The Marriage Collective—A James 1:5 Experiment

Last night we sat in a circle and prayed over a married couple.  They had shared their beautiful story of grace, explained how only radical truth brought “extravagant forgiveness.”  It was a beautiful time, a time where they encouraged the younger couples to have “no secrets” one from another.  It became their refrain—no secrets, extravagant forgiveness.

Amber and I have learned a few things about marriage over the years, and I’ve written about them here.  But last night, as a younger couple shared their story, I realized that we all have our own marriage mantras.  We each have bits of marriage wisdom to share.  Maybe it’s the wisdom of newly wed love—go to bed early and often, you might say with a snicker.  Perhaps it’s a more grizzled marriage wisdom—understand the oneness of marriage, you might plead.  And the truth is, your bit of wisdom was birthed through your story.

So today, with all the humility I can muster, I’m asking you to help me build a collective of marriage wisdom.  Would you be willing to leave what you’ve learned in the comments below? And if you want, share it in brief narrative form.  In other words, feel free to tell a small part of your story and then leave us with the wisdom that grew from it.

This is the stuff the comment box was made for.  I don’t know if it will work, but I’d like to give it a shot.  Let’s see what happens.

Who’s first?

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  • Heather

    I just have a few minutes before work to share this:
    Unforgiveness and unmet expectations are dangerous for a marriage.

    Complete and total understanding of each another is one of the major things that will keep the enemy from driving a wedge.

    • Thanks for this, Heather. Good words.

  • One of the most valuable pieces of advice I have ever received is to look for advice from people who have what you want in your marriage. This came out of letting my mother, who had unresolved issues with my dad when he passed away, speak into my marriage. It was very detrimental, and though I knew that her advice came from her own filters, her advice was still disturbing to me.

    If we follow the advice of people, even well-intentioned ones, but they don’t have what we are looking for in that area (marriage, child rearing, etc.), then we’re not any further ahead. If we follow the advice of people who have healthy growing marriages, well-behaved and responsible children, or whatever else it is we want in our lives, we’ll be that much closer to attaining it.

    (I recently wrote a post called Pre-Marriage advice for my friend who is getting married next weekend. Interesting that you pose this question now.)

    • Those are good words. I think it’d be a killer project to have folks collect interviews of married couples they wanted to be like “when they grow up.” I may ponder that one.

  • Seth, all I can think of right now is truth. Our recent bump in the road is still so fresh that if I have other good advice about marriage, it can’t get through. Our youngest son (actually my stepson) posted on his Facebook page last night, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” Lying doesn’t just break trust, it wears down a person’s sense of worth. Conversely then, telling the truth keeps trust strong and makes your spouse feel valued. Responding to that truth – even a hard truth – with a sense of being valued affirms to the other that telling the hard truth was worth the effort. A hard thing to do – especially when the truth you have just been told makes you want to scream, cry, throw things, etc. But if you can trust God enough with the process and just calmly look at your spouse and say, “thank you for telling me the truth”, you will continue to build on a firm foundation. Screaming, crying, and throwing things is just a temporary release. Trusting God with the process is rooted in eternity.

    • Truth and trust… yeah, that’s good.

  • Making it through hard times together has a way of sealing the deal that twice the amount of happiness could never do.

    • Amen, Jana. That’s the truth. And too many quit before making it through to the other side, I suspect.

  • I’ll say more on this in a larger segment, but the Stills have thrived on a steady diet of celebrating the other person. I’m seeing a lot of young couples hitching up these days and then freaking out that their partner likes movies they don’t like or wants to hang with old same sex friends or wants to pursue new hobbies. Latonya and I are drastically – DRASTICALLY – different people. The difference in our skin tone is the least of our differences. But we’ve found a way of celebrating the other person’s interests and ideas, even when they seem strange or foreign, and this has created a lot of excitement, new horizons, and adventure in our home: Latonya attended her first tattoo convention this past summer and I learned some stuff about gardening last spring. I’m sad when I see couples who, in becoming “one flesh”, need to become one person or one identity. I see couples fighthing to cancel out each other’s natural tendencies and ways – and I’m not talking about attempts to change those things that might be detrimental, I mean working to alter the other person’s idiosyncracies, possibly the very attributes that made them lovely in the first place. Perhaps it all comes down to trust – trust that your spouse can continue to grow without growing apart from you. In that situation, if such a fear exists, the fear of growth is not your mate’s problem, it’s your own. Let love drive out fear and get busy praising the little things that make that person the one you chose. That’s what I’m saying, and that’s all I gots to say.

    • word! i love this!

      • Yes, I love this too. Kevin and I had a long talk about celebrating your spouse that was really amazing. That guy has some good good words on the topic.

        Kevin, thanks for sharing this here. Very good words.

      • Steph M.

        Yes! Adam went into Pottery Barn today & I’m watching the Hogs game! Give & take!

    • Single-girl speaking: heard.

