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When I started to drive, Dad told me about the “idiot lights” – the red lights on the dash that came on when the oil was low or the engine was too hot. Dad called these lights idiot lights because he said only an idiot would ignore the lights. He made a big assumption. The assumption was that the driver understood the lights were saying it is time to maintain your investment in your car or the ongoing functioning of your car is in serious trouble.
So let’s look at the investment in your marriage. Most of us own a car. Owning a car takes effort and responsibility just as do relationships and marriage. In the U.S. the divorce rate of first time marriages is 40%, 60% of second marriages end in divorce and 75% of third marriages fail. From these statistics, it looks like we are ignoring the marriage idiot lights and our marriages are failing because of our lack of action. How about looking at two areas in your marriage that should have warning lights?
The First Idiot Light: Knowing Your Spouse’s Love Language. It would be helpful if there were a warning light that came on when we ignored our spouse’s love language. What is a love language? It is way you communicate that make your spouse feel loved. The problem is that many of us worry about our personal love language but don’t take time to know our partner’s love language. Which actions do you think will make your spouse feel loved?
A gift of flowers?
Coming home to a clean house and cooked dinner?
A comment that he/she is the best spouse?
Telling him/her you have arranged for a date night for just the two of you?
A hug or back rub?
There is no universal answer. You need to find out what starts your spouse’s engine: high octane, premium, regular, or ethanol gas. Gary Chapman’s Book The Five Love Languages contains a section that can help you learn your spouse’s love language. Here is another way to uncover the mystery. Write your spouse a note. Start the note with “The reasons I love you … ” Now take a second piece of paper and write “You make me feel loved when you …” This is a team project; both of you need to write these notes; share the notes and talk about what you have written. The goal is to find out what makes your spouse feel loved.
The Second Idiot Light: Knowing Effective Communication. You have probably heard that communication is a key element in any relationship. That is true if it is effective communication. What is effective communication? That does depend somewhat on the situation. For example, if tree is about to fall on your spouse, effective communication would not be “Honey, when you get a chance could we talk for a minute.” You would tell him/her about the impending danger in a more direct way, “Honey, come here.”
The way you talk with your spouse is critical. Requests that come across as demanding ultimatums aren’t generally effective. For example: “You never take me anywhere. For two years I have been telling you I want to go somewhere. But obviously you do not care about our relationship anymore.” What we call a Considerate Request generally works better. This request reworded would be, “I really enjoy when we make time to get away together. What do you think about seeing the new Star Wars movie Saturday?”
The idea is to make your communication as loving, civil, and polite as possible. When you talk in a critical, demanding way the other person’s automatic reaction is to become defensive. A good defense is to create distance not create intimacy. Remember the old saying “you’ll attract more flies with honey.” Like all investments, relationships need maintenance. But with a little effort the payoff is great
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24