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The 7 Minute Marriage Solution
Written By Steven Arterburn
Host of "New Life Live," a nationally syndicated faith-based talk show carried on 180 radio stations nationwide, STEVEN ARTERBURN has been a frequent guest on Good Morning America, CNN Live, ABC's World News Tonight, and Oprah. A leading authority on human relationships, he has authored over 100 best-selling books on the subject.
I love wisdom. I love when people have the right thing to say at the right time. Here's an example:
A teenager once said, "Dad, now that I'm 16, I'd like to own an automobile and so maybe you can get that for me."
"Well," said the dad, "if you can make straight A's and then cut your hair, I think you'd be ready for a car."
The boy came back nine weeks later with a straight-A report card, and he said, "Dad, I'm ready for my car."
The father responded, saying, "Yes, but your hair still is atrocious, and I'm not going to get you a car until you cut your hair."
And the boy said, "Dad, I can't believe you make such a big deal about my long hair. Even Jesus had long hair."
"Yes," said the dad, "and He walked everywhere He went."
I just love it when people have the right thing to say at the right time! We need wisdom.
And when it comes to marriage, we need all the wisdom that we can get. Though the statistics vary, most people agree that our divorce rate is about 50%. Sadly, it's the same for people of faith and people who don't have faith. One of the most heartbreaking statistics of all is that less than half of all kids will reach the age of 17 with both biological parents still together in the home. So, whatever we've been doing, it hasn't really worked very well. Then, when you add to that the misery percentage, or the rate of people in sexless, stale, friendless, disconnected marriages, you can see that we have a huge, huge problem. Someone said, quite cynically, that marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning, all you need are two hearts and a diamond. But before it's over, you're wishing for a club and a spade. Now that hurts. That's pretty tough.
The book, The 7 Minute Marriage Solution, is based on a study of over 2,000 marriages. I wrote it to help discover what would make the most difference in our marriages today: The seven things that we could stop. The seven things that we could start. And the seven most valuable minutes that we could spend in any day to build a marriage. This morning, I'd like to tell you about one thing to stop and one thing to start, and about those seven very, very valuable, most valuable minutes.
The FIRST thing that we need to stop doing in our marriages is to STOP TRYING TO FIX EACH OTHER. Could I get an amen? Could I get an a-women?
There's a basic rule in sports. Don't tackle anybody who's wearing the same colored jersey that you're wearing. Yet, in our marriages, many times we're destroying our own teammate by trying to change them into something that we want them to be. Research shows that the more you try to change someone, the more you criticize and challenge them, the more they dig in their heels and they try to justify whatever or whoever they are. Research shows that the more you can be accepting of another person, the more that you can show them love no matter what, it actually frees them to make the changes that you would really like to see made.
So, we're going about it in exactly the wrong way. Rather than pray, "Oh God, please change that other person," it's better to pray, "God, please change me into a person who accepts this other one, no matter what." Extreme makeovers need only be made on television and in houses. They don't work in marriages.
When I was growing up in West Texas, we had this little saying: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's almost impossible and it's very frustrating to the pig." I think that's a really good little saying to keep in mind. Nobody wants to live in a relationship where they're constantly criticized and challenged and begged to change.
First Corinthians 13:7 says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." And so we have to ask a question: Do we want to correct this person or do we want to connect with this person? When we're in the business of correction, we've pretty much destroyed the ability for connection.
The SECOND thing that we need to do is we need to START EXPRESSING GRACE in the relationship. This goes beyond just accepting someone. This goes beyond just trying to see the good in that person. It's an act of communication. It's an act of saying that "I forgive you," or "Its okay." We all make mistakes. It's a verbalization at the point of greatest vulnerability, when somebody messes up, to connect with them at the level of their problem, mistake, or whatever they're going through.
That doesn't mean that we need to ignore, excuse, or condone somebody's involvement in something that's extremely destructive in the relationship. If there's abuse, if there's addiction, if there's abandonment, those aren't thing that we overlook. We don't just forgive and forget. That would be foolish. That's not scriptural. We need to forgive, but if we forget, we essentially allow ourselves to be abused again. Or we allow a person to continue in their addiction. We need to set boundaries and limits.
New Life Ministries hosts a wonderful marriage weekend. Many times people attend because someone has said to their spouse, "The least you could do is come with me to this place where we could experience healing and transformation." So, we need to be compassionate. We need to be grace filled. But, when it comes down to major issues, we need to be willing to take action and get the help for that person that they need.
You might be in a relationship where it's very difficult for the other person to forgive you. Then, you have to ask yourself, "Have I been humble? Have I been open and honest about what I've done or been through?" Sometimes for us to be forgiven, we need to make restitution.
