Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Marriage Rules to Live By: Rule #1

Somehow Andy and I created an unspoken agreement to always follow a set of undefined rules in our marriage. We never really sat down and said, "Okay, here's our rules. You better not break them." It was more of a mutual understanding that we reached without ever really having a conversation. And yet, the rules are still applied in our marriage to this day although they've never been officially discussed.

When I've analyzed other marriages, I find that most problems usually come down to one or both partners breaking some or all of The Rules. Not that all marriages will have the same rules, but these are things that work for us. The decision to live by our rules has saved our marriage from a lot of pain and frustration. Talk to your partner about your marriage rules. What things can you do to help your marriage become more peaceful and loving?

1. Fight Clean -

  • Assume the best of your spouse. If you feel like their intentions were negative or hurtful, assume they weren't. Never start a fight from the assumption that your spouse did something intentional to hurt you. Changing the way you think is a BIG step in preventing problems from ever arising.  If your partner does something that hurts you, discuss it but from the perspective of believing that your spouse would NEVER do something to intentionally hurt you believing that his/her desire is to make you feel loved to the best of his/her ability.

  • Never EVER say anything mean, derogative, or insulting to your spouse. Even if you are angry and you want to. Don't do it. You can disagree and argue without throwing in pointless and mean comments. Name calling is never okay.

  • Don't bring up the past.  "You never help me do X," or "You always act this way when X," or "I can't believe you did X again."  If the goal in marriage is to get along and be happy together, why are you throwing your spouse's past mistakes around like you've entered a poo-slinging contest?  The goal isn't to see who has more poo to fling, it is to clean the poo up and use it to fertilize the soil. If you view past mistakes as ammo against your spouse, you need to fix your mindset - not your spouse. We all make mistakes. You've made mistakes. Your spouse has made mistakes. It doesn't matter who has made more mistakes or whose mistakes are stinkier. Just put your back into it, shovel the stinky poo up, and leave it. Harping on another's person mistakes only creates distance and coats you both in your own failures. Forgive and move on. It doesn't mean it didn't happen; it just means that no fault, failure, or ugly problem is more important than showing love to your spouse. It just isn't.

  •  Try not to raise your voice.  I almost said "Don't raise your voice" because it should be a rule, but unfortunately it is a rule that is all too easy to break, which is why I said "Try not to raise your voice."  Andy has never raised his voice at me. Ever. I can't say I've reached that same level of calm and control, but I'm certainly getting better. It's hard to raise your voice angrily at someone who won't get loud-mouthed back.   What I can claim is a definitive rule - Never yell at your spouse. Yelling matches solve nothing and create lots of hurt feelings. This is a lesson in self-control for those of us who struggle with controlling their anger and frustration. However, it can be done, so learn to take your tone and simmer it down to a reasonable conversational level. This will help fights end much more quickly than the ones that are laden with screaming and yelling.

  • Remember that NO fight is more important than your marriage. Even if you're right. Even if you're wrong. Even if there is no right or wrong.  There. Is. No. Fight. More. Important. Than. Your. Marriage.  Let me say it again: there is absolutely no fight that is more important than your marriage or your spouse.  [Note: I'm not talking about cheating or abuse in this section. If you are being abused, get somewhere safe.]  Can you honestly name one problem that is more important than the long term health of your marriage?  If you can, then you don't value the health of your marriage enough. There is no argument worth having if it will cause long-term animosity between you and your spouse. When both people enter arguments believing that winning the argument is not more important than loving their spouse, the conversations are respectful and loving - filled with listening, discussing, and working together to find a solution that is amenable to both people. If, in an argument, you realize that mutual agreement can't be reached, choose to postpone making a decision while you both think and pray about the answer or choose to humble yourself and let the other person "win."  Going to your parents for Christmas or her parents? Going to buy a house or travel the world? Going to play video games or sit and cuddle? Going to do the dishes or going out with friends? Going to buy a new car or going to save money? She never picks up her clothes? He never puts away his video game cords? She likes to keep the house warm? He likes it cold? None of these decisions are more important than caring for and loving your spouse.
When fighting and/or arguing remember these principles:

Love is Patient. Love is Kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.

I'll be posting the rest of our Rules To Live By periodically over the next week or two!

1 comment:

Katherine said...

I completely agree with this one! Wow. First of all, Andy and I hardly ever fight...in the last 5 years of marriage, I can think of 2 times...anyway, we never call names or bring up old fights or anything like that. It really helps to make an overall happy marriage!

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of your rules!

I did a marriage interview for a high schooler recently and posted about it...I'd be curious to get your insight: http://littlemissrylee.blogspot.com/2010/04/reflection-on-marriage.html