By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
A relationship is like a fine automobile—it can run very smoothly if given the right conditions. It can function effectively forever. If mistreated and not kept tuned, however, your marriage is sure to fail.
Fortunately, we have some control over how “tuned” we keep our marriage. We have great ability to remain alert to the conditions of our marriage and to check in with our mate to ensure they are satisfied, as well with how the marriage is functioning.
While there are many necessary ingredients for a loving marriage (see I Corinthians 13; Galatians 5: 22-23), there are three necessities I’d like to focus on today: compassion, consideration and collaboration. Certainly, you could argue that if you are loving as defined by I Corinthians 13 or exhibit the fruits of the Spirit you will show compassion, consideration and collaboration and your marriage will likely thrive.
Let’s examine each of these a bit more closely and then we’ll explore how you might try these out in your daily life.
Compassion. Compassion is at the heart of every meaningful relationship, because when we feel compassion for our mate we move toward them, caring about their well-being. We attempt to walk in their shoes, showing empathy and concern for the challenges they face.
Interestingly, there is a compassion paradox: If it’s available whenever needed, it’s seldom needed. If there is a scarcity of compassion, your mate will likely develop a deprivation mentality, causing them to seek all they can get when they can get it. If compassion is absent for long enough, resentment will occur.
Showing compassion, in my experience, doesn’t necessarily happen automatically but can be cultivated, much like empathy. Being mindful that compassion is needed consistently, look for ways to show concern and compassion for whatever troubles your mate is experiencing. Be on the lookout for opportunities—and they will arise---to show compassion.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3: 12).
Consideration. Consideration (or respect!) is vital to holding a relationship together. Consideration shows you are being thoughtful of your mate, attending to them and what they have requested from you.
When you think about it, really think about it, your mate has likely told you how to best love them. They have shared with you at one time or another what they appreciate and what they don’t appreciate. While they may not have shared as firmly as you’d like, they have given you a lot of information about how best to love them. Have you considered that information and implemented it into your relationship?
Far too often we love our mate the way we want to be loved. We communicate in a way that is natural for us, but not necessarily effective for them. Take the time to consider who this person to whom you are married is. What are their unique needs? How have they asked to be loved?
Collaboration. Collaboration--working together-- is absolutely critical in marriage. Effective collaboration leads to cooperation, better decision-making, communication and the sharing of values. Working together leads to a positive feeling of teamwork.
No two people are going to agree on everything, however; marriage is a blending of two separate people, with differing backgrounds, values and principles. This is part of what makes marriage so exciting—the blending of differing perspectives. While initially exciting, these differences can lead to conflict. You must work together, listening carefully to each other, and then working together to solve problems.
Resolution of conflict occurs through the power of collaboration. Scripture says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3: 3) Healthy couples agree to not only walk together, but to problem-solve in a way that honors each other’s points of view.
Here are a few additional ideas to help you develop these qualities in your marriage:
First, resolve to cultivate compassion, consideration and collaboration. These three traits can be cultivated in your marriage. It will take focus, intention and determination. Agree with your mate on this “3 Step Plan” to improve your marriage.
Second, develop a plan to cultivate these traits in your marriage. Share with each other which traits are most important to both of you. Then, consider how you might cultivate these traits. Will you read a book on each topic? Can you listen to podcasts on the issues? Make a specific plan for cultivating these traits;
Third, measure progress on each quality. Agree to talk weekly until you have reinforced and strengthened these qualities in your marriage. Agree to offer feedback to each other, being receptive to hearing how you are doing at offering these qualities to your mate.
Finally, catch each other doing them well. It is important to be on high alert for these three different qualities. Notice when your mate is compassionate towards you. Thank your mate for making an effort to be considerate. Finally, do your part in collaborating with them on problems.
Would you like greater compassion, consideration or collaboration in your marriage? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse.
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