  • Kathy

    What to say? We’re to celebrate 24 years in a couple of weeks. That feels like a huge accomplishment and we’ve such a long way to go. Especially me I think. The words from Hamster above, “working to alter the other person’s idiosyncracies” – Perhaps that is part of my problem. We’ve changed so much in the years together, I wonder if I don’t allow him to be himself enough. And yet, I know I’ve grown in this area. My eyes have been opened by a loving God to see what he created for me to love. This brings me to what I can share for your collective.

    Two things to apply to a marriage relationship – mercy and thankfulness. I am reminded often to show mercy to him, as Christ has shown me. All the time. I am reminded that thankfulness changes things. All the time.

    Oh, and one more thing – keep God first. Is this not true in any part of our life? It is so true in our marriage relationship. When things are out of wack, as they seem to be now, the only thing that will “fix” it is to put God back in his rightful place, both as individuals and as a couple. Blessings!

    • Kathy, these are good words. We, too, have found that mercy and gratefullness (sometimes merciful gratefullness) are cures to what ails. That being said, I don’t think I ever thought to put it in those terms.

      Thanks, again.

  • being married to an autistic man i can get frustrated by his inabilities – i often have to act as both the husband and the wife, the mother and the father to our kids, and there is little rest and comfort.

    but i know i was attracted into his marriage partly by my husband’s weakness and i know i complain only when it momentarily does not suit me, when i am tired, when i would like to be pampered and spoiled by him. so when i find myself thinking this man is no good, i make myself be aware of my dominant personality and realize it would be harder for me with a different man. it came to me one day that each of us has our issues, but we are perfect match. it would be no use searching for the missing things in other people – everyone has some “special needs” the partner has to accept, learn to live with, learn to love with time. so why not do it with my husband then? so my little marriage wisdom is

    give all you have and cherish all you are given.

  • ‘We can love completely without complete understanding.’ – A River Runs Through It

    ‘Make someone happy/make just someone happy.’ (Jimmy Durante version, please)

    I realize these could be skewered by some, that’s fine…but the longer I’m married (21 yrs now) the more fragrant those sentiments…thanks for asking, Seth.

    • That’s why I’m glad you visited. Good words, John.

      “On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words…”

  • Steph M.

    I absolutely love being married to my man! We are 18 years into this “oneness” thing and I love the adventure. Hard? Yes! Worth it? Yes!
    Couple things that have helped me-
    -Timing is HUGE! I don’t attempt to have deep discussion in the mornings before he leaves for work, or right when he walks in the door. I think to myself, “Is he hungry? Is he tired? Is this a stressful time? Have we had sex lately? All these things can effect the filter as to how things are received/processed in a “deep discussion”!
    – Putting other person before yourself– when I’m
    making sure his needs are met & he is making sure my needs are met, this crazy thing happens…BOTH are needs are being met!
    -Laugh A LOT – at yourself & the situations that arise… They will pass (good & bad)
    -Totally agree forgiveness is huge! We have been forgiven much, so pass it on!
    – Realize that NO ONE will be a better match for you than the spouse standing right in front of you!
    – Have to have Christ as The Foundation… Sometimes He is the only common ground you can get to.

    • This is all good and knowing you makes it all the more believable. Y’all are good people. Tell A I said, “what up.”

  • *chiming in, quietly*

    Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if I allow someone or something to come between my husband and me…if I willingly hurt my husband…I can never be right. Even if I’m “right,” I’m wrong. I wrote more about this, here: http://brandeeshafer.blogspot.com/2011/01/just-let-go.html

    Another thing I’ve learned (from reading my friend Anne Conder at I Live in an Antbed) is that Jesus won’t war with Himself. So, if my husband and I are both in the center of God’s will, we’ll be in harmony. I think it’s so important to diffuse a situation by taking time to pray. My husband and I have a long way to go in this respect, though.

    • Thanks for these words. I’ll check your link out (and I hope others will too).

      As an aside, I though you said “Anne Coulter.” I was very confused.

  • The mantra I’ve subconsciously picked up throughout my marriage, perhaps even before, is Stick it out; things WILL change.

    I have seen seemingly insurmountable differences resolved, seemingly unforgivable wrongs released, and seemingly unfixable situations redeemed. I have seen couples who should never have gotten together bloom into glorious marriages. I have seen the low times in my own marriage, times when I’ve cried myself to sleep over the thought that it would never get any better, give way to levels of beautiful intimacy that I couldn’t have imagined before.

    It gives me so much hope in the hard times to remember that gritting my teeth and keeping my vows WILL result in transformation.

  • Rachel H

    Marriage is a beautiful picture of the gospel.. as we grow in our understanding of what a mess we are.. we grow in our understanding of how deeply we loved are by a savior who paid for it all..

    As spouses we are called to, through the strength of the Holy Spirit, extend grace as we see more and more of our spouse’s mess.. to choose to actively love rather then condemn, to be honest about what has hurt us, but to extend grace and choose to let self ambition and self centeredness die as we value our spouse above ourselves.. put together two people who at least hope to be able to do this through Christ’s strength… your marriage will reflect God’s goodness and grace.

    The marriage relationship is one of God’s main tools of sanctification.. it is a sweet gift that our Potter uses to mold and shape us and prepare us for the wedding to come…