This one tip to a happier marriage can help you avoid a common marriage pitfall. My husband and I have been students of marriage since the beginning. We could tell immediately that living a life with the one you love still takes intention and the pursuit of knowledge about how to make it work. We have attended conferences, read books and have been trained to help marriages in our church. There is one phrase that stood out to both of us at our time at the marriage conference Weekend to Remember put on by Family Life. This was early on in our marriage, but we still cling to it when we are in conflict.
One Tip to a Happier Marriage
So, what is the one tip to a happier marriage? Assume the best in your spouse. The phrase that stood out at that conference was, “Your spouse is not your enemy.”
It sounds silly and obvious to say, but just let it sink in a little bit. You see, your spouse married you because they love you. Within hard times of conflict, we begin to assume to worst in the other person. We feel like they are out to get us in some way.
The truth is, you married a person who thinks differently than you. You married someone who can get stuck in their own minds and in their own reality. You married a sinner. They, however, are not against you. They aren’t secretly hoping for your demise or the destruction of the marriage. The desire is for this to work out. You both married with the forever in mind.
In the book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages,” by Shaunti Feldhahm (affiliate link), she identified “believing the best” as one of the keys in successful relationships. “The internal assumption of the highly happy spouses was, ‘He must not have known how that would make me feel, or he wouldn’t have done it.'” She also found that “Even among the most struggling couples, 97% said they cared about their mates,” with only 9 out of 1261 saying they didn’t really care that much. With those kind of statistics, I’m pretty sure your spouse cares deeply about you, even if he or she doesn’t always have the best way of showing it.
If we go into marriage or marital arguments with the mindset, “My spouse is not my enemy!” then we have a foundation for trying to best understand why there is conflict, disagreement or hurt. Assume that your spouse is not trying to hurt you. Rather try and consider these possibilities:
- Are they being hurtful because they are hurt by their past?
- Is this a sin issue in their own life that really has nothing to do with you?
- Do they simply have a different perspective or way of seeing things that is causing this conflict?
- Did I do something that felt unloving or disrespectful so they are responding to my own sinful behavior? For more about this, read here.
- Are we having a hard time really communicating what we want to say?
- Do they need to bring up certain hard things about the marriage so we can work through them to reach a better place of understanding?
There can be so many different sources of conflict. In very few marriages, however, is it that your spouse is out to get you.
When we assume the best going in, repeating to yourself “My spouse is not my enemy!” you base your response in reality rather than how you feel in the moment. In the moment, you experience the pain, the hurt and the discomfort of friction. However, the bigger picture is that your spouse married you because they love you. They want your family to succeed.
I love to keep in mind this scripture: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8. Print out this free printable of this verse if it will help you keep your eyes focused on the lovely thing in your spouse.