Are you the best spouse that you can be?
Talk about a loaded question. But then our own answer hits us with a resounding thud – Of course not. Surely there is something else we all can do a little better. Someway we can express our love a little more effectively.
I thought about this as I was reading a recent Inc. Magazine blog post about what exceptional business leaders do better than other leaders. As it is true in business, it is true in any facet of life – there are those that are not too good at what they do, there are those that are alright and then there are the exceptional.
When it comes to marriage, what makes for an exceptional spouse?
Similar to the business world, being exceptional in marriage calls for reading the culture and situation of the marriage. Each marriage is different and what works in one marriage might not work in another. However, here are six ways that should move us toward becoming a better than average, even exceptional spouse:
1. Become Great Communicators. We can not talk enough, about how we talk to each other. There is not an area of our marriage that is not impacted by how we talk and express ourselves to each other. Because, our communication either is the problem or the bridge back from the problem. I have read so many books about communication in marriage – even wrote a few chapters on it myself – but it always seems to boil down to lovingly saying what we feel and hearing what our spouse is really saying. The more we can honestly say how we feel and what we need the stronger our communication becomes. But also we have to hear each other. And hearing is different than listening. Hearing is seeking to understand from our spouse’s point of view, not our own. Without really hearing each other, our communication is significantly hindered.
2. I am sorry. I forgive you. Two of the most exceptional displays of humility in a marriage. Admitting when we are wrong sometimes feels like walking across the street with our eyes closed. Vulnerable! Because, when we admit our mistakes we lose control of the outcome by placing ourselves into our spouse’s hand. Admitting we messed up, ultimately, buys us a lot of credibility with our spouse and more importantly keeps us in right relationship with Christ. As much as we need to be forgiven, we have to also forgive. Forgiving, is that ability to stop transferring our feelings about what has happened to our spouse. We know that it happened, but we are moved to a point of not transferring our hurt back to our spouse. Neither of these is easy, they are exceptionally humble actions, which is precisely why sincerely admitting our wrongs and forgiving their wrongs brings exceptional results to a marriage.
3. Share One Another’s Load. Running a house, raising kids and then being productive on our jobs is tiring. An exceptional spouse knows nothing about 50-50 and is more focused on “whatever it takes”. Seeking to take the load off of our spouse makes their life easier if even in only small ways. While the rule may be: “that” is a man’s job and “this” is a woman’s role. When we can move beyond those boundaries and take the load off or our husband or wife, we demonstrate how much we value them. And thus, put exceptional strength into our relationship. Note to Husbands: There was a study that came out a few years ago that made a strong link between the amount of house work a man does and the degree of intimacy he enjoys with his wife.
4. Solve Problems Side by Side. Change your language from “you”, to “we” and “us” and you can begin to move from confrontational to partnership in your marriage. For example, if you can change “you” are always late, which is 100% on them to, “we” need to work on being on time, which is walking side by side. That is exceptional patience in humility in that you remove blame and walk together.
5. Complement (Verbally). After a few years we get so comfortable with each other that we can forget our manners. Never stop saying thank you. Take note of your spouse’s new clothes or improved attitude. At times we have to be intentional about continuing to express our feelings and admiration. SO make it a habit to routinely check yourself, are you paying enough attention to your spouse, more importantly are you telling them what you are seeing and feeling.
6. Wisdom. Exceptional spouses seek exceptional wisdom. The longer we are married the wiser we should be about ourselves, our spouse and our family. If you even suspect that an action or behavior might lead to a bigger problem, then don’t do it! For example, the wise, exceptional spouse doesn’t linger in conversations that are clearly leading us in the wrong direction. Exceptional wisdom looks for, sees and runs like crazy from potential calamity. The exceptional spouse also takes note of what is important to their spouse and where the land mines are. The point, is that being an exceptional spouse is about knowing yourself and being proactive about avoiding big “mess ups”.
An interesting closing thought is that we can do all of these things and our spouse may or may not see the value in them. Being “exceptional” isn’t about reaching a destination, rather it is about constantly working to love our spouse more completely and most importantly, the way they need to be loved.
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