The Almost Nearly Perfect Study Guide
The chances are better than average that if you are reading this book, you are either married or interested in making sure that when you do tie the knot, the two of you have the best possible relationship. It does not take extreme observation skills to see that many, many marital relationships today are falling apart. The disintegration of marriages crosses every known demographic: old and young; rich and poor; religious and nonreligious; educated and uneducated; “good” families and dysfunctional families; and any other parameter you might put in place. The goal of this study is to give you some practical tools to improve the relationship you have or the one you are about to enter.
We are Gary and Kristin Nunn, and just like many of you, we are Rick and Bubba fans. Living in the Birmingham, Alabama, area gives us the wonderful opportunity to be avid listeners to their daily radio show. We have also had the pleasure of working with them during some events and have gotten to know their hearts. When we heard that they were writing a book about marriage, we knew we wanted to be a part of that. We teach and write about marriage, but we knew this book could have a huge impact on many lives.
We would love to tell you we are some big marriage-enrichment know-it-alls with a list of credentials a mile long. However, the truth is—we are Mom and Dad, neighbors, church members, friends, people you see every day. We are on the same journey you are. God has simply placed us in a position to take what we are learning in our everyday walk and hopefully help someone else.
As you begin the process of building the kind of relationship you have always dreamed of, the foundation must be Jesus Christ. It is impossible to have the marriage you were made to have without the essential foundation. Once that foundation is in place, there are some crucial building blocks that will help you begin to construct your marriage. There cannot be a better place to start than communication. Clear, positive, effective communication is vital for every relationship. Over the course of this study, we will examine stumbling blocks, such as our intrinsic differences, unmet expectations, mismanagement of our anger, failure to show our mates that we value them, and lack of teamwork.
It all begins, however, with clear, positive, effective communication. Take a moment and listen to track 4 of Rick and Bubba’s CD, “Rick Tries Giving Sherri Directions.” In this clip, you will hear Rick and his wife, Sherri, attempt to use their best communication skills as Rick gives Sherri driving directions to a family event.
As you just heard, communication is a two-way street. Healthy and meaningful communication must be properly given and accepted. As we begin our journey toward the “almost nearly perfect marriage,” let’s take a look at how we can develop and maintain great communication in our marriages.
One of the greatest areas of disappointment and frustration in relationships is unmet expectations. On track 9, Bubba and Betty experience this when Betty wants to buy a new desk, and she and Bubba set out on a Saturday in the dog days of summer to procure it. Take a moment and listen to “Bubba, the Problem Solver.”
In our relationships, we must always understand that we each bring our own uniqueness (quirks and idiosyncrasies) to bear on every situation. Most of us approach life as if everyone—except us, of course—is strange. We are “normal” based solely on our standards. So, if you have been in a relationship for more than, say, three seconds, you realize that this approach can only lead to aggravation and disillusionment. In fact, the apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome, wrote, “I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves” (Romans 12:3 nlt).
The best way to avoid being sorely disappointed is to understand the biblical expectations of both husbands and wives. First let’s look at the wives. But don’t worry, husbands. Your turn is next . . .
As I (Kristin) grow older, I believe more and more that we—as wives and/or mothers—are supremely responsible for the atmosphere of our homes. Listen to what Paul had to say about it: “Older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God” (Titus 2:4–5 nlt). In order to not bring shame on God’s Word, we must know what the Bible says is expected of us and what our responsibilities are.
Responsibility #1 – LIFT HIM UP. Give your husband your respect (Proverbs 21:9; 19:13; 21:19). Although it is completely countercultural and certainly not what is portrayed by Hollywood on television and in movies, you are compelled to be your husband’s biggest fan. Believe it or not, your husband’s greatest need is not sex; it is to have the respect of his wife and to know you believe in him.
Wife: What can you do today to show your husband you are his biggest fan?
Husband: What does respect look like from your wife? From your family? From others?
Responsibility #2 – HOLD HIM UP . Make your husband your priority (Genesis 2:18, 21–24). In the very beginning, we were made specifically for our husbands. God saw that Adam needed a helper who complemented his very existence. Apart from your relationship with Jesus Christ, your husband is your first priority. We aren’t very mindful of this at times, and often allow other things to push ahead of our husbands.
