He says: “I am surprised to find that my wife and I are so different! For example, I like to get up early, but she likes to stay up late. As for her changes of mood, those baffle me! And another thing
—when I cook, she becomes so critical, especially of the way I clean my hands on the dishcloth.”
She says: “My husband is a man of few words. But I’m used to my family. They talk a lot, particularly at mealtimes. And when my husband cooks, he uses the same cloth to dry the dishes and to clean his hands! That irritates me! Why are men so difficult to understand? How do people make a marriage succeed?”
IF YOU are newly married, have you faced similar challenges? Does it seem that your mate suddenly has acquired faults and foibles that were absent when you were dating? How can you reduce the impact of the “everyday troubles that married people will have”?
—1 Corinthians 7:28, Today’s English Version.
First, do not expect that just because you exchanged wedding vows, you and your spouse become instant experts at married life. You might have acquired valuable social skills when you were single, and they might have improved while you were dating. However, marriage will test those skills in new ways and will likely require that you gain new ones. Will you make mistakes? Certainly. Can you gain the skills you need? Absolutely!
The best way to improve any skill is to consult an expert on the subject and then to apply the advice he gives. The foremost expert on marriage is Jehovah God. After all, he is the One who created us with the desire to marry. (Genesis 2:22-24) Note how his Word, the Bible, can help you overcome challenges and acquire the skills you need to make your marriage last beyond the first year.
SKILL 1. LEARN TO CONSULT TOGETHER
What are the challenges?
Keiji, * a husband who lives in Japan, sometimes forgot that his decisions affected his spouse. “I would accept invitations without consulting my wife,” he says. “Later, I would discover that it was not convenient for her to keep those appointments.” Allen, a husband in Australia, says: “I felt that it was unmanly to consult my wife about things.” He faced a challenge because of his background. It was similar with Dianne, who lives in Britain. She says: “I was used to asking my family for advice. So at first I would consult them and not my husband when making decisions.”
What is the solution?
Remember that Jehovah God views a married couple as being “one flesh.” (Matthew 19:3-6) In his eyes, no other human relationship is more important than the one that exists between husband and wife! To keep that bond strong, good communication is vital.
A husband and wife can learn much by examining the way Jehovah God communicated with Abraham. For example, please read the discussion recorded at Genesis 18:17-33. Note that God honored Abraham in three ways. (1) Jehovah explained what he intended to do. (2) He listened while Abraham explained his views. (3) To the extent possible, Jehovah adapted his course of action to accommodate Abraham. How could you follow the same pattern when you consult with your spouse?
TRY THIS: When discussing matters that will affect your marriage partner, (1) explain how you would like to handle the situation, but present your thoughts as suggestions, not final decisions or ultimatums; (2) ask your spouse to express his or her opinion, and acknowledge your spouse’s right to hold a different viewpoint; and (3) “let your reasonableness become known” by adopting your mate’s preferences whenever possible.
SKILL 2. LEARN TO BE TACTFUL
What is the challenge?
Depending on your family or cultural background, you might be in the habit of expressing your opinion firmly, even bluntly. For example, Liam, who lives in Europe, says: “Where I come from, people tend to be tactless. My blunt way of expressing myself often upset my wife. I had to learn to be more gentle.”
What is the solution?
Do not assume that your mate wants to be spoken to in the same manner that you are used to. (Philippians 2:3, 4) The counsel that the apostle Paul gave a missionary is also helpful for newlyweds. He wrote: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle.” In the original Greek, the word that is translated “gentle” can also be rendered “tactful.” (2 Timothy 2:24; footnote) Tact is the ability to discern the delicacy of a situation and to deal with the matter kindly, without causing offense.
TRY THIS: When you are annoyed with your mate, imagine that instead of talking to your spouse, you are conversing with a good friend or with your employer. Would you still use the same tone of voice or choice of words? Then think of reasons why your spouse deserves to be spoken to with even more respect and tact than does your friend or employer.
SKILL 3. LEARN TO ADAPT TO YOUR NEW ROLES
What is the challenge?
A husband may at first exercise his headship clumsily, or a wife may be unaccustomed to making tactful suggestions. For example, Antonio, a husband in Italy, says: “My father hardly ever consulted my mother about family decisions. So at first, I ruled my family as if I were a monarch.” Debbie, a wife in Canada, says: “I demanded that my husband be tidier. But my bossy approach only seemed to make him more stubborn.”
What is the solution for a husband?
Some husbands confuse what the Bible says about wifely subjection with what it says about the obedience of a child to his parent. (Colossians 3:20; 1 Peter 3:1) However, the Bible says that a husband is to “stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh”; it does not say the same about a parent and a child. (Matthew 19:5) Jehovah describes a wife as a complement, or counterpart, of her husband. (Genesis 2:18) He never refers to a child as being a complement, or counterpart, of a parent. What do you think
—if a husband treats his wife like a child, is he honoring the marriage arrangement?
In fact, God’s Word urges you to treat your wife in the same manner that Jesus treats the Christian congregation. You can make it easier for your wife to view you as her head if (1) you do not expect her immediately and flawlessly to express her subjection to you and (2) you love her as you do your own body, even when difficulties arise.
What is the solution for a wife?
Acknowledge that your husband is now your God-appointed head. (1 Corinthians 11:3) If you honor your husband, you honor God. If you reject his headship, you reveal how you feel not only about your husband but also about God and his requirements.
When discussing challenging issues, learn to attack the problem
your husband’s character. Queen Esther, for example, wanted her
husband, King Ahasuerus, to correct an injustice. Rather than attack him
personally, she expressed herself tactfully. Her husband accepted her
suggestion and eventually did the right thing. (Esther 7:1-4; 8:3-8)
Your husband is more likely to learn to love you deeply if (1) you
allow him time to master his new role as head of a family and (2) you
treat him with respect, even when he makes mistakes. —Ephesians 5:33.
TRY THIS: Rather than taking note of ways in which you feel your spouse ought to change, keep a changes-I-need-to-make list. Husbands: When you upset your wife by the way you exercise or fail to exercise your headship, ask her how you can improve, and then write the suggestion down. Wives: When your husband feels that he is not being shown respect, ask him how you can improve, and take note of the suggestion.
Maintain Reasonable Expectations
Learning to maintain a happy, balanced marriage relationship is like learning to ride a bicycle. You expect some tumbles as you gain confidence as a cyclist. Likewise, you should expect to make some embarrassing mistakes as you gain experience in marriage.
Maintain a sense of humor. Take your mate’s concerns seriously, but learn to laugh at your own blunders. Seize opportunities to make your mate rejoice during your first year of marriage. (Deuteronomy 24:5) Above all, allow God’s Word to guide your relationship. If you do, your marriage will grow stronger year after year.