Amplifying Your Spouse's Joy
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. (Proverbs 12:4)
One of the surprises I’ve found in marriage is that my wife has an amplifying power on my mood – her praise and support can make my triumphs all the sweeter (and I can have the same effect on her). For instance, I remember the glow on her face when I won an award at my grad school graduation. Her admiration felt like a “crown” on my head, which is to say, her admiration increased both my public sense of accomplishment and private sense of joy.
But I can also remember the (thankfully rare) times when we have both magnified the pain of the other. Tears are more bitter, and sorrow more crushing when it is increased by your beloved. By its very nature, marriage gives spouses the inside scoop on each other, making it easy to take aim at one another’s soft spots with devastating effect. These kinds of wounds certainly feel like “rottenness in the bones.”
One helpful guideline comes from psychologists John and Julie Gottman, two of the world’s leading marriage researchers. Over 40 years of study with couples in their “Love Lab” in Seattle has led to a huge body of information on what distinguishes healthy and unhealthy marriages.
Their findings show that the most successful marriages – what they call “masters of relationship” – have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions. The Gottmans observe, “When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections.” Meanwhile, couples that had contentious marriages often had more negative interactions than positive.
This amplifying effect is what we should expect – it’s a result of how God has designed marriage. When a man and woman become what the Bible calls “one flesh” – two lives united as one – then each spouse has tremendous power to build up or tear down.
And it is this effect that becomes all the more precious when we remember that Jesus styles himself as the True Bridegroom of his people. Jesus comes to offer the greatest amplifying effect on your life, and this spiritual marriage to him is available whether you have a solid marriage, rocky marriage, or no marriage at all on earth. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:29-30)
So today, go out of your way to crown your spouse with encouragements – and your friends as well, for that matter. Heap up five times as many affirmations as criticisms. And if that seems hard to sustain, then draw on the deeper words of grace that the True Bridegroom says to you, “You are forgiven,” “You are called to a holy life,” “You are beloved,” and “For you, I was willing to die.”
Father, thank you for the outpouring of love in the person of Jesus Christ, that there is no better Bridegroom than Him. We pray today that in our marriages and in our friendships that you would help us to amplify the joy of one another’s lives, and by your Spirit you would give us the strength to be faithful. In Your Name we pray, Amen.