Wife: Be honest; what are the areas of your life that you put ahead of your husband?
Husband: The busyness of life overpowers us at times. How can you help your wife—in other words, lighten her load—so she has the time and energy she needs to turn her attention to you?
Responsibility #3 – LOVE HIM UP . Grant your affection to your husband (Proverbs 5:15; 20). Affection looks different to different people. Know your husband well enough to understand how he gives and receives love. Your husband should know by your actions that he is your “one and only.”
Wife: How do you receive love? How does your husband receive love? What can you do today to make your husband feel more loved?
Husband: What two specific things can your wife do for you that will make you feel loved and appreciated?
I (Gary) have discovered that there are really three simple biblical responsibilities expected of husbands. First Peter 3:7 outlines these expectations: “ You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” ( nlt).
Responsibility # 1 – GIVE HER SECURITY . We should provide not only for the physical security of our wives, but also for their emotional and mental well-being. Peter talked about the wife as the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7 kjv). This in no way indicates that she is inferior, but simply different in the area of physical and emotional strength. Because of that difference, we are expected to provide the security she deserves.
Husband:Security means more than money in the bank, a steady paycheck, and a nicely mowed lawn. What kind of “security” do you think Peter is talking about?
Wife:Our world is full of uncertainty. What are two specific things your husband can do to help you feel more secure?
Responsibility #2 – BE “SAVVY” —This is a term I learned from the offensive coordinator of my high school football team. He wanted the offensive scheme we ran to become so natural that we would not have to think about it. Instead, it would be an instinct to execute our assignments. Peter explained that this is the kind of understanding we must have when it come to our wives. Know your wife so well that meeting her needs becomes natural and happens instinctively.
Husband : How well do you really know your wife? What is her favorite flower? Her favorite movie? What frightens her the most? What is her favorite activity?
Wife : Review your husband’s answers. Praise him for the correct answers, and patiently remind him of those things he may have forgotten.
Responsibility #3 – SING HER PRAISES. Your wife has a need to feel significant. In fact, it is her number one need. She needs to know that you appreciate and value her, and she needs your affirmation both privately and publicly. In other words, let her hear you!
Husband : What are your wife’s greatest qualities? When was the last time you shared these with her?
Wife : Remember to be a gracious “receiver” of praise. When your husband praises you, receive it warmly and with a thankful heart.
As long as there are marriages, there will be unmet expectations. It happens. So what do we do about it? The Bible lays out the correct expectations that we are to have for our spouses and ourselves. When we strive to be the husbands and wives God has designed us to be, we will experience less frustration and more fulfillment in our relationships.
Value Your Mate
Before we consider what it means to properly value our mates, let’s see what happens when Bubba flubs this. If we are not careful, we can easily repeat his error. Check out CD track 5, “Is Betty Older Than Bubba?”
Bubba’s lighthearted approach to the e-mail he received was certainly not intended to be hurtful or embarrassing to Betty. In fact, if we are not careful, we will hear her laughter and assume it was all in good fun. What we should not miss is, even though a situation might be comical, it does not necessarily mean we have placed the proper value on the gift God has given us. For a healthy relationship, it is imperative to closely examine our words, actions, and even attitudes to determine if they truly reflect the proper value we should have for our mates.
That being the case, there are a couple of questions to ask: First, what is my mate’s true value? Second, how do I show that I understand his/her true value? In order to discover your mate’s true value, take out your Bible and look at Ephesians 5:22–25. In this passage, we see that the apostle Paul talks about Christ dying for us. If you ever wondered about the value of your mate, consider the Creator giving His only Son just for him or her. On many occasions, I have heard Max Lucado say that if you would have been the only person to have ever walked the face of this earth, God would have still sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for your sins. That one truth shows just how valuable your mate is to God and should be to you, as well.
Wife: How do you show your husband how valuable he is to you? What is one thing you can do today to convey your husband’s worth to him?
Husband: The world is constantly telling your wife she must “measure up” to the standards set by Hollywood. Why is it important for you to remind your wife of her value instead of letting her rely on what the world says about her?
Understanding value is truly imperative, but showing it is crucial. We would like to share three very practical ways to show your mate how truly valuable he or she is to you.
