Shift your perspective by training yourself to ask different questions than you might naturally ask.
In my last post, I promised to continue this week with some specific suggestions to keep your marriage strong from the long haul. Today’s suggestion is that you learn to ask different questions.
One of the forces weakening marriages and causing an uptick in “gray divorce” in the past decade is that the wrong belief that the purpose of marriage is essentially our own personal happiness. If this is true, then our marriages can be sustained only as long as our fickle and fleeting feelings are maintained, or as long as our mate does the thing that we insist they do to meet our needs.
Instead, I say, let’s look at marriage as a covenant based on selfless love – something higher than ourselves and our own happiness.
An Unhealthy Focus On Self
It seems this “me-centered” marriage paradigm has grown immeasurably since the baby boomer “me generation” began passing through mid-life. This unhealthy pre-occupation with self-promotion, self-protection, and self-centeredness has spread throughout subsequent generations.
I used to write for Your Tango’s now-defunct Traditional Marriage section. I wrote a post there entitled, “Why After 30 Years of Marriage the Best is Yet to Come.” In that article I said this:
If you have a habit of holding your spouse responsible for your happiness, you definitely need to learn to take that responsibility upon yourself. However, remember that if you view your marriage as being mostly about your rights and what you get out of the bargain, in the long run, you are going to end up bitter and disappointed.
On the other hand, if you see your marriage primarily as an opportunity to selflessly love and generously serve your wife or husband to the best of your ability, you will the reap the long-lasting benefit of a strong and close relationship.
Don’t buy the lie that a 50/50 marriage is ideal. Instead, go for 100/100, where each of you holds nothing back and gives all you have to the other.
My wife and I strive to live a paradigm of selfless love. We aren’t nearly perfect at it, but I believe this is one of the many reasons we keep believing that our best years are always in front of us. We refuse to believe the lie of inevitable marriage decline.
Selfless love is the cornerstone of a strong marriage – one that will stand the test of time. It’s not necessarily easy or natural to love without conditions especially when our spouse isn’t doing the same.
One approach to changing your thinking is to retrain yourself to ask different questions.
When you are tempted to ask, “What’s in it for me?” ask instead, “How can I bless my spouse?”
When you are tempted to ask, “What are my rights?” ask instead, “What is the right thing for our marriage and for my spouse?”
When you are tempted to ask, “What will advance my cause?” ask instead, “What will enhance my marriage?”
When you are tempted to ask, “What will I get out of this?” ask instead, “How can I be generous in this situation?”
When you are tempted to ask, “How can I win this argument?” ask instead, “How can we keep connected during this discussion?”
Learning to live as one flesh means we have to let go of the battle for self and learn to press into the reality that because we are one, we win when our spouse wins. Blessing him or her actually blesses us too! Taking such a one-flesh view of your marriage will totally change to way you see your spouse and your relationship.
Take the Risk
This thing of selfless love is risky business. There is no guarantee that your spouse will respond in kind. While selfless love is a compelling force for intimacy and passion, not everyone will respond to it. Remember, people are free to make their own choices; you can only control you.
Yet this is the kind of love we were shown by Jesus and the kind of love we are compelled to show to our spouses. He took the risk. He gave everything for us, for the sake of intimacy with us, knowing that many would reject his sacrifice and continue to live for themselves. He did it anyway.
So I urge you to step back and consider the reckless, selfless, sacrificial love of Christ. Rather than buying into the lies exemplified and extolled by the “me generation,” take the risk to love like Jesus does. It’s worth the risk.