Another great marriage predictor (those character qualities, behavior patterns and practices that predict relational trajectory) lies in the choices both partners make. I’m not talking about the choice of whom to marry, although that most certainly is important! And I’m not necessarily talking about the more rare, life-changing decisions that tend to worry us most. I’m talking about the daily choices each makes in the course of their relationship. They are usually small, easy to excuse and easy to miss and dismiss. But their cumulative effect over the years can be astronomical. For example:
Choosing to put the other first in those moments when you know you deserve to go first.
Choosing to spend time together, even when you’ve got other things to do.
Choosing to turn off the electronics completely in a conversation so they know they really do have your undivided attention.
Choosing to engage in conversation when all you really want to do is veg out on the couch with the remote.
Choosing to intentionally nurture the physical side of the relationship, even when you just want to roll over and go to sleep.
Choosing to laugh together. Often. Even when you might rather argue.
Choosing to go to that restaurant, watch that movie, talk about that subject, wear that shirt – just because you know your spouse would like it.
Choosing to hold your tongue in a moment of anger because you recognize intense emotion can lead you to say something you can’t ever take back. And reckless words are among the greatest destructor of marriages. (Pr. 12:18)
Choosing not to correct them publicly when they are telling a story you’ve heard a hundred times and you know they are telling it wrong.
Choosing to speak gently at a moment when they need correction.
Choosing to give up the great opportunity you’ve always wanted to pursue because you know it would hurt your marriage, home life or family.
Choosing to do their chores for a bit, just because you know they are tired. And that it would make them happy.
Choosing to hold their hand, touch their arm or sit closely because you want them to know you are near.
Choosing to ask for help from other older couples when you hit a relational roadblock.
Choosing to invest in your marriage with time, affection, conversation, fun – even in those seasons when it feels like work.
Choosing not to hide your stuff, feelings, issues even when they’ve stayed hidden so successfully for so long.
Choosing to open the door, get a cold drink for them, do the laundry, cuddle in bed, praise the other – just because. For nothing in return. Just because you want to show them you value them.
Choosing to stop talking for a bit and just listen. To ask questions and wait till the full answer emerges – because you not only want to hear the answer, but because you want your partner to feel heard.
Choosing to say you love them in the style they hear it, not in the style you want to say it.
It is here, in the day-to-day choices we make, that hide in the daily grind and are so often overlooked or excused away – it is here where we either gradually build or eventually destroy our relationships. Couples who develop the discipline of making the right choices set themselves on a very healthy relational trajectory, towards love and affection even in their old age.
Let me tell you what I love about this video (in case you missed it – this is an older couple accidentally recording themselves while trying to figure out the video camera)…listen to how sweetly the man talks to his wife. Even when he doesn’t know he’s being recorded, even when they are trying to figure out how in the world this computer thingy works, he nurtures her, compliments her, encourages her. And if I heard it right, at the 1:50 mark, he asks her to drop her dress. They’ve clearly made quite a few right choices over the years.