However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33
Good marriages have a lot of things in common, while unhappy marriages are as different in as many ways as there are unhappy people married to each other. Yet the factors which make for either being happy or unhappy are often far more predictable than most folks think. Dr. John Modechai Gottman is a psychologist and researcher, and based upon his findings published in the Journal of Family Psychology, it is indeed possible to predict, with 94% accuracy, which marriages will end in failure long before the couples are ready to call it quits.
Said Gottman, “In couples that stay together, there are about five times more positive things said to and about one another than negative ones.” But in marriages that ultimately fail, negative comments and negative attitudes reflect a growing hostility that eventually causes a couple to give up and call it quits. Attitudes which build or destroy marriages become habits. Without their realizing what is happening, a couple’s relationship is either improving or disintegrating. It’s somewhat like a rowboat, adrift on a slowly moving river, that increases its tempo as the river drops down into a canyon and moves towards the white water rapids. The closer the rowboat is to the point of breaking up on the rocks, the less able are those in that rowboat to turn it around and get it moving the other direction.
Have you ever asked yourself, “At what point is a relationship so far gone that it cannot be turned around?” At what point do you say, “Enough is enough!”? Answering five questions will help you decide in which direction you are headed.
1) Are you unconditionally committed to your marriage?
Individuals who consider divorce an option to solving conflicts have already pulled up the anchor and are slowly drifting. That phrase “till death us do part” is much different from the one which has replaced it in some wedding ceremonies, which reads “as long as we both shall agree.” Frankly, some folks don’t even get out of the parking lot after the wedding before disagreement begins. There can be plenty of disagreements in a healthy marriage, but the issue of commitment makes the difference between disagreement being a plus or a decided minus.
2) Can you resolve disagreements or conflicts, or do you simply ignore them, letting the issues continue to bring division and eventual bitterness?
In healthy marriages, disagreements come to a point of resolution. You learn from your mistakes and strive to avoid continued irritation. Love puts the other first.
3) Are you willing to contribute more to your marriage than you take from it?
The attitude of selfishness which always insists on having your way causes relationships to wear thin. The attitude that “my fulfillment and happiness are the most important things in a marriage, and if you can’t give me what I want, then maybe I had better search for the pot of gold somewhere else” reverses the formula for real marital happiness.
4) Do you make it a practice to affirm and build up your mate, or do you take advantage of failure to point out weaknesses and shortcomings?
This, believes Dr. Gottman, is one of the sure signs of marital failure or success.
5) Do you strive to put into practice biblical principles which include church attendance, praying together, and looking to your Heavenly Father for His blessing and guidance?
Couples who are working on a marriage never drift with the tide. They are moving upstream and working on a relationship together.
Good marriages include commitment, communication, the kind of love which puts the other first, and the ability to face the challenge of conflict, resolve it, and put it behind you. When you care, there’s hope for your marriage.
Resource reading: Ephesians 5:22-33.