I think everyone who has ever been married would agree: when they first got married, they believed their marriage would be successful. They believed they would be together forever.
But if we all go into marriage thinking this, what goes wrong? What makes some marriages more successful than others? What is the secret to a happy marriage?
If you’ve ever wondered this, you’re in luck, because I have the answer! Last year, our church had the priviledge of hosting guest speaker Shaunti Feldhahn, best-selling author of books such as For Women Only and For Men Only, speaker, wife, and mother.
Shaunti recently released the book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, which is a book detailing the results of a nation-wide survey of married couples. When she spoke at our church, she shared some of the great insights she found when doing this survey.
There was one overwhelmingly common trait among the happiest married couples: choosing to believe their significant other had the best intentions, even when we’re hurt.
In marriage and relationships, things are bound to go wrong. Your spouse will let you down. Your spouse will make mistakes. But in those moments, do you automatically assume the worst of your mate, or do you choose to believe that they had good intentions?
Your spouse said something that hurt your feelings. You can either choose to believe (a) they wanted to hurt you or (b) they didn’t know their words would come off the way they did.
Your husband is running late from work. You can either choose to believe (a) he cares more about work than you or (b) he tried his absolute hardest to get out of work to come home and be with family but some unexpected issues came up.
Your wife forgot to pick up that item you needed from the store. You can either choose to believe (a) the things I say don’t matter to her or (b) she had a lot on her mind and accidentally forgot.
I know this is something that I personally struggle with. I’m more of a glass-half-empty type of person. It’s not necessarily that I think the worst of others…it’s that I believe that others are thinking the worst of me! But in the end, that way of thinking comes off as negative as if I were assuming the worst of others.
This plays out in my relationship with Kevin. He will say something to me and I’ll automatically think he is putting me down. That is certainly not assuming the best in him!
If we want to have more successful marriages, let’s choose today to change our thought-patterns.
That’s a nice principle, but how do you actually do that? Admit to yourself now that your spouse will inevitably make a mistake…we’re all human. Then, decide right now what you want to choose to believe whe that situation arises:
“I know he genuinely loves me and cares about me. I know that he would not choose to hurt me and that he has the best intentions. While what he did has upset me and frustrated me, I know that he did not intend to, so there must have been some other reason why he did it.”
Say that out loud several times. Even write it down. Really ingrain it in your mind.
It’s important to decide ahead-of-time what kind of attitude you will choose to have when problems arise. In the heat of the moment your emotions will take over. Your gut reaction will not be to believe the best. But if you have chosen ahead-of-time the attitude you want to have, it will be easier for you to think past the emotions.
Of course, choosing to believe your spouse had the best intentions doesn’t mean you should just shrug off the issue. Communicate openly with your spouse about what they did that hurt you and how they can avoid that in the future. Additionally, if your spouse is abusive, the time to “think the best” is passed. Do not stand for being abused.
Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly want my marriage to stand the test of time. We can make that happen today in the tiny choices we make to choose to believe the best of our mate.
Is this something you struggle with too? Are you more of a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person? I’d love to hear in the comments! (No spouse-bashing, please)
You can listen to Shaunti’s full message, “There Is Hope For Your Marriage,” here!