Eight Practices That Are Revolutionizing My Marriage
Want to REVOLUTIONIZE your marriage? Whether you're thriving in your relationship or not, these eight practices from Dr. Clarence Schuler can deepen spiritual intimacy, affection, and establish a strong, healthy foundation for married couples.
Regardless of where I am, when people hear that I do relationships, immediately voices are lowered and heads turn! I explain that I help teenagers, singles (never married and divorcees), married couples, and parents to experience healthy, mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationships.
“I could have used your help before my divorce,” is a common response to my vocation. Unfortunately, I was not able to assist them; but maybe I can help you regardless of your marital status.
The last nine years of my marriage, I’ve practiced six principles that are revolutionizing my marriage. Revolutionizing is the correct word because most marriages, including mine are always in process. The seventh principle is about four years old. I’ve practiced the eighth principle out of necessity and with some difficulty throughout my marriage, but I just realized it. It is so critical to a healthy marriage. My marriage clients constantly reveal its necessity for a healthy lifelong marriage!
The Healthy Marriage Initiative of Administration for Children and Families states that couples who have some religious affiliation and participation together have better and longer lasting marriages (your tax dollars at work). So, my First Practice is encouraging Christian couples to read and apply the truths of the Bible together. This builds a spiritual intimacy. Since God created marriage, it is a spiritual entity. Our spiritual health impacts every spiritual and physical aspect of our marriage.
Often the first assignment that I give struggling Christian married couples is to read the New Testament book of Philippians together aloud. They read a chapter each night for a week. Yes, the couple will read some chapters twice and there is a method to my madness. They are given some specific instructions for after they have read each chapter.
After this week of reading, it is usually life-changing for most couples, who have never practiced this discipline. This only takes ten-fifteen minutes a day to experience a new spiritual closeness.
My Second Practice is praying together with your spouse. Dr. Phil says that praying together lowers a couples’ divorce chances to one out of ten thousand! Try holding hands or some form of touching while praying. Prayer usually bonds us to each other. According to the book, Faithful Attraction, “Prayer is the most powerful correlate of marital happiness that we have yet discovered.” It’s not divorce insurance, but it seems pretty close. If one of you is more comfortable praying than your spouse, make it easier and safe by: (1) keeping prayer short (three-five minutes) and (2) pray for each other, children if you have them, family members and your jobs. Time will fly by! If this is new for you as a couple, try praying four days a week and evaluate. The world won’t end if you miss a day.
The Third Practice is trying to be a pleasure to be married to! Ever asked yourself if you are a pleasure too? What do you think? What would your spouse say? I got up the courage to ask Brenda, my wife. She smiled as she said, “You’re okay?” My first thought was to reply, “Your Momma.” But I didn’t because I realized that I had work to do. Thirty-six years of marriage counseling reveals that habitually people focus on receiving in marriage, but not giving. We can’t change our spouses because if we could, we would have by now. But we can change ourselves. Doing so usually positively affects our spouse, promoting oneness. It is the law of reciprocity—the nature of human nature. Working to be a pleasure to be married to, it isn’t about doing nice things for Brenda, only when I want to do them. It is about serving her especially, when it is inconvenient. Whether or not your spouse ever says, “You are a pleasure to be married to,” keep working at it. You’ll bless your spouse, your marriage and all you see how you treat your spouse.
My Fourth Practice: developing a consistently adjusting attitude. A healthy, mutually beneficial and long-lasting marriage requires making adjustments initially such as, living together in one place as husband and wife and managing well together, issues such as money (debts, saving & spending) habits and family traditions. You marry into a family, with the in-laws and outlaws. The longer you are married, you may discover that your spouse and you have changed since your wedding. Smart married couples learn to adjust—and don’t draw a line in the sand. Instead, Brenda and I extend grace.
Telling myself that I love my wife, so that I do things I may not like, but do because I love her is my Fifth Practice. Think back to when you were dating. I don’t remember refusing to do anything Brenda wanted to do because I was in love! Years into our marriage, I was shocked when I heard myself speaking rudely to Brenda—no profanity. Never would I have spoken to her like that when we were dating or the early years of our marriage. My lack of sensitivity was a result of taking her and our marriage for granted. I’ve since trained myself to be more thoughtful when I speak to the love of my life and my bride of nearly thirty-seven years. She has noticed!
