"it doesn't have to be that way..."

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT) Does simple advice really help?  Well…it can.  Several years ago, Celia and I heard a guy speak at a family camp and he shared this really simple advice with us.  He said when he and his wife went out for their anniversary, they would talk about what they felt was going well in their lives and then they would talk about what they were struggling with.  Of their struggles, they would simply say, “it doesn’t have to be that way.” Then, they’d discuss how things could change.

Celia and I laughed initially, thinking it was a silly way to deal with harder, more serious issues.   Then…we tried it.  One night at dinner, as we talked, we agreed we didn’t like how much time we spent watching TV, or some of the shows that had become part of our nightly habit; we laughed and said, “it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Once the topic was on the table, we began to discuss what we could do to change our choices.  We agreed the television in our bedroom was causing us to lose sleep, making us less productive the next day and we felt some of the TV offerings weren’t helpful in our marriage.  In fact, they were awful choices, but we had succumbed to “mindless entertainment”.

Here’s how it worked for us.  Admitting out loud, together, we had an issue that neither one of us was pleased about…helped.  Instead of our struggle becoming a source of unspoken conflict or something one of us was trying to protect, it aligned us.  We felt like we were on the same team, with a common goal, to quit watching late night television.

We were able to laugh and work together on something we both wanted, rather than it becoming a tense situation where one of us felt attacked or like we needed to protect a sacred, personal “right”.   With our challenge out in the open, we agreed we weren’t pleased., allowing us to discuss our struggle together and how we could change it.  Long story short – we took the television out of our bedroom.

We’ve used this little phrase over and over again.  It unifies us, helping us to be honest with each other, then work and pray together.   Rather than complaining to a friend about our spouse, we’ve learned to trust each other and our ability to work on things together.  Are we perfect?  No way – please don’t hear that.  But, this little tool opens the door and helps us talk about hard things in a way that brings us together. Marriage wasn’t given to be a source of strife; God made us to bless each other.  I hope this little phrase might help your marriage look more like the triple-braided cord.

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Guest Post: Experiencing Jesus