“Play nice” parents urge their children. The knack for getting along with others is not innate. (Phil. 2:3-4) It’s a quality parents need to teach and children need to learn. After a few months of being the center of attention babies naturally believe everything is about them. That is why sharing is not a strong suit for most two year olds. “Mine! Mine! Mine!” is the response, not would you like to share this toy together.
Unfortunately, many never outgrow the “mine” way of thinking. It’s all about what they want, need or think. The result is usually not good because relations can suffer when people only think about themselves. (1 Cor. 11:16-18) My focus in this article is the marriage bond. What can we do to play nice?
If we’re going to play nice with others we have to do a good job of communicating. Begin by listening more carefully to what others say. You know how frustrating it is when others don’t pay attention to what you say, but you have probably done the same. There is no doubt marriages do better when husbands and wives listen to and respect each other.
How can your spouse listen if you’re not talking? You are responsible for expressing your feelings and revealing what’s important. Do you think it’s fair to get mad or hold another accountable for not knowing your thoughts if you have not told them?
You don’t want your marriage partner coming in one day and saying, “Guess what, I decided it’s time to quit my job, for us to move, or I’ve bought a house.” These might be extreme examples of not communicating, but they’re not isolated events. You may believe decisions are private and personal, but that is not true. Marriage is a partnership, and the life you live and the choices you make impact your husband or wife. He or she has a right to be a part of the decision making. Play nice together.
Everyone needs to be careful how and what they say. Do you want your husband or wife to speak down to you, to act as if they have superior wisdom and judgment? If not, then steer clear of doing the same to them. I don’t care how smart you think you are, you’re not right all the time. It’s just never a good idea to use a condescending I know more than you tone when communicating.
Toddlers could not care less about the wants and need of their sibling. It’s all about “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Playing nice means you care about your spouse’s dreams and needs. How do you gain this insight? Listen, talk and care about the other as you do yourself. Even if their goals are not important to you, your husband or wife should be and that means taking an interest in what’s important to them.
When two children are tugging back and forth on a toy, I doubt they are thinking about compromise. Compromise is when two sides give up something, but also gets something. The true spirit of concession occurs when you give up something of value or importance. That’s what marriage is, it’s a give and take between two people.
Some play nice when it is convenient or to their advantage, when in reality they have hidden motives. They promise the “world”, are kind, and even improve their behavior to get what they want. While the acts may be pleasing at first, if the true objectives become known that could change. There is nothing good and innocent about deceit. If you don’t want your husband or wife to play this way, then don’t try to con them.
What is missing from our discussion of nice play? Thus far I have examined conduct associated with a good marriage, but these are outward demonstrations of a deeper foundation. I am talking about a deep and enduring love, one that motivates us to share ourselves with our marriage partner. While playing nice may not always be a natural response, we will try more consistently if we love our husband or wife.
Love is one of those words batted about without understanding its depth or meaning. It’s more than an emotional response to individuals or events because feelings can change in the moment. Love is the ability to get through difficult times with your husband or wife while keeping a high-level of integrity. It also helps you refocus your feelings when angry and disappointed. Love brings you back to a point where you can try again.
If your love has faded, try being kind to your husband or wife, it has healing power. Problems can go on long enough where you just don’t feel the same about your spouse. There’s no easy or quick answer for this, but continuing the status quo won’t help. The chances are you aren’t and you haven’t been doing the things suggested above. If you become committed to these principles their power might surprise you. They may change your marriage bond for the better.
I am not suggesting anything new or that you haven’t done before. Do you remember the person you married, the way he or she stole your heart away? You would do anything for your beloved. No sacrifice was too great and no request too unreasonable for the one you loved. Even if you did not want to do something, you did it anyway because he or she wanted to. Why did you change from wanting to please to not caring about their wants? Chances are, you were talking to each other more often, telling your dreams and fears, and bearing your soul. You did not take each other for granted.
No marriage thrives if you can’t say “I am sorry” and “I forgive you”. If you are in an unhealthy marriage, it is not your partner’s fault exclusively. You have said and done things hurtful and harmful to the relationship, and you will probably do so again. Saying “I’m sorry”, without qualifying the apology or excusing yourself, goes a long way. When your spouse acts rudely and hurtful, be quick to forgive.
If your spouse is not the one you remember back when, odds are you both bear some responsibility. Perhaps you are not the one he or she remembers either. Time has passed and you find yourself in a position you don’t want be in. You want improvement NOW, but if it took time to get where you are then it’s probably going to take time to get back to where you want to be. Patiently work on your marriage and on yourself. I want to encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Does Paul describe the nature of your love or do you have some things to work on?