As soon as the words "I do" leave our lips, the process of radical transformation begins for both spouses.

You Can Become a Better and More Loving Spouse

My husband and I had our first fight in the grocery store. I am a list-shopper, and he is a browser. Stopping for nothing, I steer the shopping cart around corners on two wheels, while he lingers over a cheese display, comparing relative merits and flavors at long leisure. I was raised in a home with a bare refrigerator and minimal resources for kitchen creativity. He came from a fully stocked spice cupboard and a philosophy of abundance and celebration around food.  To him, our shopping cart looked like a barren waste land of deprivation, while I was becoming convinced that from now on we would be spending 75% of our net worth on food.

By some miracle of grace, we weathered that difference and after nearly thirty years of marriage, we just like each other a whole lot. Since conflict has been minor and transient, I’m fairly unmotivated about reading marriage books, especially when there are so many other areas of life where I really DO need serious work.

However, Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Littell Greco manages to offer hope and sound counsel for those whose marriages are in serious trouble while also sharing practical insights and exercises for  helping a pretty-darn-good marriage to become even better and more satisfying.

Two Becoming One

As soon as the words “I do” leave our lips, the process of radical transformation begins for both spouses. The way we handle our vows, the way we manage our egocentric selves in the life- on-life process of living as “heirs together of the grace of life” shapes us either for good or for ill. If I am committed to having my own way no matter what, I will become more and more of “myself” to the detriment of becoming one flesh.

Dorothy Greco brings the clarifying gift of story to her readers through interviews with eight couples from various ethnic backgrounds. Their real life challenges and their commitment to live their way toward healthy relationship practices is both inspiring and instructive. Too, the Grecos themselves know what it is to weather marriage turbulence, also around kitchen and food practices and extending to conversational style and the appropriate place and intensity of emotions in the room.

Viewing their own marriage as a continual work in progress, the Grecos speak with authenticity about the challenges of living transparently within a marriage. Along the way, both Dorothy and Christopher make spot-on observations and analyses of cultural and historical trends that have impacted marriage as we understand it today. Astute biblical insights on human nature and the comprehensive rescue Jesus offers make the book a valuable resource for couples or for groups to work through slowly, sitting with the Questions for Going Deeper that round out the wisdom of each chapter. For example:

“Are you aware of how your sins and limitations affect your spouse? If not, ask your spouse. (But don’t ask until you are able to listen without getting defensive or angry.”

“How important is it for you to be right rather than make sure the relationship is right? Ask your spouse if he or she agrees with your assessment.”

Expectations and Disappointment

Without advocating gender fluidity or neutrality, Greco urges readers to evaluate seriously the validity of pink and blue job descriptions in the home. Influenced by family and by American culture with its extra-biblical gender expectations, couples may either shoe horn one another into tasks that don’t fit or suffer silently from disappointment.

“Disordered attachments” are desires, hopes, or expectations that become more important to us than the relationship, competing with God and his pattern for our marriages and our lives. Ranging wildly from petty preferences to full-on addictions, disordered attachments lead to disappointment and even anger with our spouses.

Marriage and spiritual formation go hand in hand:

“This movement toward Christ and holiness is meant to influence every component of our lives and of our marriages. As we become more like Jesus, we willingly and continuously sacrifice for our spouses rather than protect our self-interests. We extend grace and mercy rather than judgment or retribution. We love lavishly rather than withhold in self-protection and fear.” (306)

God will stop at nothing to conform his much-loved children to the image of his Son. The movement toward health in our relationships is part of that process, and as our marriages become ever more beautiful, the power of God to break into brokenness with healing and hope is put on display.

The costly sacrifice that says, “My life for yours” is rooted in the gospel, and it mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ for his bride, the Church. By grace, we learn to receive God’s perfect love, to return it in spite of all our imperfections, and to let it spill over into a growing marriage that becomes more beautiful with each passing year.


 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Making Marriage Beautiful simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

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52 thoughts on “You Can Become a Better and More Loving Spouse”

  1. As members of the 30+ years married club Wanda and I salute you. We know well the trials and tribulations of having our ‘self’ nature be exposed and destroyed as it ought to be in the pursuit of love. This union of two souls God designed certainly has its moments of pain and passion. Congrats on 30 years. May there be that many ahead!

    As if marriage alone was not enough to bring out our ‘self’ nature so it can be destroyed we also survived 40 months of homelessness together. I might add that going through such trial only strengthened our marriage and friendship. For us it is that friendship that is most crucial. I can’t imagine any marriage that could survive without friendship and humility. Those two things are what has kept us together through thick and thin. To top it off, when you learn that marriage is a model for the intimacy we are to share with Jesus, it makes it even more special and meaningful.

    Thank you for this post on marriage and the review.

    Blessings,
    Homer Les
    http://www.uncompromisingfaith.ca

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    1. Wow, yes! Friendship and humility are key to the kind of life-on-life interaction that marriage brings. Love and respect, too, based in the knowledge that we are embodying the relationship between Jesus and His bride.
      Thanks for your good Monday Morning thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love anything that strengthens marriages and points them to Jesus! This sounds like a great resource for that. I love the point that you can’t really do this work until you are willing to listen (without being defensive). That’s a hard thing, but it is so worth it!

