A Happy Home—Where Two Equals One
IF YOU were to build a strong, secure, comfortable home, what materials would you use? Wood? Brick? Stone? Here is what the Bible book of Proverbs recommends: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established. And by knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.” (Proverbs 24:3, 4) Yes, it takes wisdom, discernment, and knowledge to build a happy home.
Who does the building? “The truly wise woman has built up her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” (Proverbs 14:1) The same is true for the wise man who sees that it is within his hands to make his marriage strong and happy or weak and miserable. What factors make the difference? How interesting that the suggestions of some modern marriage counselors so closely parallel the timeless wisdom of God’s Word, written thousands of years ago.
Listening: “Really listening is one of the greatest compliments you can pay to another person and is crucial in building and maintaining an intimate relationship,” says a marriage handbook. “The ear of wise ones seeks to find knowledge,” states the Proverb. (Proverbs 18:15) Since open ears are not visible like open eyes or an open mouth, how can you show your mate you are truly listening? One way is by mirroring, or active listening.—See box on page 11.
Openness and intimacy: “Our culture works against openness,” notes the book One to One—Understanding Personal Relationships. “We are taught from an early age to mind our own business—to be secretive about money, ideas, feelings, . . . anything personal. This lesson does not simply go away, even when we ‘fall in love.’ Unless a continuing struggle for openness takes place, intimacy cannot flourish.” “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” observes Proverbs, “but with those consulting together there is wisdom.”—Proverbs 13:10; 15:22.
Loyalty and trust: Husband and wife vow before God to be loyal. When marriage partners trust that each is loyally committed to the other, love is unencumbered by suspicion, pride, spirit of competition, preoccupation with getting one’s fair share.
Sharing: A relationship deepens with shared experiences. In time a couple can weave a priceless tapestry of history that each cherishes. To consider tearing apart that bond of friendship is the furthest thing from their minds. “There exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.”—Proverbs 18:24.
Kindness and tenderness: Kind acts reduce life’s frictions and dilute pride. Patterns of kindness, if ingrained, remain intact even if emotions run high during disagreements, thus minimizing damage. Tenderness creates a warm climate in which love can grow. Though gentleness may be especially difficult for a man to express, the Bible says: “The desirable thing in earthling man is his loving-kindness.” (Proverbs 19:22) As for a good wife, “the law of loving-kindness is upon her tongue.”—Proverbs 31:26.
Humility: An antidote for the poison of pride, humility prompts ready apologies and frequent expressions of thanks. What if you are truly innocent of a stated offense? Why not gently say, “I’m sorry you’re so upset”? Manifest concern for your mate’s sensitivities, then together see how to correct the wrong. “It is a glory for a man to desist from disputing.”—Proverbs 20:3.
Respect: “The key word in recognizing each other’s differences and working them out together is respect. What is important to one spouse may not be equally important to the other. Nevertheless, each spouse can always respect the other’s views.” (Keeping Your Family Together When the World Is Falling Apart) “By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle, but with those consulting together there is wisdom.”—Proverbs 13:10.
Humor: The darkest clouds of crisis may dissipate with a good laugh together. It ripples across the bonds of love and relieves the tension that often cripples clear thinking. “A joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance.”—Proverbs 15:13.
Giving: Launch a happy hunt for things to appreciate about your mate and give compliments generously. These coveted items may bring a greater heart response than a silk tie or a bouquet of flowers. Of course, you can still buy or do nice things for each other. But “the greatest gifts you can give,” says the book Lifeskills for Adult Children, “can’t be put in a box. They are your expressions of love and appreciation, your encouragement, and your assistance.” “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.”—Proverbs 25:11.
If these qualities could be compared to building blocks of the marital relationship, then communication is the mortar needed to cement them together. So, what can couples do when disagreements arise? “Instead of seeing your partner’s differing views as a source of conflict, . . . find them a source of knowledge. . . . The details of everyday life become a gold mine of information,” says the book Getting the Love You Want.
See every occasion of disagreement, then, not as a call to arms, but as a precious opportunity to gain insight into this one you love. Together accept the challenge to work out the difference and sail into the peaceful harbors of harmony, thus strengthening the bonds, deepening the love that makes the two of you one.
Jehovah God sees great beauty in cooperation and so built it into his creation—in the give-and-take oxygen cycle of plants and animals, the orbits of heavenly bodies, the symbiotic relationships between insects and flowers. So, too, in the marital union, there can exist a warm cycle in which a husband, in word and in deed, reassures his wife of his love and a trusting, loving wife contentedly follows his lead. Thus, the two really do become one, bringing joy to each other and to the Originator of marriage, Jehovah God.
[Box on page 11]
“Pay Attention to How You Listen.”—Luke 8:18
Active listening is a method of ensuring that speaker and listener truly understand each other. It is sometimes called mirroring, since the listener attempts to reflect the words he hears and the meaning he perceives. These are the basic steps:
1. Pay careful attention; listen for important messages.
2. Listen for feelings underlying the words.
3. Repeat to the speaker what you hear. Don’t judge, criticize, or dispute. Just let the person know you have correctly received the message. Acknowledge the feelings.
4. The speaker will probably either confirm or correct what you say and may perhaps expand on the subject further.
5. If your understanding is inaccurate, try again.
Active listening is especially effective in reducing the sting of criticism. Accept the fact that criticism is often based on some truth. It might be delivered in a painful way, but instead of defensively heaving the pain back on the critic, why not use active listening to defuse the situation? Acknowledge that you understand whatever upset feelings you may be held responsible for, and see how the matter can be rectified.
[Box on page 12]
“If Anyone Has a Cause for Complaint.”—Colossians 3:13
When you have a complaint, how can you best deliver it without starting a war? First, give your mate credit for being well-intentioned. You might feel he or she was inconsiderate, thoughtless, brash, unwise—but overall it is likely that no harm was meant. Calmly state your feelings without accusation: “When you did this, then I felt . . .” No fuel for dispute here. It simply states how you feel and does not accuse your mate. Since the person may never have intended to upset you at all, the reaction may be denial or self-justification. Focus on the problem, though, and be ready to propose a solution.
[Picture on page 10]
Really listening is one of the greatest compliments you can pay to another person