Cindy and I shared some ideas about building a strong marriage with younger couples in the church recently, and I told this story from Gary Smalley:
One of the things that I appreciate most about my parents is the honesty of their marriage. They’ve never claimed to have a “perfect” marriage and aren’t afraid to disagree. At one point, my parents got into a huge argument. They were so frustrated that they each ran off to a different part of the house. I let the situation calm down for a few minutes before I knocked on my father’s office door.
“Come in,” he reluctantly replied.
As I walked into his office, I found my dad sitting behind his computer reading a document titled “Why Norma Is So Valuable.” (My mom’s name is Norma.)
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Well,” my dad began, “a number of years ago I started a list of why your mom is so valuable. So when I’m upset with her, or when we’ve had a fight, I’ve learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am at your mother, I need to make myself read through this list.”
The document contained literally hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom’s value.
“When I first start to read through the list, I’m still upset,” explained my dad. “I usually get to the first three or four items and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘This one is no longer valid!’ or ‘I’m definitely going to erase that one.’ But then the farther down I read, the faster I realize that you have an amazing mom.”
This is the best idea I’ve ever heard for recognizing someone’s value. Talk about creating safety. It’s also what my father does to get his heart back open. Jesus explained why it is so powerful when He said, “For where your treasure is, so there will your heart be also.” In other words, your heart will be open to what you value. One way to keep your heart open and your spouse feeling safe with you is to focus on her value.
We can create this honor list for our spouse as well. Take several minutes to list all the reasons why your spouse is so valuable. For example: a character trait, faith pattern, values, morals, parenting skills, spirituality, the roles he or she plays that you appreciate, etc.
And don’t keep the amazing list to yourself – share it with your spouse. Let her know that you recognize her value. (Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, Smalley)
As I think about my wife’s birthday coming up in a few days, I remember the column I wrote in 2011 entitled, “Fifty Reasons Why I Love Her.” I normally ask Cindy to proofread my columns before I send them to Madison Taylor, but not that one. I sent her a decoy that week, and on her birthday, which happened to be a Saturday, I cut the column I had written about her out of the paper and brought it to her at the breakfast table.
“Look,” I said. “The Times-News printed a different column this week.” Cindy gave me a funny look but after she had read the first few sentences, she started to cry.
It was one of the best presents I have ever given my wife. I encourage every person reading this column to do something similar. Then keep that list in a place where you can read it often when the marriage is going through a storm.