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3 Things That Don't Work (And One That Does)

by Abby Kelly  
5/18/2015 / Marriage

There's a lot of material out there about "what works" in a marriage, but I've yet to read something by someone candid enough to let me learn from their mistakes. In other words: Tell me what does not work.

I will not pretend to be an expert on excellent marriages, but I have made enough mistakes that I'm certainly more than a novice about what not to do. From that place of humility and candor, let me offer you some hard-won wisdom.

Brownie points: facetious little things that have been around for generations. They're most commonly awarded to men by wives who have just been bowled over by an unprecedented, wonderful behavior. Perhaps your husband never takes out the trash, but suddenly, all week long, he's emptied the garbage without a peep. Or, he's mysteriously begun bathing the kiddos every night; maybe he's taken up the habit of telling you how beautiful you are. Whatever it is, it prompts an immediate surge of generosity from the woman, who with nothing else to bestow, offers the man "brownie points."

So why don't they work? Because to make a marriage really work, we must have Christ-like hearts. Christ freely gives us everything and commands us to freely give. (Matthew 10:8) If we want to have godly marriages that prosper against all odds, each one of ushusbands and wivesmust give freelynot under compulsion. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Fishing. That's self-explanatory. It happens when one member of the couple feels a drought of love, affection or compliments. In a manipulative, subversive way they drop hints like, "This dress looks terrible on me. I don't know why I can never find anything that makes me look good." The anticipated response is, "Honey, you're always beautiful to me."

Why doesn't this work? For the same reason as above. God has freely bestowed honor, life, mercy, grace and gifts upon us as His children. And secondly, while the aim is to force praise from the other person, we all know what we're really doing defies God's command in
Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;a stranger, and not your own lips."

Ultimatums. The goal of this article is not to single out women, but let's face it ladies, we've got the corner some of these things. Ultimatums go something like this: "When you finally start helping around the house instead of sitting on the couch like a slob, then, and only then, will I go fishing with you. That's such a lazy hobby anyway." They usually include attacks agains the other person as well as the stipulations.

Why doesn't it work? The Bible's got a dead-ringer verse for this one, too: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
(Philippians 2:3)

So, do you want one thing that does work. It might surprise you.

(Sincere) Flattery. I call it flattery because is going above and beyond earned compliments and praise. This is noting all the little things, calling out the hidden goodness and sometimes, it might sound a little syrupy and it might feel a little funny. But I promise you, it works.

All of the above verses support this: we should give praise (and other things) freely; we must not seek our own praise, but we can be the "other" that praises our spouse; this action clearly says that we prioritize our spouse above ourselves.

So there you have it, my list of "Don't do what I did, do what God says." And hopefully, by God's grace, I can equally say, "Do do what I do and what I say."

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