Keys to a working marriage podcast notes

Lesley Hyatt joined Jonathan and I on this podcast discussing how to make marriage work. Together we have 60 years of experience.  This is what we came up with

Understand that 50/50 marriages don’t work

Many people when they get married come up with what they think will be a workable marriage solution. It’s the 50% marriage. I’ll do 50% and you’ll do 50% and everything will be fine. But this 50/50 marriage has some problems. It reminds me of a story of two elderly people who walked into a McDonalds. The manager took special note of them when they walked in and decided to wait on them. They shuffled up the the counter and ordered one Big Mac, an order of fries, a large coffee and two cups, and one knife. Then they took their meal to a little booth in the corner and the elderly gentleman began to split up their meal. He separated the french fries into two even pile, split the coffee into the two cups and careful cut the Big Mac into two even halves. As the manager watched this his heart broke. Couldn’t they afford two meals. So he went and said to the couple “Folks I hate to see you split your food up like this, let me get you another meal, on the house.” And the elderly man said “No sonny, that won’t be necessary. For 50 years of marriage we done things this way. Everything we do is 50/50, split right down the middle.” Satisfied, the manager started to go back to work, but he noticed that only the woman was eating as the man sat patiently. Intrigued he asked the man “Why aren’t you eating?” And the elderly man responded “I’m waiting for my turn with the teeth.”

50/50 doesn’t cut it. We always miss something. God calls us to something greater.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. Philippians 2:5-7

The book Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus puts this perfectly.

It’s a wise groom who has to be dragged to the altar. He knows what love is. It’s death. If lovers don’t know this, they are headed for trouble. Never will you have your way again. You can’t be happy if this other person isn’t. No matter who wins the argument, you lose. Always. The sooner you learn this the better off you will be. Love is an exercise in frustration. You leave the window up when you want it down. You watch someone else’s favorite TV program. You kiss when you have a headache. You turn the music down when you like it loud. You learn to be patient without sighing or sulking. Love’s doing things for the other person. In marriage two become one but the one isn’t you. It’s the other person.

Winning is understanding

Let me read you a verse that is commonly misunderstood.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Generally speaking we think of unwholesome words as swear words or hurtful comments or mother in law jokes, but it can also mean no longer fit for use, or worn out.

Several years ago I went to Home Depot because we have just installed hardwood floors and my couch was sliding all over the place. So I found someone with an orange vest and I asked her this question. “Where can I find something that will keep my couch from sliding across my hardwood floor.” She looked puzzled for a second then said “I don’t know if we have anything like that but we do have some things you can put on your couch to make it slide easier.” I didn’t say this, but I wanted to say “Okay, so you have the exact opposite of what I need.” That was unwholesome advice. It didn’t fit my question. It was well meaning, but it really was worthless. Too often in marriage, that’s the kind of words we speak to each other. These verses call us to not speak unwholesome words but to respond according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Too often, unknowingly, we speak words that are just the opposite of what they need. We need to study our spouse and learn the best way to communicate to them.

Arguing to try and prove I am right is unwholesome.

Giving advice to my very intelligent wife is unwholesome. It’s unfit. It’s not what she needs in that moment. Here’s another great verse that speaks clearly to what each of us need.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry James 1:19.

The bible is forever telling us to be slow. Be slow to sin, be slow to get angry, be patient. These verses give us the one thing God tells us to be quick in. Quick to listen. Guys, you don’t have to solve.

Winning is not getting your way or making your point or getting the other person to admit you’re right. I’m still waiting for that to happen after 31 years of marriage by the way. Winning is understanding.

From time to time we need to completely neglect our kids

Not all the time. Most of the time we are there to love our kids and meet their needs.

At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

I did two weddings this weekend and I ended them both with that last phrase. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

The people most likely to take down your marriage and separate you from your partner are already living in your home. They are your kids. I’d wager to say that more kids separate marriages than affairs. Certainly, it’s not the kids fault. It’s the parents fault. Parents become so kid oriented, so focused on soccer teams and grades and school plays and music lessons that we are depriving our kids of what they really want. What your kids want more than more than soccer goals and good grades is the security of two parents that love each other. I understand that this scenario is not reality for everyone. Not everyone has the benefit of raising kids with a spouse. If that’s you, please don’t give up hope. God can help you raise fantastic kids who are a blessing to you. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s hopeless to do it alone.

I have had some parents come to me and brag “We’ve never left our kid with a sitter.” And I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me. Why is that something to brag about.” I’m not saying leave your kids with just anyone. (I’m hear to watch the little ones in raspy smokers voice) But by all means, leave your kids.

Let me give you three ways to neglect your kids

1) Establish a regular date night with your spouse
2) Plan a one night getaway.
Arrange some sleepovers and get a Priceline hotel and just be together. I read one quote from a marriage book that said this “Steal your wife away to a hotel for 24 hours once a month, and you’ll always have a great marriage and a good sex life.” Do I need to say anything more guys?
3) Plan a second honeymoon.
And a third and a fourth. Jilane and I have had several and we are overdue for another one. If any of you have a connection in Hawaii let me know.

One couple with a fourth grade son were having a hard time finding time alone together. So they invented a game. They lived in a condo complex and they told their son about a new game called detective. They would send their son to the balcony and he would call out what everyone down below was doing. There son enthusiastically started the game and the couple snuck away to the bedroom. In the bedroom they could hear their son shouting out things like “Mr Smith is taking out his garbage.” “Susie is riding her bike.” “Mrs. Smith is yelling at her kids.” Then they heard their son call out “The Andersons’ are making out.” The parents both bolted up into a sitting position and said “How do you know that?” To which their son replied “Their kids are on the balcony too.”

I know that for a marriage to work you have to be a fan not a critic

There was a study done on successful marriages in the book One Thing You Need to Know, by Marcus Buckingham. It’s a business leadership book, but in it they did a study on what makes marriage successful. They took couples that have been together for over 10 years and who were experiencing a joyful marriage. Coming into this study they had an idea about what they would find. They had done a study of unhappy couples and in unhappy couples they found that there that there were huge misunderstandings between the two parties about what each other was like. When they were dating they thought that there were this, when they really turned out to be that. They thought that when they interviewed happy couples that they would find that happy couples had a good grasp of who their spouse was. That these couples would really know each other and would do really well on the newlywed game. But what they found was the opposite.

They discovered that happy couples had an unrealistic view of each other. They gave them each a test to fill out. He had to answer questions about himself and then she had to answer the same questions about who she thought he was. What they found in a happy marriage is that she rated him higher in every category than he rated himself. With the men it was the same. He rated her higher than she rated herself. They found that love was a bit blind when it came to their partner. This positive illusion created this uphill spiral of love.

It all comes down to what you put in that gap. Listen to me. When you chose the assume the worst position, it’s very hard for your spouse to drag themselves out because you are looking for them to fail.

We pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

People are drawn to environments of acceptance.

My wife is a master at this. She is one of my biggest fans. She is absolutely convinced that I am a great communicator and she tells me all the time. Now, that’s not to say that she likes all the messages I give on Sunday. In fact, if it gets to be about 5:00 on a Sunday night and she hasn’t said anything, I’m afraid to ask. She’s basically, already cast her vote. But I know she believes in me. There is strength in that.

The grass is not greener on the other side

In my line of work, I see marriages come and go. It’s always beautiful when it comes and it is always ugly when it goes. And too often a marriage is traded in with hopes that the other side will be greener.

Philip Yancy put it like this. In America, I’ve noticed, a consumer mentality tends to infiltrate relationships as well as commerce. Some people treat marriage partners like automobiles; every few years it’s time to upgrade to a new model.T