When we do an "Every Man's Battle" workshop, we have people who've reclaimed their sexual integrity and then go home to confess to their loved one the things that they've done. That can be a very humiliating experience, not only for the person confessing, but for the other person, as well.
I know one woman who said, "If you're now ready to be faithful to me, I know how you could make restitution." One of the things that she asked him to do was to straighten his teeth. She said, "I never really liked your teeth and so I want you to get braces if you really love me. Every time they tighten those braces and you feel that pain, I want you to feel the pain that I'm experiencing." The guy was so remorseful and willing to do anything to win her heart back, he got the braces. I was with that couple last weekend and he had the most beautiful, straight teeth you've ever seen. Sometimes for us to experience forgiveness, we need to make restitution.
We need to stop doing whatever it is that we're doing to try to change the other person. We need to start expressing grace in the marriage.
THIRD, We Need To SPEND THE SEVEN MOST VALUABLE MINUTES that we can spend in any given day.
Now you men, quite stereotypically, might be thinking, "Well, if those are the seven most valuable minutes, he must be talking about sex. That must be how we need to spend every single day."
Or, you women might be thinking, "Surely he's talking about conversation. We need to talk more."
A man once said, "I don't mind my wife having the last word; I just want her to get to it as quickly as she possibly can."
Well, I'm not talking about either of those seven minutes.
The Center for Bible Engagement did a study to discover what impact the Bible had on people's lives. They discovered that, if you read the Bible three days a week, it really isn't enough to have an impact on your life. But, if you engage in the Bible four days a week, it actually has the ability to change who you are, your character, the choices that you make, the relationships that you have.
So, THIRD, the challenge is for couples to SPEND AT LEAST SEVEN MINUTES A DAY PRAYING TOGETHER, having a devotional time together, and reading God's word so that this light from the Lord can come in and transform relationships. Every couple needs a safe place where they can hit the reboot key. Where they can get back on each other's side and love each other the way that God has loved them.
So today, if you sign up at www.newlife.com, I'll send you free of charge a list of how to spend these seven minutes together for 30 days. I challenge you to spend 30 days, just seven minutes a day, with your spouse and see if it doesn't transform your relationship. Now if you want a great marriage, I believe it's possible for you to have that. If you want a good marriage, I believe it's possible for you to have that. If you want a better marriage, I believe it's possible for you to have that. You have to stop being critical, you have to start expressing grace, and you have to spend some time together in God's word communicating with God, and communicating with each other.
Saying that I have a solution for marriages, that's a pretty big claim. However, I don't think it's my solution. I really do believe that it's God's solution. If you look in Ecclesiastes 4:12, it says, "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated."
How many people are in marriages where they feel so alone, so isolated? Even though there's a document that says they're married, there isn't much proof or evidence beyond that. The scripture goes on to say, "But two can stand back to back and they can conquer." That's what we want to see people doing, working together to conquer the things that Satan would bring into our lives to destroy our marriages.
Scripture goes on to say, "Three are even better. For a triple braided cord is not easily broken." I believe that every marriage is made up of a triple braided cord. Sadly, for many people, it's you, it's your spouse, and that third braid has become something more powerful than your relationship - like pornography, or an addiction, or an obsession, or a problem. For some, it's you, your spouse, and your attempts to control. That third braid of the cord is destructive, and it's destroying the relationship.
In The 7 Minute Marriage Solution, I'm calling people to make God that third braid of the triple braided cord - you, your spouse, and God. Together, you could conquer anything. My challenge to you is to leave here today wanting to put something into the person that you love. And wanting God to change you into a more accepting and loving person. Essentially, my challenge is to get out of the parking lot before you criticize each other and get at each other's throats.
God has an ideal for marriage. And, based on the statistics, we're just not hitting that ideal. I believe that we can move closer to what God wants for our marriages, where we can experience oneness, intimacy, and closeness if we're willing to do just a little bit of work on ourselves.
Someone said that a marriage license really is just a work permit. It is. It's a work permit to do the work on you and not the other person. We'll help you to be sure that that work that you do results in a marriage where you're connected and you're willing to take on the challenges together, rather than face them alone in a marriage where you're essentially apart.
Pray with me, if you will. God, we pray for every marriage here today. We pray that You will provide hope, healing, and connection where there has been disconnection and discord. Help us to express the grace to another person that You have given us. Help us to pray for change in ourselves rather than change in that other person. Help us to make a habit of spending every day in Your word and in prayer with You. In Your name, we pray. Amen.