Ask your friends what the secret of marriage is and the answers you get will likely be as varied as the individuals you ask.
Marriage advice ranges from the “sappy-are-you-serious-advice” to the “is-it-really-that-complicated-advice.” The longer I live the more I appreciate the simplicity of things. Think about it, what could be a bigger more complicated deal than pleasing God and yet Jesus simplified that for some religious zealots: “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. And, love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Simple, but pervasive.
Back to marriage…
Like you, I have heard a lot of secrets to marriage. Recently, I was hanging out with one couple, good friends, and we laughed as we discussed that the secret to their marriage might be the fact that she works out of town! It might be true that a better marriage results from being a part a little more. However, it was some other advice that I want to share with you.
While eating lunch with a guy, the subject of marriage came up. He told me that when people ask he and his wife what their secret is to marriage that he tells them that there is one thing. My thought was “Really? One thing? Do tell. I am all ears.”
He continued: “Whenever you hurt your wives feelings or she hurts you in some way, it doesn’t matter if you did or didn’t do what you are being accused of. It doesn’t matter if you actually said or didn’t say whatever.” Then he asked what I was thinking: “Why doesn’t it matter?” “Why,” I asked. “Because,” he said, “you have hurt her/his feelings.”
He continued, “When you hurt your wife’s or husband’s feelings say these words: ‘I am so sorry. Will you please forgive me?'” And an appropriate response of the one offended is, “Yes. I forgive you.”
My friend did have a point. Think about a time when your feelings were hurt. Which type of response was most helpful to you: an explanation or an apology. Not that explanation are not needed because they are, but usually after a heartfelt apology. This works especially well when each is a Christian because they know what it means to forgive someone. To forgive means that we do not bring this up again. It is as though it never happened. It also works because an important piece of repentance means that we intend to change our ways. Did you catch that? We intend to modify our behavior.
My friend then admitted that there have occasions when he has asked his wife for forgiveness and the answer is, “Not right now.” That’s can be an honest response. And its a healthy response. For sure, do not ignore what hurts and pains you have. Own them. Let God use your hurts to discipline you.
On the other hand stop carrying around the pain of what someone did to you in the past. In due time say: “Yes. I forgive you.”
This is certainly not the only secret to marriage. Jesus’ great command to his followers might fit here: “Do to others what you want others to do to you.” Simple, but pervasive.