Practice Number Six is definitely one I enjoy! It is about sex! I love sex! In counseling Christian couples who have had affairs, I’ve learned from Melodie Fleming, a counseling peer, that for most women, it is riskier for the woman to have sex with the man than for the man to have sex with the woman. Most women according to Melodie, have to open themselves up to the man emotionally before doing so physically. She says, “This union requires a depth of emotional involvement in order for the woman to fully enter into the act.” So, husbands may need to focus on giving before attempting to receive. Communication, security and foreplay are essential. To experience incredible sex, couples must connect intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. The sexual act should be a physical celebration of these four connections. Unfortunately, many men and women have been sexually abused. If this is the case, such couples may need biblical counseling to in order to receiving healing. So Practice Six requires husbands and wives to be sexually sensitive to each other. Be sure to communicate with each other. Seek to bring pleasure to your spouse before seeking pleasure. Praying before and after sex may make a big difference.
Practice Seven requires becoming a student and servant of one’s spouse. It is simple, yet it can revolutionize your marriage! Understanding that your spouse may have been unintentionally or intentionally wounded by their parents or by people in authority over them when they were a child. Their wounds may be the result of emotional, verbal, or even worse, physical abuse. Realize that there are degrees of abuse. Be a safe and confidential person with whom your spouse to share their wounds.
Apart from the abuse, does it seem that a five-cent infraction receives a five or ten-dollar response? If this is a consistent response, consider asking your spouse with compassion, and not during conflict why he or she is so passionate about whatever the issue is. Their reply may reveal their hidden pain.
You may heal or begin healing your spouse, consequently, healing or improving your marriage. These suggestions don’t make you a counselor, just aware.
Practice Eight: Seeking and Granting Forgiveness. There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people. God’s sense of humor puts a man and woman together—there’s tremendous potential for chaos! Most men and women process information differently. Our sexual stimulation is different. Most men are compartmental—women holistic, most men have a “nothing box,” we can literally think about nothing. Most women don’t have this gift. Consequently, most couples are going to have conflict that will require forgiveness. Granting forgiveness doesn’t eliminate accountability or responsibility. Seeking forgiveness is taking responsibility for a wrong action or words without making excuses. Unforgiveness can eventually lead to a hardened heart that can end a relationship. We have to be careful if we say to our spouse, “I don’t feel like you are sincere in asking for forgiveness.” My love language is words of affirmative and encouragement. This isn’t Brenda’s love language. It’s not fair for me to feel that Brenda isn’t sincere if I don’t hear a certain tone when she’s apologizing. I have to take her at her word. Yet, we do tend to have a language of apology according to the book, The Five Love Languages of Apology. When Brenda and I either grant or seek forgiveness, it actually makes us closer. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?
You can have the marriage you’ve always wanted, if you’re willing to work for it!
Dr. Clarence Shuler (a.k.a. The Love Doctor)
President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships
Marriage book: Keeping Your Wife Your Best Friend (all of these principles are in this book)
FREE Video Series: Common Mistakes Most Couples Make www.clarenceshuler.com
Eight Practices That Are Revolutionizing My Marriage is a product of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships (BLR). All rights are reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without written permission from BLR. Using this article without BLR’s written permission may result in an intellectual property lawsuit.
Dr. Shuler is the President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships. He and Brenda have been married over 37 years. They conduct marriage, men’s, women’s, and singles seminars internationally. He filmed a session as relationship expert for Oprah’s Love Goals show (2020). In January 2020, Brenda and he were presented the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference Speakers of the Year Award. Dr. Gary Chapman and he speak together at The Five Love Languages and Date Night and Life-Changing Cross-Cultural Friendships events. Their newest book is Life-Changing Cross-Cultural Friendships: How You Can Help Heal Racial Divides, One Relationship at a Time. Clarence speaks to youth, college students and singles about friendships, dating, biblical sex, pornography and sexting. His Maximizing Difference (diversity) training is in constant demand. He’s authored 10 books. For more information visit www.clarenceshuler.com.