In marriage, as in any other endeavour, we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of “little things” to overall success. Many marriages get into troubles because spouses ignore the little details, the day-by-day thoughtfulness that strengthens their relationship as well as little bits of neglects, discontent and unresolved issues that eat away their happiness. Married couples need to give due attention to both in order to help ensure the long-term success, health, and vitality of their marriage.
- Rebuke, but don’t criticise
One of the most dangerous little things in the marriage is criticism. Nothing shuts down communication and disrupt the harmony of a relationship faster than harsh, sniping, negative comments. No one profits from criticism-neither the critic nor the person being criticised, or anyone else who may be within earshot. Constants criticism destroys a person’s spirit. It breeds hurts, resentment, defensiveness and even hatred. Criticisms discourage openness and honesty, without which no relationship can remain healthy. By its very nature, criticism is destructive because it focuses on finding faults with the intention of hurting rather than of finding a solution. People who are critical all the time usually have unmet needs or unresolved issues in their own lives, and these problems reveal themselves in a form of critical spirit.
Every relationship at times faces interpersonal conflicts that must be dealt with for the good of everyone involved. Part of effective communication is establishing an environment in which problems can be resolved in a healthy manner. Hurtful criticism is never the answer. Rather, in such situation, a rebuke may be in order.
Criticism and rebuke are not the same thing. A rebuke differs from criticism in at least two important ways: 1) the spirit from which it comes and the purpose for which it is given. Criticism arises from a wounded and self-centered spirit that seeks to wound in return. It is not interested in either the welfare of the person being criticised or in finding a constructive solution to the problem. A rebuke, on the other hand, comes from a loving and compassionate spirit that does not only recognise a problem, but also seeks a fair and equitable solution with a heartfelt desire for the good of the other person. In short, a rebuke is motivated by love, whereas criticism is not. A rebuke focuses on the solution while criticism harps on the problem. A rebuke seeks to correct while criticism only complains.
Watch out for criticism, which can spoil your relationship. Develop the discipline of thinking before speaking. Whenever a problem arises or a conflict flares up and you feel the urge to criticise, ask yourself if it is a legitimate problem for which rebuke and correction are in order or only a personal gripe. Check your motivation: are you acting out of love or out of anger? Criticism profits nothing but rebuke and correction do. There are two sides to this coin, however. Being willing and able to give correction is one side; being willing to receive correction is the other side. Openness to correction is one of the most important elements of growth. People who are unwilling to receive correction will never grow. They will always be immature.
- Don’t get too familiar
One of the greatest dangers to a marriage is for the husband and wife to become too familiar with each other. This is not the same as knowing each other. Spouses should know each other better and more intimately than they know anyone else in the world. A husband and wife should be each other’s best friend. By familiarity I mean a comfortable complacency that causes the husband and wife to start taking each other for granted. Familiarity reveals itself in at least three ways:
- First, it breeds to ignore
- Second, it breed assumptions
- Third, it breeds presumption
- . Couples feel so familiar with each other that they begin to ignore each other in lots of little ways that they may not even be aware of.
- . A husband and wife beginning to assume that each knows what the other is thinking.
- . A wife presumes what a husband will say or do without even asking him first. A husband will make the same mistake.
If these three continue long enough, the end result will be that as expressed in the old proverb: “ familiarity breeds contempt.”
Here is a practical example of how this happens. Before marriage, when a couple are courting, they constantly tell each other how they feel. They don’t assume anything. They pay attention to every little detail, every gesture, facial expression and every change of voice. They complement each other, give each other gifts and spend every available moment together. This constant attention to each other is good and necessary to building a strong relationship because it produces in each person a deep sense of security. The more often we are told that we are loved, the more secured we feel.
For some reason things begin to change after a couple get married. It usually does not happen right away. Gradually the husband and wife start to assume things about each other. The husband stops saying to his wife, “I love you” as often as he once did. He assumes, she knows I love her; I don’t need to tell her all the time. They stop going out to dinner or on other dates. They stop giving gifts or cards or flowers to each other. They drift slowly apart.
To counteract this and to keep a marriage alive, and vital and exciting is to do something unexpected. It may be a weekend away just the two of them or a candle light dinner or a bouquet of flowers. Among other things, this means developing the practice of regularly expressing appreciation for each other.
To be continued…