Marriage Predictors pt. 3 – Making Smart Choices

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.

Marriage Predictors pt. 1

So, I just passed 16, count ’em, 16 years of marriage this fall! And the universal consensus is that I got a good one in Jeff. He is a wonderful husband and I am so grateful we are still best friends, still in love and still have lots of dreams of things we want to do and accomplish together as long as God gives us breath.

My man and me having fun in Gatlinburg last year.

While I would in no way claim to be an expert on marriage, I am nonetheless an experienced married person. And like most married people, I have opinions. (If there are any of you married-more than 25+ years reading this, please try not to chuckle.)

Surprisingly though, my thoughts aren’t centering around what practices and behaviors married people should incorporate into their lives. Instead,  because Jeff and I are passionate university student workers, I am thinking about what still-dating, engaged or recently-married couples can do in order to grow the type of marriage they want. In other words, my thoughts on marriage are something like this, “It is easier to build something right the first time then to try and repair it later.”

I read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell a while back. Fascinating read. He studied and wrote about a particular researcher who claimed he could predict within 10 minutes of meeting a couple, with astounding statistical accuracy, whether or not their marriage would end in divorce. In other words, there are clues, noticeable ones too that predict relational trajectory: where a couple will end up.  I found the concept to be fascinating, as Jeff and I both have seen couples together and can pretty much instantly tell something of the quality of their relationship. You can too I suspect.

So I want to write a few blog entries in the coming weeks about what I’ll call “marriage predictors” – those character qualities, behavior patterns and practices that young couples integrate into their marriage, either on purpose or accident. And like road signs, they tell us all where the relationship is heading. They predict trajectory. Either to greater intimacy, trust, friendship, affection, commitment, togetherness, mutual sanctification and spiritual maturity – or to separation, whether physically or emotionally. There are lots of couples out there who might still live under the same roof and might even share the same bed, but who are already single people again in their hearts. I find this incredibly sad.

I hope you will come along and contribute to the discussion.

Why Nationality Is Important

(Part one of the Culture series)

Genesis 11:8-9 So the Lord scattered them from there over the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

(About heaven) Revelation 21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.

Revelation 21:26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

God loves the nations. He created them (Gen. 10:32) and sent them into the world. He called Abraham and used him to found the nation of Israel, through which He would bless all nations. (Gen. 12:1-3) Jesus will not return to judge the world till all nations have had a chance to hear the Gospel. (Matt. 24:14) He sent his disciples out to tell the world about the forgiveness of sins and how to be reconciled to God. (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8) Heaven is the ultimate multicultural celebration (Rev. 7:9) with all nations represented. And there is something so special to God about our nationality that we bring something of it into heaven with us. (Rev. 21:24, 26)

No doubt, we must lose something of our nationality as we grow in Christ. The scripture is clear that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and that He has our highest loyalty. Each culture also has inherent weaknesses within it that make it more difficult for its people to relate to God. But there is something about the cultures we’ve created that brings glory to Him. That somehow, He transcends language, culture, history, socio-economic status, education levels and geographical location. The things that divide humans in this world will help unite us in the next as they bring praise to God. Only He could do something so beautiful.

With that knowledge, it seems to me that it’s important for believers now to learn languages, to travel and to know people of different nationalities. God isn’t white, suburban or American. English isn’t His first language. It’s an amazing experience the first time you hear another believer praying in their heart language and you realize that the same God you know and love, is the same God they know and love.

Our nationality is an important spiritual trigger for us. Some things about where we were born draw us nearer to the heart of God. They are meant to be a blessing to the other nations. They bring glory to God. At the same time, some things about where we were born are like millstones hung around our neck. Worse than that, they are like millstones hung around our necks that most people aren’t even aware of. In the next series of posts, I’d like to explore some of these ideas about culture and how it affects how we relate to God a bit further.