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  3. Good reminders! I like the going deeper question asking “How important is it for you to be right vs. having your relationship be right?” I think that’s a really good one to remember. “Right” can seem and feel like such an important virtue, a fact, a black and white idea. But the more important thing is having the relationship be right.

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  4. Giving up self. So important in marriage. Two individuals striving for two different outcomes don’t become one. I like the quote about being right or wanting the marriage to win. It reminds me ogmf the advice I received from an older lady. She said if during an argument you are only focused on winning, the relationship will lose. But if you are willing to compromise, the relationship wins. Yup, giving up some of my self equals a win for the marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This challenged me in the best way today, Michele! I absolutely related to your grocery shopping differences . . . Most of all, I appreciate this challenge to let God use marriage in the process of spiritual formation! May we be willing to let him work!

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  6. This line really hit me today when reading your wonderful post, Michele: ‘God will stop at nothing to conform his much-loved children to the image of his Son.’ How much easier it would be to conform to Christ’s image if we lived alone in a cave and read his word and prayed continuously. The real challenge comes to us when we live in relationship. Patrick and I just celebrated our 28th anniversary and with the grace of God, we continue to grow and deepen our love.

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  7. So many of my blog friends are writing about marriage this week! I’m thrilled by how each post offers a different tidbit to glean. This book sounds like a valuable addition to the marriage library. And I have to say it, Michele: Your first fight story made me chuckle (only because I can relate to it so well)! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Michele,
    All marriages are a work in progress. God has certainly humbled me and taught me to put the relationship before being right. You can win the battle and still lose the war…as they say. I am so thankful that God blessed me with a godly man of integrity. My best advice to myself – don’t sweat the small stuff. It really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. That’s exactly the same advice I heard from a lovely woman (in heaven now) who had been married over 60 years. She always said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s ALL small stuff.”

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  9. Your grocery shopping experience is just like ours and made me smile, though I would have been fuming and fretting some years ago!! 🙂 Making Marriage Beautiful seems like a book with great insights and perspectives. Thanks for sharing about it. Will look for it on Amazon!

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  10. I read a lot of marriage books the first few years we were married, but not so much lately. But, as you said, there’s always more we can learn, and there are always new inroads our flesh tries to make and justify. So in many ways we never stop learning, growing, and sacrificing.

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  11. We constantly keep learning in a relationship, I believe. To understand, respect, and accept each other as well as one’s own self takes quite some effort. Over time the level of comfort grows between the couple. Effort needs to be put from both sides. Thanks for the book recommendation. 🙂

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  12. There were a couple points you shared about this book to which I said “ouch” because I know that I can do better at resigning my insistence in being right and I also know that when I actively listen for that nudge from the Holy Spirit then I’m able to resign it a lot easier. Thanks for sharing your insight from this book, it definitely seems like a good one!!

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  13. Expectations are a big one I had to have help with. I think for me, forgiveness has been key in letting God work on me while I embrace the life I’ve been given. And when I realize I am no more further along than my spouse, though I used to think that way–it enables me to ego-deflate and serve from a right place which in turn radiates more of Christ’s character (which spreads love, not stress and frustration!) Thank you for this!

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  14. Michele, I love that even in a good marriage space you still took the time to read this book and apply some of the lessons to improving your relationship even further. We are all works in progress and as such, our relationships must always be changing and progressing as well. Thanks for the insight!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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  15. I think we could race through the grocery store together, Michele! 🙂 My family has always laughed about my “grocery store walk.” I too carry a list and don’t like to linger on any particular aisle; get what you need and get out of there. My husband, however, is like yours. He enjoys the process much more than I do. I have a lot to learn from him! I may be more efficient, but he brings home more surprises. 🙂

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  16. A timely resource, especially now when they say the institution of marriage is under attack. Thanks for the review, Michele. Many blessings!

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  17. My husband and I had our first fight over decorating a Christmas tree. I am now very ashamed of that fact. We too have weathered the initial storms of young marriage and will celebrate anniversary #41 this month. My husband, like yours, likes to buy things that are not on the list. I tend to plow through in order to get the chore of shopping over with. Reading your post made me smile. Making Marriage Beautiful sounds like it should be required reading for engaged couples!

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  18. I agree that marriage is a work in progress. You grow together and face problems together, react to life’s joy and trouble. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

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  19. I’m with you about the marriage books, Michele, but this one sounds really good. Our first fight somehow ended up with the proofs of our wedding pictures thrown all over the kitchen floor of our little duplex. I can’t even remember why or how it happened. New seasons of life bring new challenges, but I’m grateful for a husband who is in it for the long haul. 🙂

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  20. Okay, Michele, you’ve convinced me. I’ve been so busy the past couple of years that I haven’t ordered Dorothy’s book. But now I’m going to get it (using your link–so glad to support you in that way).

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

    Like

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