I’ve been saying these things for years. Either they are brilliant, or I am stupid. Judging from a marriage that keeps getting better after 42 years, I may not be missing by much. They have helped some couples to navigate the narrows of a struggling marriage.

Husbands, don’t use the “s” word.

When I have known of men telling their wives to submit, it came from guys who were not leading  lovingly. They were requiring something of their wives while renegging on their responsibility. I told Israel and Johanna when they got married that his responsibility was not her right, and vice versa, meaning that he could not call her out on her lack of submission and she could not correct him on his lack of love. They could only increase the strength of their own responsibility and ask God to change their spouse. What does Jesus do for His struggling Bride? He lays down His life (Ephesians 5).

Don’t change your spouse.

Love changes people–criticism doesn’t. In other words, don’t get hitched at the altar with the itch to alter. I disregarded this after saying, “I do.” Didn’t work. Doesn’t feel good to have a spouse trying to control you. Your issue is your issue–not your spouse’s, whether it is 10% or 80% of the marriage problem.  Do your part without telling your spouse to do his or hers. Instead of trying to change each other, we pray regularly together–and God changes us!

Gentleness works.

It sometimes wears off after a few years, and couples deal with each other harshly. ”Don’t wear that ugly jacket” might not work as well as, “You look great in everything you wear, but this one might fit even better.” Words matter. Gentleness is the way of God, even with people who  don’t believe that He exists.

Love lasts–if you keep loving.

Dates work great for us. I keep pursuing Karen, like I did when we were dating. You schedule what is important to you. Meetings push out our dates about one time a year. It is high priority. We try not to address issues during the day of a date that could be controversial. It has worked wonderfully for us. Our kids agree and are now doing it with their mates, though it poses a major challenge with four little people in the house.

Be accountable.

I have a friend with whom I walk in the light. Karen and I hold each other accountable in a general sort of way, but Gary holds me accountable in a guy sort of way. We call each other regularly for prayer and counsel. I need that to stay sharp and focused. If I were an expert at marriage, I could do it on my own. Few can, and that probably doesn’t include you.

Laugh a lot,

especially at yourself. You’re weird, and your spouse likely is too. Karen and I laugh at the things we do. If you are not laughing, you are in trouble. It is both a symptom and a cause. Lighten up. If you can’t, get counseling. If you’re not having fun, something has died.  Relight the flame!

2 comments on “MARRIAGE COUNSELING 101

  1. zekesbabble says:

    Now that is some real world marriage advice! The essence of the advice in this article has kept Dana & I happily married for 23 years.
    Thanks Pastor Paul.

    • We would say the same. I was a really slow learner, but I am beginning to get it in my old age. Thanks for the encouragemenrt, Zeke, now and the many times before. Much appreciated. I do enjoy writing these little blogs. It’s a good chance to preach to myself!!

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