One of the two best pieces of advice I heard prior to getting married was this: Study Your Spouse!
I took that advice to heart, and I believe it’s one reason I am so happily married. I can also say my husband knows how to do this very well! You too can have a happier marriage if you learn to do the same thing.
A prerequisite for doing this successfully is to truly care about your spouse’s well-being. If you’re only looking out for your own happiness you’ll overlook important things about your spouse that may mean the difference between peace and conflict, misery and satisfaction.
Think of your spouse as something valuable and intricate, such as a high-performance automobile or a prize-winning flower garden. There’s more to your husband or wife than you will ever completely comprehend. But the more you understand about them the more they will shine, and the better you will be able to enjoy the richness of your relationship – not to mention avoiding a lot of pain and conflict.
You can study your spouse by paying attention to:
- What makes them happy? What are the little things you do that make him or her smile, laugh, relax, or get excited? What is their love language? What kind of entertainment, activity, or spiritual practices lighten their heart? When they respond well to you, what was it that you did that lead to that response? All those are clues to knowing what makes your spouse tick.
- What causes them stress? Perhaps it’s not knowing where the money is, having someone misunderstand them, having more responsibilities than they feel able to handle, being around specific difficult people, or going through a daily grind without inspiration or excitement. Any of these may be stressful to anyone, but notice the specific elements that lead your spouse to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or upset.
- What nurtures their spirit? Perhaps it’s the thrill of accomplishment or adventure, time and conversation with special people, enjoying something of God’s big outdoors, volunteering to help others in a specific way, or the inspiration of music or a good book. What makes him or her feel alive again? What brings them more energy than they had before?
- What kills their soul? Perhaps it’s your criticism of an aspect of their physical body or a specific habit, the way a boss, relative, or friend drains their energy while giving nothing back, working hard for a goal they don’t really desire, or feeling pressured to give up a dream they have not yet accomplished. Where does their energy drain away?
- Where do they feel joy? We each feel most fulfilled when the thing we have to offer the world is valued, appreciated, and rewarded – skills, insight, effort, creativity, strength, love, etc. What does your spouse have to offer the world? Where do they offer that part of themselves that brings them meaning and joy?
Study your spouse. You’re sure to find much more there the longer you look. And don’t stop.
What does that mean for Al and me? He notices the little signs that indicate I’m tired and he helps me find a way to relax. I’ve discovered how meaningful the Christmas season is to him and so we put up the Christmas tree at Thanksgiving. These and a hundred other little things make our life together so much less stressful and more enjoyable because we study each other enough to know what’s important and what’s not, and how to help the other be happy.
There’s a wonderful side-effect of all this study. YOU will find much more satisfaction, joy, and love than you ever anticipated.
Your Turn: What about your spouse seems to be a mystery? How can you study to understand them better? Leave a comment below.
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- Study your spouse. They will shine more, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. Tweet that.
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