One of the habits of highly effective people is “sharpening the saw” – investing time and effort in self-renewal. There are many facets of my life that need sharpening, but one area where I have been keenly focused is becoming a better husband.
This weekend I had a pretty vigorous sharpening session as my wife and I attended a day-long “Marriage-Changing Event.” With our kids safely stowed at my parents’ house, we trekked to Chicago and spent our Saturday listening to renowned relationship experts talk about the keys to successful marriage.
I was struck by the sense of urgency among all of the speakers as they discussed the many negative impacts that broken marriages have on couples, their children and our society as a whole. One speaker shared the idea that, “Every divorce is the death of a small civilization.”
This notion that the loss of many small civilizations is contributing to the decline of our large civilization is one of the reasons I write this column. The destructive ripple of divorce leaves irreparable, irrefutable damage in its wake. The statistics on the social ills that result from divorce are too numerous to list here, but they are shocking.
My own marriage nearly became a statistic several years back as the “D-word” was discussed. But through the grace of God, we fought for our marriage and became part of a more encouraging statistic that was shared at the event. A study showed that 80 percent of couples who nearly divorced but ended up staying together were “very happy” in their marriage.
One of the key concepts I heard repeated through the event was the need for humility. How many fights could be avoided, pain prevented or divorces diverted if we weren’t so strong willed and selfish? One speaker shared that, “The richness of your marriage is in direct proportion to the sacrificial investments you make.”
Our society teaches that comfort and happiness are paramount, so the thought of putting others needs above our own seems foreign. As soon as the going gets tough, the covenant vows of marriage often go out the window. We seek happiness in things, experiences and in other people but like a carrot on a stick happiness eludes us.
I will be the first to tell you that my wife and I don’t have it all figured out. We even experienced some snippiness with each other during our marriage retreat weekend. But we’re both working on cultivating humble hearts that allow us to apologize and quickly forgive one another.
We have come to understand, through many trials, that the joy in our marriage isn’t based on fleeting emotions. Rather, we are learning to submit our wills to serve one another and follow Biblical guidelines for marriage. And because of it, we have achieved levels of intimacy, honesty and hope that eluded us for a decade.
It is so easy to wear down in marriage, to let the drudgery of daily living dull us. It happens to us all. We simply lose focus on what matters most. That’s why I attend events like this, read books on marriage, talk to other married men and practice self-discipline…to stay sharp and to be the man I am called to be.