“…Let us go on to maturity…” Hebrews 6:1b
What are the things that bring about a pleasant and happy marriage?
Maturity has a lot to do with having a happy marriage. But most people considering marriage think more about qualities like love and happiness. They may even think about things like peace and tranquility, but these thoughts usually come after a few months or years of having disagreements. We all want to have an easy relationship so we can enjoy our relationship and also focus on areas of interest and personal growth. No one wants to have a spouse that is irritating and critical of many things about us. There are self-help books, blogs, seminars and courses that provide some helpful ideas to reduce marital tensions and frustrations, but while these can be good and helpful, there is another solution that is often overlooked, partly because it takes more time to implement. This other solution is to change our character so that our behavior is new and better, because we are better. This solution means taking time to change our thinking. After I change the way that I think, I will change my habits and respond differently to the people and situations around me.
So, how do we change our thinking? That is the big question. We change our thinking by learning new things and deciding to focus our attention on these new ideas sufficiently so that we begin to think and respond differently. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” If we accept this proverb to be true, then we might say that our perception creates reality. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus makes a similar statement. He said, “For it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.” In this case, when Jesus is speaking, he is using the heart to refer to our mind and our will together. He means that we speak from the things that we have filled our minds with. So if we begin to fill our minds with new material, then we will begin to think differently and then we will begin to speak and act differently too.
Maturity is learned, of course. So, although it is good to learn how to be more patient, for example, we will only become more patient when we go deeper and change our thinking that is causing our impatience. If we read or listen to things that illustrate the value of all people and begin to move our thinking from our self being more important than everyone else in the world, then we will begin to be more patient with others, since we see them as having a greater value than we did previously. However, while we place ourselves in the place of most importance, we will be more likely to be impatient with others.
So that is how we can move toward having less tension and frustration in our marriage, and other relationships as well. This process of change is expressed by the apostle Paul in the bible when he says, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul is talking about how a follower of Jesus should make it a priority to allow God’s spirit and God’s word to change your life so that we are not conformed to the pattern of this world, but transformed by the truth in God’s word, the bible. This concept applied will change your marriage and your life. However, it takes effort and dedication to change your thinking, since it requires taking time to read or listen to things that are in line with the changes that you want.
In short, good relationships, especially in marriage, are about time together, relational knowledge and maturity. If a person is mature, he or she will be less self-focused, more patient, kind, and show sacrificial love toward others. A mature person will be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry,” like it says in James 1:19 in the bible.
Let us say that we give a number value to maturity. Five as very mature and one as very immature. Now, in a marriage there are two people, so let us give each a rating. If one spouse is about a “4” and one is a “2”, then you have a “3” average for the marital maturity level. Now, “3” is not great, but it is something to work with. The marriage is likely to function pretty well most of the time and hopefully both will get more mature soon, so they will be able to have a much more happy and fulfilling marriage. However, if you have a spouse that is a “1” and a spouse that is a “3”, then there will be some serious problems that produce tension and frustration in the marriage. There will be little peace and tranquility for this marriage. If the marriage is going to make it there will need to be an infusion of maturity soon. This means that someone, if not both partners, will need to feel the need for change and decide to do some work to fill their minds with helpful maturity building concepts.
There are good books, classes, seminars, and courses to help us learn about relationships, as I mentioned earlier, but one of the common problems is that we often see the issues in the relationship as being about 98 percent caused by the other person. So, instead of doing things to correct the problems, we just wait for them to change. However, if the issues that cause problems in the marriage are mostly caused by our partner, then it is less likely that they will be the first to change. That is the way that it is. The less mature a person is, the less likely they are to see that they are the cause of any significant problem.
So what is the solution? Well, the only person in the marriage that you can change is yourself. So if you want a better marriage you will have to start by making changes to yourself. Many a married person will start off their solution options by thinking about how much better their life would be with another marriage partner. This does seem like the easy fix. This is not usually the best solution, however. It often appears as the easiest or simplest solution when we are feeling hurt or angry about situations that have been caused by a spouse. But changing partners usually is not the best solution. And that is supported by research. Sure things may get better for a short time if we begin again with a new person. However, with a new partner comes new problems. If instead, we change ourselves, we will likely see our partner making changes that are based on the changes that we have made. This way we will be learning to solve problems instead of running from them. And we will be practicing unselfishness. We will be thinking about how we can best help our spouse to be a better person, not just move to a more pleasant place for myself. So that is the opportunity that we have.
But what should we do with all the irritations and offensive things that we experience in this relationship? I do understand that it is difficult to tolerate offenses over and over. Well, to start we must do more than just tolerate these offenses. If we hope to mature more and give our marriage the best chance and hope for survival, then we will need to overlook as many of the small offenses and irritations as possible. To overlook them means that we just act like they didn’t even happen. The offenses that are larger and should not be overlooked must be worked through in the best way possible, which includes forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean the offense was small or unimportant, but forgiveness is what a child of God does when offended. As God forgave us, we must also forgive our brother (or spouse) from our heart. Jesus said that if we do not forgive our brother from our heart, neither will our heavenly father forgive us. But forgiveness is not just a requirement as a child of God, but it is a special path of grace to get freedom from the connection to the offense. Not forgiving keeps us tied to the offense, and we don’t want to live that way. Reconciliation may not be the goal with some very strong offenses, but when reconciliation is the goal, rather than holding the offenses inside forever, we communicate kindly and with care about the things that are not so easy to overlook. We learn how to become more loving, kind and considerate. And we hope and pray that they will respond favorably and start desiring to move up in maturity as soon as possible.
Of course our partner will not likely change as quickly as we would like, but they will make some changes as we change because they must respond to us differently as we change and become a different person. Movement toward maturity and offering forgiveness is the best way to bring more beauty and happiness into a marriage. It is not easy, but it does work most of the time. What do you think? Are you ready to look for a good book, YouTube video, seminar, or spend time thinking about some of the good verses in God’s word, the bible? These things are the pathway to beauty.
Maturity, commitment, forgiveness,
and a good attitude
are all important qualities
for a good