After reading the last two posts on Highly Effective Couples, do you believe your relationship is on the path to becoming highly effective?! What habits have you already created and which habits are you trying to adopt? Remember, just as with any other habit, it takes time to establish a pattern!
If you want to create the habit of active listening, you first have to choose to actively listen over and over again until you do it without thinking. If you want to be a cheerful giver, you have to choose to give, even if you are reluctant at first, until giving is like breathing to you (though giving should come after taking care of your own household first – time-wise and moneywise).
So, if you and your sweetheart are not “there” yet, don’t worry. Eric and I have not fully arrived yet either! But, we can hope and pray that our future children and grandchildren can look at our marriage and say, “I want to have what they have!”
Here are the final three habits of highly effective couples:
Forgiveness is essential… essential… to a healthy, effective marriage. Maybe forgiving someone 70×7 times seems unheard of to you; yet, once you have been married for a little while, 490 “forgivings” will seem like a low figure. You may forgive your future spouse that much in just the first year! ~smile~ Ruth Bell Graham is credited for saying that “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
It does not take long for a relationship, romantic or otherwise, to break down when unforgiveness enters the scene.
- Step 1: I am offended.
- Step 2: I either confront you, but don’t forgive you – or – I don’t confront you and hold a grudge against you.
- Step 3: I begin to pull away from you. I give you one word answers. I stop wanting to communicate with you.
- Step 4: My bitterness grows and creates a barrier between us, my bitterness grows into hatred, and my hatred completely turns my heart away from you.
This is how easily a small offense, or a series of small offenses, can drive a wedge between two people.
Successful couples have decided that they will be good forgivers and they have practiced forgiving. They have learned to overlook small issues (“He may never put his socks in the hamper, but I’m going to respect and honor him anyway”) and they tackle the big issues without tackling each other (“I’m not accusing you, but it seemed like you were trying to embarrass me in front of our guests. Please explain why you made that comment about me.”). (Proverbs 19:11)
Some people are huggers… bear huggers! When you first meet someone, it is hard to gauge whether or not they are of the hugger type. Someone may look cuddly, but stiffen up with a horrified expression when she sees you coming at her with extended arms. Others may look aloof and then surprise you with a goodbye hug shortly after meeting you. Some of my friends prefer a verbal goodbye or a light “flick” on the leg (you know who you are ~smile~), while others employ near-back-breaking chiropractic techniques when they hug.
Not all couples are going to be cuddly with each other, but I think all couples should employ some healthy, loving touches. Placing a hand on the shoulder as you pass each other. A squeeze of the hand in church. A back rub to help one another fall asleep. It is rare to find a happy couple who refuse to touch each other.
Research has shown that people actually need other human touch – it is a way to connect with other people. Most of us don’t run around touching everyone we see, so those we do touch are meaningful to us in some way. A purposeful, thoughtful touch communicates care and concern – and who does not want that from his or her sweetheart or spouse?
Recently, I stopped what I was doing to complete a quick chore for Eric while he was on the phone. While I was working on it, he touched my shoulder and smiled. It was a small gesture, but it communicated a lot!
People need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. My dad recently told me that he is not sure he ever wants to fully retire. He knows that if he does not get out of the house and do something useful at least a few days a week, he will go nuts!
Goals keep us from wondering aimlessly through life. When we set our mind on a goal, it is amazing how much we can accomplish! Over the past couple of years, a friend of mine has started running and since then, she has completed a number of athletic goals. She says that she likes pushing her body and seeing how far she can go.
So, if one person can accomplish so much by sheer will and God’s grace, imagine what two people with the same goals can do! Highly effective couples work together to reach new heights – in their relationship and for the world. Couples have started businesses, missions organizations, non-profit ministries, and the list goes on. One of the main differences I see between happy couples and highly effective couples is that happy couples do what it takes to keep their relationship thriving while highly effective couples use their thriving marriages to bring something special to the world.
A few weeks ago, one of our clients made the statement, loosely translated, “Marriage is not just about the people in it. It is meant to bless the world.” Amen. God created marriage as another way to glorify Himself. I don’t believe He intended us to get married solely for our own fulfillment (though I do believe He wants marriage to be fulfilling), but to give us a lifetime partner with whom we can intermingle our talents and bless the world. This is why Eric and I so strongly discourage couples from getting married when their skills, talents, callings, and goals are leading them in different directions. We are happiest when we are doing what God has called us to do.
It is a special couple, indeed, who has cultivated a relationship filled with prayer, dating, active communication, a rich social life, giving, playful teasing, forgiveness, loving touch, and common goals. Is this the kind of marriage you and your significant other are hoping to have one day? You can start working towards becoming a highly effective couple even before engagement!
We do recommend saving intimate Bible study and prayer times for after engagement and being cautious with the types and amounts of loving touches you share prior to the honeymoon. However, if you both want to be highly effective as a couple, you can be! Always let your Bible, and those couples you admire, be your guide! ~smile~
Who is the most highly effective couple you know? What do you admire about them most?