I was going through a drawer at my mom’s house, looking for a scratch pad, when I came across a small vinyl record. It was in a cardboard sleeve dated 1950. My dad made the record for my mom when he was in the Korean War—the first year they were married.
He talked about how much he loved her, couldn’t wait to be with her again, and how he missed her. There was so much emotion in his voice, I could hear it crack.
I listened to the scratchy recording slack jawed. How in the world did this happen? I wondered. How did this couple who obviously loved each other in the beginning, end up having such a terrible relationship filled with physical abuse, violent arguing and months of silent passive aggression?
From my earliest remembrance, I didn’t think my parents liked each other, much less loved each other. I spent many nights hiding in a closet with my hands over my ears to shut out the yelling. But apparently, they didn’t start out that way.
How did that happen? How does that happen?
In the Song of Solomon, Solomon prayed that he and his Shulammite would watch out for the “little foxes” that could sneak in and sabotage the blooming vineyard of their love. (Song 2:15). But just as those foxes can sneak in and ruin a blooming relationship, they can also sneak in and wreck a mature marriage.
Little foxes are anything or anyone that can creep in and weaken a marriage. If they aren’t dealt with, little foxes become big foxes with fangs of disappointment and claws of resentment. After a few years of marriage, we can forget why we married that incredible person in the first place. What was I thinking? This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not who I thought my spouse was.
You can blot out the sun with your thumb if you bring it close enough to your eye. And we can blot out our spouse’s admirable qualities if we hold up the thumb of disapproval close enough to our heart.
It’s not only what we say to our spouses, but also what we say to ourselves about our spouses that affect the atmosphere of our homes and relationships. The term confirmation bias refers to the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. It’s when people want something to be true, or believe that something is true, and then gravitate toward information that supports their beliefs and reject information that casts doubt on them.
Say encouraging words about your spouse to yourself, and you’ll begin to think and act more positively.
If you tell yourself that your spouse is selfish or lazy, you will begin looking for actions and attitudes to back that up. If you tell yourself your spouse is a wonderful parent and hard worker, you’ll look for confirmation to prove it correct.
Say encouraging words about your spouse to yourself, and you’ll begin to think and act more positively. When you are feeling irritated, ask yourself, “What have I been telling myself about my husband or wife? Am I telling myself that he or she is irresponsible, clueless, lazy, or prideful? Or am I telling myself that he or she is a gift from God, compassionate companion, and caring friend?" Whatever you tell yourself, you’ll believe it.
We need to avoid focusing on the 5 percent negative and concentrate on the 95 percent positive. Cheer your spouse on the good stuff and give the rest to God. I suggest making a list of all your spouse’s admirable qualities. Not just the outward appearance, but also the inner strengths. Keep the list handy and add to it as qualities come to mind. Then, if you’re smart, one day you will give him or her the list.
The Bible tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Oftentimes, the death or life of a marriage is in the power of the tongue as well. You likely don’t have a scratchy old record of your spouse declaring his or her undying love, but we can all make sure that our spouse has a mental record that plays and replays words of love that last a lifetime.