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Articles by Mark Merrill


Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

4 Truths for Your Marriage

Our society thinks compatibility is the key to a successful marriage. That’s wrong. Flourishing marriages are built on conflict resolution—how to work through issues and come out on the other side loving each other more. Here are 4 important truths to remember as you strive to love and lead your spouse through those prickly and precarious times in your relationship.

Truth #1: Your Spouse Is Not the Enemy

First, remember that your spouse is not the enemy. I repeat: your spouse is not the enemy. Let me say that again: your spouse is not the enemy. Have you heard it said, before marriage, opposites attract; after marriage, opposites attack? What was once appealing may now be annoying.

Before Susan and I got married, more than twenty-two years ago, she was attracted to me for my decisiveness and strong will. As the years have gone by, those qualities sometimes bother her. At this stage in her life, she’s looking for more empathy and understanding, not a husband who is always grabbing the reins and cracking the whip. Before marriage, I was attracted to Susan for her creativity and do-everything attitude. Now that creative bent and busyness can annoy me. I want more order in the house. I want more of her time and attention.

So, what should we do? Have a standoff for the right of our life together? Of course not. We should remember and appreciate those qualities we first saw in our spouse. At the same time, we can share with them that we are in a different season of life where we desire more patience, kindness, or ______ (you fill in the blank). We also need to be willing to work on changing some things in our own behavior to meet the wishes of or spouse at this stage in our relationship.

Please note that the point here is not to create unrealistic expectations for our spouses; we don’t have the power to change them. Also, realize that it may be a long process for the change to take place, if it even happens at all. The person you loved so much in the beginning of your relationship is still there. You just have to look past the quirks that you find annoying to uncover the qualities that your spouse has to offer.

Truth #2: Your Spouse Is on Your Team

The second truth is that you and your spouse are on the same team. See if these scenarios sound familiar. He’s having a blast with his buddies on the golf course; she’s back at home cleaning the house. Or she’s out having fun with her friends; he’s back home mowing the yard. “I’m always the bad guy,” she exclaims. “How come you get to go play with the kids and I’m the one who always gets stuck disciplining them?” Or, he says, “You just got a new couch, so why can’t I spend a measly hundred bucks on some new fishing gear?”

So, if you find yourself keeping score, what should you do? First, remember this key thought: you were designed to complete each other, not compete with each other. Marriage is the ultimate team sport, and marriages only work well when husbands and wives remember that they’re on the same team.

Second, we know that love is not jealous or selfish. Love is all about giving. So a loving wife knows when her husband needs support, and she helps him. She encourages her man. A loving husband sacrifices and gives time to his wife when he senses she is overwhelmed. He cherishes his woman and ensures her physical and emotional health. He encourages her.

Truth #3: Your Tongue Has Remarkable Power

The third truth I want you to remember is that you have remarkable power right under your nose. The power of the tongue is so great that it’s capable of discouraging or encouraging, hurting or healing, tearing down or building up. Think about it. If you didn’t have a tongue, you couldn’t speak and you’d eliminate most conflict in your relationships.

But you probably do have a tongue. So, what do you do when your spouse takes aim at you and starts to fire verbal assault? Fire right back, right? Well, that’s our instinct, but when we lead with love we receive the “friendly fire,” and don’t pull the verbal trigger, even though everything in us says, “Let it rip!” Sometimes responding with a gentle answer like, “It makes me sad that you feel the way,” or not saying anything at all, is the best response.

The tongue is a wild animal. You need to chain it, tame it, and train it. Train it to breathe life into those you love.

Truth #4: You Must Love Your Unlovable Spouse

The fourth truth to remember is that one of the hardest things for you to do is to love unlovable people, especially your spouse. It’s easy to love them when they are kind, sweet, and lovable, but we must love them when they are unlovable; love them no matter what.

Remember, when we got married each of us made a choice to love our spouse for life, for better or worse. We made a choice to love them even when they’re unlovable. When I speak, I often illustrate this point of unconditional love by having the men in the audience turn to their wives and repeat after me:

"Honey, I love you when you don’t wear makeup. I love when you have PMS. I love you when you go shopping and max out our credit card. I love you when you tell me to put down the remote. I love you no matter what!"

Wives get their turn, too. I ask them to turn to their husbands and repeat the following:

"Honey, I love you when you have gas in the house. I love you when you snore. I love you when you don’t put the toilet seat down. I love you when you get lost and won’t ask for directions. I love you no matter what!"

Of course, they all get a few chuckles out of it, but they get the point that loving your spouse no matter what, means no matter what. And, by the way, love is not dependent on the person being loved receiving that love, because remember, love is unconditional. It’s not an “If you do this, I’ll do that” kind of thing, it’s “I’ll do this regardless of what you do.” So love the porcupine, no matter what. Even when it hurts.

As a husband, you need to have the right methodology for dealing with your wife when she becomes a porcupine from time to time. And if you lead with your heart and lead with love in this area of resolving conflicts graciously, she’ll more than likely return the favor. And you will find your love for each other deepening.


Related Resource: 3 Ways to Rebuild Trust in Your Marriage


End your day: Talking with your child...

hat is a lie someone told you that you believed?


Taken with permission from All Pro Dad, by Mark W. Merrill

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