Do you like what your know about your spouse? (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work Chapter 4)

In chapter 3 of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman said that marriage is about getting to know each other and maintaining the discipline of knowing throughout married life.
But, let’s be real. Getting to know someone only works if you like what you get to know. So, along with the discipline of getting to know each other, husbands and wives have to grow in appreciation of each other. This is Principle #2.
We must always guard what we know and treat it with respect and care. Because, as Gottman says, “Fondness and admiration can be fragile unless you remain aware of how crucial they are to the friendship that is at the core of any good marriage.”
How can we do this? How do we maintain fondness and admiration for our spouse? The discipline of dwelling on the positive.
Gottman advise is not new to we who strive to build a Christian marriage. I Corinthians 13:7 says that love hope all things and believes all things. The idea is that love hopes for the best and believes the best about the other.
Too many couples I meet don’t discipline themselves to think the best about their spouse. A failure to remain positive undermines the relationship and allows anger, bitterness, and contempt to flood in whenever the occasion might be needed.
Developing admiration for your spouse provides a framework of strength. Then even when disagreements arise, problems can be addressed openly and honestly.
Gottman gives some positive places in which to focus a positive way of viewing our spouse:
Think of one thing that you both have in common.
Describe one belief you share.
Think about a particularly tough time in your marriage that you were able to get through.
The battle for rethinking our marriage begins with our point of view in the present. In fact, many researchers say this is the defining characteristic of your marriage. If you view your spouse positively in the present, you will remain married. If you view your spouse negatively in the present, you will end up divorced. This might be an oversimplification, but not by much.
The great challenge for all married minds is to remain positive toward our spouse regardless of their shortcomings and failures. We cannot see them as the problem while we shrug off our own problems. We cannot point fingers at them and acquit ourselves of hurting our marriage.
Instead, we must commit to seeing our marriage as the most important relationship that we have. One of the things that is so striking about the Song of Solomon is the fact that the lovers are so committed to a positive view of each other and their relationship. Their powerful connection with one another reveals the way God intends us to view the other. Commentator Tremper Longman III says, “By describing a love that is intense, exclusive, and faithful in spite of the obstacles, the Song indirectly but passionately reveals God’s will for that special relationship between man and woman.”
The Song of Solomon is filled with statements that reveal just how positive the lovers are to one another:

In 1:3, the woman says, “Your name is a perfume poured out.” She finds his whole character to be enticing and exciting.

In 2:2, the man says, “Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the young women.” She stands out among all women. He is attracted to her alone and all others fail in comparison.

In 2:3, the woman says, “Like an apricot tree among the trees of the forest, so is my love among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.” She finds delight in his protection and relief (the shade) and loves to enjoy him in all ways (taste).

In 2:14 the man says, “Your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” He finds everything about her to be attractive to him. He cannot get enough of her.

In 4:1, the man says, “How beautiful you are, my darling. How very beautiful!” The man obviously finds her to be attractive and isn’t afraid to let her know.

In 5:10, the woman says, “My love is fit and strong, notable among ten thousand.” For the woman, her man stands out and is better than other men. She esteems him as above and beyond all others.

In 6:4, the man says, “You are as beautiful as Tizrah, my darling, lovely as Jerusalem, awe-inspiring as an army with banners.” Tizrah was the capital of the Northern Kingdom and was known for its beauty, abundant water, and strategic importance. Jerusalem, of course, was the center of all life for the people of Israel and is referred to in the Scripture as “joy of all the earth.” The woman inspires awe in him like the feeling he gets when he looks at a great army. She is strong and it impresses her lover.

Positive energy flows through the relationship because they have such a positive view of one another. They are no cynical and negative thoughts toward each other. They speak from great and lofty thoughts about their relationship.


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