Posts tagged worthy of praise

Denial the key to happy marriage?



Last week, I sat in on a broadcast taping of FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast. Shaunti Feldhahn was discussing her latest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. I’m in the process of reading through the book and plan to write some blog posts about it as it relates to men.

happy marriage

Photo by Bill Branson

The book is the result of her surveying and interviewing about 1,000 couples, looking to find common denominators to marriage success. One of the findings that caught my attention was the idea of assuming the best of a spouse.

Feldhahn found out that more than 95 percent of couples who identified themselves as highly happy said they know their spouse still cares about them, even in the midst of an argument. For those who called themselves mostly happy, it was still 87 percent. By contrast under 60 percent of struggling couples felt that way about their spouse.

This wasn’t the first time I’d run into this phenomenon.

I keep my eye on research about marriage and family issues. Several years ago, I ran across a study that piqued my interest. The finding was that perception, and not reality, is the source of marital bliss. 

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed 77 married couples and 92 dating couples about their relationships. Or their perception of it. The article I had read in LiveScience took a very jaded view of the researchers’ findings, but acknowledged the same conclusions as in Feldhahn’s new book.

As self-interested, self-absorbed creatures, our own thoughts, feelings, needs and goals come first, and that sometimes means fooling ourselves into thinking we are the center of other people’s thoughts, feelings, needs and goals when, in fact, they are mired in their own business.

But should we be disillusioned by our own illusions? Maybe not. Happy marriages might just be those in which both partners uphold a very nice perception of each other, even when things aren’t so great. And this makes sense. Happiness is a state of mind, and if denial paints a partner better than they really are, the relationship is bound to be satisfying, as long as no one is slapped in the face with reality.

This perception is not so much about denial as it is about being charitable and gracious to a spouse. And this revelation is nothing new. One of the best-known Bible passages, even cited by non-believers, comes from the 13th chapter of the Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In it he lists seven things that love is and eight that it isn’t.

Love IS:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Truthful
  • Protective
  • Trusting
  • Hopeful
  • Persevering

Love ISN’T

  • Envious
  • Boastful
  • Proud
  • Rude
  • Self-Seeking
  • Easily Angered
  • A Score-Keeper
  • Glad About Evil

Any guy who’s been married more than a few days knows that the difference between the two lists comes down to willful choice. There will be times when you feel your wife’s actions deserve a snide remark, but what she needs is to be shown love and forbearance.

I’ve come to realize that the best way to avoid the low road is to run everything through the filter of Philippians 4:8, which challenges us to look exclusively at the other person in the best possible light.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

So, actually, seeking the best in the one you’ve seen fit to commit your life to is not denial of the truth … it’s the recognition of it.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post Denial the key to happy marriage? from the Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDo you find yourself assuming bad motives in your spouse? What would happen if you started assuming the best?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSpeaking the Truth in Love turns conflict into connection. Read how to package the two in this FamilyLife.com article.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post with your spouse or a friend and challenge each other to build a marriage on expecting the best.

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