The Habits of Marriage


Does your spouse ever tick you off? Are there moments where you both disagree? What is your typical response in these times? What’s your habit?

Every couple has their pressure points that can rub them right into a rubble. Dan and I do! And the one thing that can set us off is my driving skills! More on that in a moment.  Often times, it’s in these skirmishes that both partners will react with a bad habit of criticism and accusations. Why is it that we first accuse instead of encourage? For one our expectations are often too high for each other. Secondly, we are so comfortable with each other, we have no grace filter. These habits formed over years and years become our default in times of conflict. But the good news is these habits can die. Yes, they may die hard, but they can be extinguished. How?

I was reading Psalm 139 this morning and the first three verses say this: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

First of all, God knows our struggles. He is familiar with every detail. There are two key words in this passage: thoughts and ways. One feeds the other. Our thoughts feed our ways.  For example, if I think about eating that doughnut long enough, I’ll eat it. If I ponder not exercising long enough, I won’t. And if I think negative thoughts about my husband, I’ll react to him with negative actions.

The word “ways” in Hebrew is deh’-rek; and guess what it translates to? Habit! God is familiar with all our habits. And our habits stem from our thoughts. So how do we extinguish our bad habits? By changing our thoughts! When the conflict heightens in your marriage, do you default to criticism and accusations, or seek to understand and encourage your spouse? Criticism dampens their spirit, whereas encouragement strengthens their growth.

Another interesting insight that God gave me this morning that really put feet to this conviction is found in Psalm 139: 17-18, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” This propelled me to compare my thoughts to God’s when my husband makes me mad. Ouch! That convicts! For I know that when I am angry with my husband and he is angry with me, we are not thinking what God is thinking about us! So the question to ask when we are angry with each other is this, “Are my thoughts about my spouse aligning with God’s?” If they are not, then we need to renew our mind by remembering what God says about each other: we are children of God, saved by Christ’s blood, a child of great value, a priest in His kingdom, precious in His sight, worth dying for… and the list goes on. If God can grant us grace, then we can do the same for each other. After all, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! God’s thoughts about us are good and His habit with us is grace.  

Without making this story long, Dan and I have one pressure point that can send us reeling into a heated argument: my driving! I’m not the best driver on the track for sure. I have improved over the years, but for the most part, I’m terrible! So Dan would be right in saying I need do take this more seriously. But he agreed that he needed to encourage me more than criticize. And we got the chance to practice this in Atlanta, GA, last week. Yay, us! 

Upon arrival we went to pick up our rental car. I’m thinking, “Yay! A whole week without driving!” Wrong! The name on the form of payment we used had to match the driver’s name. All the cards were in my name. That meant I had to drive. I’m thinking, “This will be an interesting week. This may be our catalyst to the Atlanta divorce courts (just kidding).”  I knew the one thing we were going to learn this past week was how to deal with this conflict. It was a rough start, but in the end we both realized that our tone with each other was hurtful and we would most likely never speak that way to another person. And since we were not just husband and wife, we were also best friends; we needed to learn how to handle this conflict in love. By the end of the week, I chose to listen to my husband’s advice and he chose to speak words of encouragement to me about my driving. Finally, after almost 29 years of marriage, this was a good lesson for us to learn!

At Catalyst, we heard the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg speak on habits. I am reading his book and learning so much about habits and how to extinguish bad habits and create healthier and better ones. He speaks about creating habits by having a cue that starts a new routine and ends with a reward. Often times, our disagreements in our marriage are cues to practice a new routine – speaking in tones of love, encouraging each other instead of dampening, etc. – this new routine (habit) reaps great rewards – closeness, intimacy, friendship and a tighter bond together. What great rewards!

The Psalmist also knew how hard this was, so his prayer was this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way (habit) in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (habit)” (Psalm 130:23-24).

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#gomarriage #newhabits #greatrewards

Picture: “Silhouette Of A Couple” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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