Many relationship books address the topic of marriage from a reactive standpoint- behaviors rather than root causes. Sure we need to know how to control, correct and adjust negative behavior but when dealing with relationships we also need a little practical wisdom on the importance of thinking, mindset and beliefs.
The reality is most destructive behavior in marriage stem from destructive thinking and attitudes about oneself, their partner and marriage in general. We live in a world of emotion, sensation and fantasy. The subjective has become the new rationale. Many couples are emoting themselves straight into misery and often the divorce court. After the emotion, anger and bad feelings die down, some find themselves alone with their thoughts, “what did I do?” “What was I thinking?”
For many years, I allowed my emotions to free-fall in my marriage. Whatever I felt is what I acted on. I really never thought about thinking when it came to marriage! I just felt it and acted on it. As a result, my marriage stayed in a state of turmoil and devastation. Emotions are good. They come from God. God is an emotional being. Emotions motivate us, protect us, bond us and inspire us to take action. But emotions can mislead us. Some couples have allowed what they feel, to become the gospel truth: “I feel, therefore I am.” But what we feel may be far from the truth. For example, you may feel that a coworker has malicious intentions in what they do, but you may discover that their actions are based more on personality versus a bad heart. Emotions can be misleading. Love is an emotion. But it is much more than an emotion. It is a decision. It is a promise. It is a action. “Love is emotion in motion”. It’s a belief, mindset, a commitment of will and conduct. Happiness (an emotion) has become the new American Idol. It often becomes the determining factor as to whether a marriage is good, worthwhile and worth the ongoing investment.
The truth is, happiness is the result of doing the right things. It will come when the truth, principles about love, marriage and relationships is held and pursued. Love entails more than happiness. Love can endure when happiness is low or almost extinct. Love is more enduring than happiness. Love is bigger than what we may or may not feel. Let me offer you the same advice given to me at my wedding ceremony by my wise father: “Mitch, Don’t forget to think. Watch your emotions. Choose your words. Choose your actions. Think before you act. Take some time before you respond. Guard your thinking, attitudes and expectations. Use your head, not just your heart.” And, let me add to that: assess what you believe and expect about your spouse. Run your beliefs, expectations and attitudes through this filter: Is it right, fair, good, kind and helpful? If not, replace the bad with what is truthful and good and start anew.
Mitch Temple is the Executive Director of the Fatherhood CoMission. For more on Mitch and his ministry, please visit www.mitchtempleonline.com.