I have often said that I married a wonderful man. He is still wonderful and he gets better with age (like wine). Praise God! But marriage has always come with its challenges. We are two very different people. And these differences can polarize us when we don’t make the effort to preserve our unity in Christ.
In past entries I’ve talked about having Jesus Christ in the center of a marriage as the key to keeping it together. I’ve also written about the importance of fulfilling the biblical roles of a wife as helpmate and “lifegiver” to her husband. So I’m not going to talk too much about these two principles.
Instead, I want to share a few practical tips that have made a positive difference in my marriage. Every marriage is at a certain season and stage so not every point may apply. But I hope you will pick up something that will give you renewed inspiration and resolve to love the one you married.
Tip # 1: If it’s not going to matter twenty years from now, don’t make it an issue.
One of the hardest things for me to do as a wife is to lose an argument or a discussion. I can be such a proud person. I often want my perspective and ideas acknowledged by Edric as more valid than his. I want to “win.”
Just yesterday Edric was looking for our bee propolis throat spray. I sensed in his tone that he thought I wasn’t “on top of things.” But, my suspicion was he misplaced it. I even told him that he was the last one to have it. He didn’t admit to this. And honestly, between the two of us and our bad memories it is often hard to prove who is right when it comes to remembering where things are.
Well, I visited him in his office and lo and behold, there was the bee propolis spray sitting on his shelf. I picked it up and said, “Hey! Here it is! I knew it was with you.” Edric looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. According to him he never even realized it was there. This irked me. It was on display just a few feet away from where he was seated, how could he not have known that it was there?
To prove that he must have known, I scrolled through my text messages to find evidence. I remembered a text message he had sent me, asking me to have the propolis and throat candy delivered to his office. I showed him this text message but he was like, “I don’t know. I never received the propolis so I can’t be held responsible.”
What?! This made me want to jump up and down in irritation. Why couldn’t he just say, “Oh yah, my bad, I had it after all.”
For several minutes afterwards, I tried to pursue my point – that he was the one who had it the whole time. But when the discussion was getting nowhere, I realized it wasn’t worth deliberating about. If he honestly couldn’t remember that the propolis was given to him then so be it. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Did I really have to fight him about it? Would it matter twenty years from now? No. Peace between us was more important. So I went for that. Plus, we found the propolis. Case solved.
Tip # 2: Be willing to accommodate each other’s preferences if it isn’t a matter of moral consequence.
There’s no way that two people, living together with different personalities can be like-minded in everything. Edric and I are similar in what is most essential…what we believe about God and his word. We may have theological debates once in a while but we refer back to God’s word and make conclusions that are based on biblical truth.
However, we can be very dissimilar in our preferences when it comes to our hobbies, interests, and habits.
For example, building our home has been an exercise in choosing to accommodate one another’s preferences.
One major point of contention between us was the master’s bathroom toilet. Yes, a toilet. Edric wanted one of those low, old-style toilets that was reminiscent of the potty we had in our tiny condo (our first home as a couple). For him this toilet epitomized comfort. I insisted that we should not get that kind of toilet. It seemed outdated and ugly to me. But he really wanted it.
After going back and forth for a while, we came up with a compromise. We would get the shape he wanted but I would help him look for an updated looking one. Fortunately, we found one that had both features. He also let me choose all the other toilets in the house. The willingness to accommodate one another’s preferences brought about unity in our disharmony. And now Edric will always be happy sitting on that toilet!
Tip # 3: CHOOSE GRACE.
When we were newly married, Edric used to drape his clothes all over the house. He would remove his clothing and then do the drape thing. It totally bugged me. There was a hamper that he could’ve put his dirty shirts and pants into but he preferred to lay his worn clothes on the back of our sofa. And then there was the matter of his socks. They were like little annoying balls left here and there. I used to get so upset until I was taught this hard-to-swallow-but-very-effective principle…Choose grace.
Choosing mercy was about keeping myself from getting irritated. But choosing grace was about picking up his things and putting them in the hamper for him.
The amazing thing is today he is much neater than me! His closet is more organized. And he has a stand where he drapes all the clothes that he wants to have accessible for the next day.
If we were to look at ourselves very honestly, we are all recipients of God’s grace. There is no goodness in any of us apart from Christ. But we were forgiven and redeemed from sin by His sacrifice on the cross. When we choose grace, we recognize that because of what God has done for us, we can do the same. We can forgive, restore, and love by his grace.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us... (Ephesians 1:7, 8 NASB)
When we apply grace in our relationships, we experience its transforming power. I have experienced grace from Edric many times. One of the ways he is grace-filled towards me is at night, before we go to bed. Almost every night for as long as he doesn’t fall asleep out of utter exhaustion, he will tell me he loves me. Even if we have come from an evening of unpleasant dialogue because we were fighting or I was “misbehaving” as a wife by being disrespectful, he will reassuringly tell me, “I love you.” That takes supernatural grace! He says it without expectation, without trying to manipulate me. He says it just because he wants me to know that he loves me no matter what circumstance we weather together.
When Edric tells me he loves me and I know I don’t deserve to hear it, it makes me want to be a better wife. It makes me want to change and right what I have done wrong.
We should never underestimate the power of extending grace to our spouses. The effect may not be immediate. Sometimes it may take years for a spouse who is a cheat and a liar to come around, but I like the comfort that this passage offers. We need to hope in God…
1 Peter 3: 3-5 “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”
Tip # 4: Give one another a CLEAN SLATE.
I would not be worth paying as an accountant. But I have an extraordinary capacity to keep a record of offenses done by my husband against me. Oh wait a minute, that is pretty common to us women, right?!
