The Power of Encouragement in Marriage

Research demonstrates that one predominate characteristic of exciting, satisfying relationships is that marital partners choose to encourage one another. This should come as no surprise. The necessity of encouragement is a repetitive theme in God's Word.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

And, Hebrews 3:13 instructs, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Encouragement in marriage is simply expressing to one's spouse, "I believe in you." This is accomplished both verbally and non-verbally. While this sounds easy, it generally does not come naturally. Often, people find difficulty in describing what it means to encourage one's spouse. The following are some characteristics of encouragement that are helpful to consider.
  1. Accepting One Another
    Partners in a marriage will either progress or regress with respect to their positive feelings and behaviors towards one another. If someone feels pressure from their spouse to change in some way, they are far less likely to feel the security and motivation required to undertake positive changes. But, if one feels that they are unconditionally accepted by their spouse just as they are, the tendency to move forward in ways that will make the marriage better is significantly greater.

  2. Communicating Confidence
    In successful marriages partners trust one another. They make the conscious choice to believe in one another even in the midst of challenging circumstances. When suspicion or doubt is vocalized or demonstrated the recipient is less likely to respond in a positive way. This is partly a self-fulfilling expectation and partly a reaction that is generated out of resentment or fatalism. However, when faith and trust are perceived to be extended, one generally responds by attempting to live up to that ideal. When one feels the confidence of his/her spouse they tend to work towards reciprocating the same sentiment. On the other hand, pointing out the faults and limitations of one's spouse works to undermine confidence and trust.

  3. Recognizing Effort
    When efforts to maintain or improve the happiness and satisfaction of a marriage go unnoticed it is unlikely that those efforts will continue. Even the smallest of gestures should be met with appreciation, gratitude, and a desire to return the effort. A major accomplishment in this area is not required for growth to occur. Small efforts, when consistently performed and recognized by both partners, tend to build upon one another and result in significant overall growth and happiness in a marriage.

  4. Focusing on Strengths
    Those who have successful, fulfilling marriages tend to focus on each other's strengths. This does not mean that a couple should ignore everything that is unhealthy in a marriage. However, when positive assets are identified, recognized, communicated, and valued it is amazing how any undesirable qualities seem to fade away. No relationship is perfect all of the time. But, when problems and weaknesses become the focus of a relationship discouragement becomes the norm. When partners find positive assets to build upon, the negative experiences become less and less significant.
Make no mistake, encouragement takes effort. It is an investment of our time and energy that we must willingly make. Human beings are self-centered and self-serving by nature. Surely this fact is among the most significant reasons for the high rate of marital failure in our society. But, if we are led by the Spirit and committed to our marriages per God's plan we can and will pursue encouragement and edification. This pursuit will create an environment in which marriages will grow, thrive, and be blessed of the Lord.
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