My husband, Chris, and I do not have the perfect marriage. In fact, it has been very challenging at times and we have gone through some tough seasons. We were recently reflecting on what has helped our marriage stay strong and continue to grow despite the challenges. Like many areas of our lives that have been transformed, we feel inspired to share what has made a difference for us in the good, bad, and ugly in hopes it will bless you as well.
We run a ministry with an emphasis on practicing relational skills because of the difference these skills have made in our own lives, so no surprise here – relational skills is a key ingredient in seeing our marriage thrive in the midst of the tough stuff. From recognizing the status of our brains’ relational mode, intentionally closing the joy gap, returning to joy from upsetting emotions to finding God’s perspective when things are hard (or our spouse is clearly wrong!), the relational skills have created a foundation of joy and peace as well as a road map for recovery when things go wrong.
In the midst of our reflection, the important role relational skills have played in the health of our marriage was no surprise, but it was a bit of a revelation to realize how crucial it has been to have people we trust to speak into our lives and correct our reality. We all have moments (or seasons) where we need some correction, some redirecting and sometimes even a slice of humble pie (healthy shame.) While Jesus is a key resource for this process, often Jesus uses our community to help us address our blind spots and help us hear what we can’t hear from Him (and definitely can’t hear from our spouse.)
Every couple pursuing a healthy marriage needs trusted people to speak into their reality. For Chris and I, these people have been narcissism detectors and sark busters who are willing to say hard things to us. These people we lovingly refer to as “buttkickers” are ones we trust enough to listen to and receive from even if we don’t like what they have to say. These are people we have invited to speak into our lives and challenge what we feel is true (for instance that our latest disagreement is all HIS fault!) While I don’t enjoy my serving of humble pie in the moment, when it preserves what matters most, it is worth chewing up and swallowing.
We have a number of family, friends, and even our board members who we make a point to be transparent with and invite their feedback and correction. This input has been a marriage saver!
Do you have trusted people you have invited to speak into your life and marriage? Do you feel you can be transparent about your struggles and weaknesses or do you feel the need to hide them? If you feel the need to hide your struggles, it is a red flag that trouble is ahead.
One other note of caution: as you look for people to speak into your life, it helps to have others with some maturity. A friend who you share your struggles with and agrees that the problems are all your spouses’ fault, is not actually a helpful source of feedback. You need people who can lovingly validate how upsetting things are and also help you see your part in the problems at hand.
To learn more about and practice the relational skills and your relational circuits, check out THRIVEtoday’s online courses and the Thriving Marriage Date nights. To learn more about narcissism and why we need someone outside of ourselves to give us feedback and check our reality, check out the book: The Pandora Problem.