Early in my marriage, I had a habit of giving Susan feedback, but not in a helpful way. In fact, as I’ve written before, I had a critical spirit. I had to learn one of the most important marriage lessons I’ve learned: While it’s good to give your spouse constructive criticism, it’s better to give it sparingly.
Now, Susan and I have been married for over 30 years, and I’m still learning—I’m still learning about Susan, and I’m still learning important lessons. Here are the 3 most important marriage lessons I’ve learned so far.
1. Listen more.
In strong marriages, spouses listen well. Alan Alda said, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” And that isn’t always easy. Early in my marriage, I didn’t try to grow like that—I tried to change Susan. Instead of getting to know her heart and perspective, I tried to impose my heart and perspective on her. But by truly listening, by getting to know who she is and what she needs, I change. When I know her desires, I become a person who can provide them. When I know her needs, I become a person who can meet them. When I know her perspective, my understanding of her deepens. And that strengthens our bond.
2. Be humble.
You’ve probably heard it said that “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” Marriage is a good opportunity to do this. When you make it a point to think of others, you’re better able to serve them. If you are at the forefront of your mind, it won’t come naturally to you to consider your spouse’s needs when you’re making decisions. But if you think of your spouse more than you think of yourself, being considerate of him or her is actually possible. When spouses are considerate of each other, they feel loved and valued.
3. Be patient.
Have you ever seen a couple walking through a parking lot, the husband yards ahead of his wife? I’m guilty of it myself. When it happens, it isn’t because I can’t help but walk fast—it’s because I’m impatient. But impatience is rooted in something that damages marriages: selfishness. One of the most important marriage lessons is that we need to be patient. Being patient requires us to admit that we aren’t in control, that “my needs” aren’t the only needs or even the most important, and that other people are worth sacrificing for. And in a marriage, nothing communicates how important spouses are to each other as clearly as how patient they are with one another.
Here are a few other marriage lessons I’ve learned that’ll make your relationship better.
What are some of the most important marriage lessons you’ve learned? Share in a comment below.