desolate image into your mind and your heart. This is Puerto Rico. This is an island of the United States surrounded by a vast ocean, lonely and alone, in a situation even we can only vaguely imagine.
That lonely, isolate, helpless feeling is one many in our world struggle with on a daily basis. They aren’t on a physical island with actual oceans. They are isolated emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Some of them are your neighbors, family, and maybe even your friends. It’s time to reach out.
‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40