Friday, January 11, 2013

Marriage Success Strategies:3. Honor

This post is the third in a series.
According to Patricia McGerr, writing in the February, 1988, Reader’s Digest, Johnny Lingo was a shrewd Polynesian trader who visited the Kiniwata Island in the Pacific. He was looking for a wife, and he met a young, single woman named Sarita. The custom was that a man would offer a girl’s father two or three cows as a gift when he asked for her hand in marriage. Some eligible young ladies brought more beef than others! Lingo did what most considered unthinkable. He gave Sarita’s father eight cows. Eight cows! The wedding took place, and she was known from that point on as the “eight-cow woman.” That may not be the most desirable nickname, but the effect was powerful. Sarita held her head higher, stood taller, and faced life more confidently just because of what her husband thought she was worth. 
What would it do for your marriage, for your spouse, and even for you, if you dedicated yourself to honoring your mate? The fact is that every word and every action in every marriage is a value statement. We put a price tag on our wife or husband by the way we treat her or him every day.
The Word of God specifically commands men as follows. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7, ESV).
In a failing marriage, at least one person feels dishonored, undervalued, mistreated, and disrespected. Words are caustic and strike below the belt. Body language and tone also intimidate, cut down, and dishonor.
● “I can’t believe you’re so dumb! Don’t you know better than that?”
● “You look ridiculous in that outfit! Why can’t you dress like her?”
● “You know, the guy I could have married makes a lot more money than you! Why don’t you do something important with your life?”
● “You bought WHAT? Don’t you have any sense at all?”
● “No wonder you have turned out like you have, considering how awful / rude / ugly / selfish / mean / stingy your mother (or father) is.”
● “You are an embarrassment to me.”
● “You’ll never amount to anything.”
● “You never do anything right.”
● “What was I thinking when I married you?”
● “I told my best friend how lazy and selfish you are. He (or she) agreed.”
In a failing marriage, the message is, “You are worthless, insignificant, unintelligent, inferior, and useless.”
The children learn from their parents how to dishonor others in order to get their way. They disobey their teachers. They hurt and yell at their siblings. They mock, mimic, and ridicule people in authority. They become bullies. In their fights, the one who hurts the other the most is the winner. They are just doing to others what Mom or Dad has done to the other parent, and to the children as well.
Many times people dishonor their mates because they feel like failures themselves. “Misery loves company.” People who dislike themselves can be very effective at finding fault with others. Then the marriage can become a contest to see who can depreciate the other the most and the fastest.
In a successful marriage, both spouses choose the opposite approach instead. Each determines, “Today I will place the highest value I possibly can on my mate. I will affirm, uplift, and reinforce him or her. I will go first and take the initiative. I will continue to honor him or her, regardless of circumstances or challenges, because I honor the Lord by doing so.”
There are countless ways to express this idea in marriage. Time invested, gifts of genuine appreciation, and sharing in the other person’s interest all say, “You are an eight-cow woman!” Bringing coffee, opening a door, squeezing an arm, and holding hands are simple but clear signals that say, “You are precious to me.” Here are some specific words that honor, also.
● “I can’t get over it! Of all the people you could have married, you chose me! I am most blessed to get to spend this life with you.”
● “I appreciate the things you do over and over to help keep our family going. You wash the dishes, mow the grass, take our kids to school, etc. I notice, and I am determined not to take you for granted.”
● “I could never pay you what you’re worth to me.”
● “I value your time and your patience. I know that sometimes I nag and complain. I’m sorry. You’re worth so much more to me than that.”
● “My goal is to become the man or woman who deserves you.”
● “You are such an influential role model for our son (or daughter). I’m so glad that he (or she) has you for a father (or mother).”
● “I really admire you because …”
● “I value your opinion, and I’d really like to hear what you think.”
● “I have noticed how sweet / thoughtful / generous / kind your mother (or father) can be. I am thankful for your family’s good qualities.”

● “I told my best friend how thoughtful, supportive, and unselfish you are. He (or she) agreed.”
Children learn the honor principle from their parents. They “honor father and mother” as the Bible teaches. They respect authority in the home, in the school, in the streets, and in the church. They bring the honor principle into their own marriages, and the cycle continues.
Do you want a successful, happy marriage? Just decide what it’s worth to you, and what your spouse is worth, and act accordingly.
Cory Collins