No marriage can be made absolutely divorce-proof. No marriage is without difficulties and crises. Yet, a strong and intimate relationship can be built through what I choose to call crisis survival. Pain and suffering can provide creative growth. Romance and moments of ecstasy are wonderful, yet the stressful experience can also provide a setting for blessing. There is truth in the cliché, “No pain, and no gain.” Some of us flee from discomfort and never discover the benefits of “seeing it through” and forging even closer bonds in the shared traumas and trials.
The following seven building blocks are designed to nurture divorce- resistant partnerships:
1. Build each other up.
Appreciate, do not depreciate, each other. Compliment your mate. Avoid put-downs even in jest. Making fun of your spouse is a sign of disrespect and dishonor and can create a deep and lasting hurt. Provide build-ups instead. Frequent affirmation can work wonders. Even putting up with your partner can sometimes be better than tearing down him or her down. Esteem each other.
2. Use conflict to clarify and construct.
Past battles can teach better ways to approach one another the next time you collide. Difference is inevitable; so is conflict. But your differences can be respected. Ask yourself, “Which is better, to be right, or to be in relationship?” Arguments seldom satisfy. However, earnest exchanges of two differing points of view reveal important matters that need to be heard and understood on both sides. Learn from the “heat” to find the “light” and discover more about your partner’s sore points. Such tender places are very revealing and extremely important. Soft spots are never to be targets for low blows, but must be respectfully avoided or treated with compassion until they can be lovingly discussed and resolved in calmer moments. Knowing where to hurt someone is no invitation to do so. Love does not push buttons.
3. Love DOES mean saying, “I’m sorry.”
Ask for forgiveness and give it! Saying, “I’m sorry, forgive me,” are healing words of true miracle. Few marriages can survive the harboring of old grudges and hurts. Be quick to forgive, be even quicker to ask for it! Do not let old wounds fester. Live in the now and look forward to the next steps in reconciliation and repair. Reach out and make up with each other. Break through the prison of resentment. Refuse to be the enemy of your own anger.
4. Set your love free, as free as God freely loves you.
You can neither demand nor command love. Love is grace, therefore a gift. Learn love from God. Look at Jesus for your clues. Love is more than a feeling; it is a decision as well, and it is spelled L-O-Y-A-L-T-Y. Declare your “I will” anew to each other as a daily decision to love, even when you don’t feel it!
5. Share and work together as friends.
Be helpmates. Marriage is for friends and co-workers. Help each other. Listen to each other, for you may learn something. You seldom learn if you are the only one speaking. Cherish each other. Team up. Cooperate. Collaborate. Create community.
6. Have fun with each other.
Be playmates. Play together and enjoy including others in your fun. The Scripture tells us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) Make regular dates with each other. Keep a full social calendar and stay with each other at the party. Widen your circle of friends. Have fun things to look forward to each week. Experiment with new interests and activities.
7. Share your faith with each other.
Be soulmates. Be fellow pilgrims, couples in Christ. As you draw closer to the divine, divinity will embrace you. The reverse is also true: the more you open yourselves to each other, the more you provide God an opening. The two of you cannot make it, but the three of you can. Affirm common values and worthy causes. Believe together as well as live together.