Whenever the hurt starts to pile up because I keep adding to this record, I am quick to respond with irritation or anger. It’s not the big stuff that often frustrates me, it’s the small things.
To free myself from recordkeeping, I must choose to give Edric a clean slate everyday. Otherwise, I will keep an inventory of hurtful incidences and file them under “things I don’t like about my husband.” And the more I file in that section, the more likely I am to focus on the negative. Instead I need to have this mindset: New mercies every morning, just like God is towards me.
Lamentations 3:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
The idea of a clean slate is like the movie, 50 First Dates. The woman in the movie lost her memory everytime she went to bed at night. In marriage, I want to apply this by having amnesia for offenses and long-term memory for the good.
Past hurt can often define the way we respond to our spouse. So the principle of giving one another a clean slate is to forgive daily and declare in our hearts, “This is a new day, a new beginning. It is my gift to you.” When we do this we liberate ourselves from bitterness and we are free to enjoy our spouse.
Tip # 5: Be positive.
We can be so exacting of our spouse that we forget to praise and affirm them. Just recently, Edric and I were counseling a couple and we encouraged them to tell one another three things that they appreciate about each other every morning. Everyday, it has to be three original things. We asked them to do this because their default mode was to be critical of one another. As a result, they struggled to communicate what was really on their hearts.
Whenever I start to hold Edric to a set of expectations or mental “checklist” of how he should behave or treat me, I lose that feeling of admiration and respect that I ought to have for him, that God’s word commands me to have. To revive it, I try to be intentional about minding the simplest gestures or aspects of his personality that I appreciate. Soon after, I can’t wait to be with him and spend time with him because I realize what an amazing man I am married to!
Tip # 6: Keep dating each other
I am crazy about our kids but it is really nice to spend a quiet evening with Edric, just the two of us. He is my best friend and my favorite person to be with. Date nights really give us a chance to talk no matter how busy our week gets.
During our dates, we will ask one another, “How can I improve? How am I as a wife? How am I as a husband?” Because of this weekly habit, we don’t have a lot of issues that pile up. They have a short life span in our marriage.
When I gave birth some months ago, date nights were hard to come by. We noticed that this really affected our intimacy. I’m not just talking about physical intimacy. I’m talking about that deep sense of connectedness that we usually share. We became more pragmatic and less romantic towards one another.
When Catalina was able to take breastmilk in a bottle after 6 weeks, we resumed our date nights again. Even though it was very soon after I gave birth, we decided that it was important to safeguard this time together. (Praise God we also found a yaya whom we could trust to take care of her.)
After so many years I still get excited when Edric picks me up to go out for dinner. I dress up for him. I look forward to our conversations and affectionate exchanges…holding hands, hugging, kissing everywhere we go like newly weds. Date nights are our designated times to enjoy one another. No paying attention to cell phones. No gadgets. Just us.
Tip # 7: Pray and wait with eager expectation.
Not all issues or problems in marriage can be solved over night. There may be circumstances that happen in the timeline of a marriage that cause deep wounds. Only God can heal these. We need to give him room to do this. The wonderful thing is God has the capacity to fix what is broken in our marriages. He invites us to turn over burdens and rest in him. “Come to Me,” He says, “all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” And He goes on…”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
There are occasions when I have to come desperately before God and ask him to do a heart makeover in me or work in the heart of Edric. And he has always been faithful. The answers may not come right away. But when they do, the timing is perfect.
I want to end with a story that illustrates exactly what I mean.
Lately, Edric has been so busy that I wondered if he would plan anything for Valentine’s Day. Yesterday passed and we did not go out. We just hung out with the kids at home. I didn’t expect anything dramatic but I didn’t receive a card or anything.
Over the years Edric has set a very high precedent for himself. During celebrations like Mother’s Day, my birthday, and our anniversary, he will put a whole lot of effort into planning a surprise that is pretty spectacular. But I have learned to be content and cut him some slack. After all, what matters more to me is that Edric is faithful, loving, and most importantly, that he keeps God at the center of his life. These are the greater gifts that he has given me as a husband.
The only thing I really wished was that he would be around more because I missed him a lot. I felt like all his activities were cannibalizing time that we ought to have together. Instead of complaining, I just asked the Lord to guide him as the spiritual leader of our home and to keep his priorities in the right order.
Well tonight, he suggested that we go inspect our new house (which is almost done. Yeah!) Edric and I did our routine checks of the finishing work on the ground floor and then we headed upstairs. When I got to the balcony, I was completely blown away. He had set up a table for us. Music was playing. The kids were jumping up and down (they were all in on the surprise, even our househelp.) And he had flowers on the table and food for our dinner. It was a setting for two.
He blurted out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
I started to tear. This was our first dinner in our new but unfinished home. He put together a playlist of music we both like. And he even bought outdoor furniture for us to sit on. Edric doesn’t go out and buy furniture! I do that kind of thing. He had food ordered and he asked our househelp to set up table. (The kids were given dinner in a restaurant nearby and Edric and I had the place to ourselves.)
As for the contractor, Edric had coordinated with him last week and asked that the entire second floor be cleaned up in preparation for this evening. Usually, I can sense when he has a plan cooking. But I had no idea. I never imagined that he would be able to go through all the trouble to put together a dinner with the schedule he has had as of late. He told me, “I want you to know how special you are, no matter how busy I am.”
Just when I started to feel a little bit “neglected” as a wife because Edric was so preoccupied with work, ministry, speaking engagements and his tapings for ANC, God touched his heart to do something like this for me. This was the best post-Valentine’s celebration ever! And it was a wonderful reminder that I can always hope in God for my marriage and anticipate that it will get better and sweeter as I commit to pray for it and walk with Him.