First, always speak well of your mate—in front of him/her and in front of others. Nothing good will ever come from you speaking poorly of your mate. It has become very popular in our society to degrade our spouses while talking with our friends and coworkers. This kind of behavior in no way reflects an accurate understanding of your spouse’s value. In fact, unless you are talking to a professional counselor, or talking to the Lord in your “prayer closet,” you should never say anything negative about your mate. Scripture says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24 nlt).
Another practical way to demonstrate a proper understanding of your mate’s value is through kindness. Ephesians 4:32 ( nlt) reminds us to “be kind to one another.” It really doesn’t matter how many times or how loudly you declare your mate’s value; if your words are not supported by acts of kindness, then they are empty, and have no value. Kindness seems to be a dying part of our culture, but for followers of Christ, kindness is essential. Think of your most prized possession. It might be a shiny sports car, golf clubs, a rifle, or a special piece of sports memorabilia. Or perhaps it’s a special piece of china, crystal, or heirloom jewelry, or even that perfect designer outfit. It’s obvious how much we value these items; it is reflected in how we treasure and protect them. How much more should our kindness reflect the value of our mates?
Another way to ensure that your spouse feel valued and appreciated is to make what’s important to him/her important to you. Nothing says, “I value you” like understanding where your mate’s heart and passions lie. Opposites are often attracted to each other, so you may find that you and your spouse don’t necessarily share the same passions, but you should at least be knowledgeable about your mate’s dreams, desires, and goals. You may never be an avid hunter or antique collector, but being able to at least participate in a good conversation about the activity gives your stamp of approval on your mate’s value.
What is your spouse REALLY passionate about? How can you be more involved in that activity, or how can you show more interest and knowledge about it?
Dealing with Anger
No matter how much you love each other, at some point you will be angry at your spouse; it’s just part of being human and married. As you encounter anger, it is important to develop the skills to take the natural emotion and keep it from driving deadly wedges into your relationship. Listen to Track 10 on the CD, “Where Are Sherri’s Car Keys?”
Even a casual look at Scripture will show that Jesus got angry. John 2:13–17 reminds us of the time Jesus saw what was happening in the temple, and He was not pleased. Early entrepreneurs were going about their business, selling sacrificial animals to the Jews. However, Jesus saw past their actions to their intent—making a profit by taking advantage of the worshippers, and in God’s own house! He threw the merchants out with so much passion that it reminded His disciples of an Old Testament prophecy they’d heard: “Passion for God’s houseburns within me” (Psalm 69:9, emphasis added). Clearly, Jesus was angry.
Getting angry is not the problem; it is the decisions we make while angry that can do harm. The key to dealing with anger is handling ourselves in a manner that pleases Christ. We would like to suggest some Biblical ways to deal with anger in marriage. A key passage is found in Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus, specifically, where he instructed them to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32 niv).
Consider the following four choices that will help you deal with anger in a Biblical manner:
- Admit it. In our passage from Ephesians, Paul instructs us to “get rid of” anger. In order to get rid of something, we have to admit that it is there. Denying it to ourselves and/or to God will only serve to cover up what we know and God knows is in our hearts. Most of the time everyone already knows you are mad, so admit it. You will be better prepared to deal with it if you do.
- Control it. Don’t yield to your feelings. It is important that you control your feelings; don’t allow your feelings to control you. If you think you may say or do something that you will regret, walk away from the situation until you have control over your feelings and emotions. There are certain physical signs that are indicators that your emotions are getting the best of you:
- Are your fists or jaws clenched?
- Has your heart rate increased?
- Is your breathing faster?
- Do you feel like throwing something?
When the indicators are present, take a deep breath and bring yourself under control. You are FULLY and TOTALLY responsible for your own actions.
- Forgive it. There will be times in your marriage when you will be wronged. Whether the wrong committed against you was real or perceived, intentional or accidental, your responsibility is to bring the offense to God and forgive your spouse. The importance of forgiveness is not for the other person; it’s for you. Remember Paul’s words: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 niv). The emotion of anger will be less likely to lead to sin as you get into the habit of forgiving your spouse.
A closer look at the New Testament will reveal that lack of forgiveness is hypocritical for Christians. We have been forgiven and should extend that same forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:14–15; 18:21–22). If you are waiting for someone in your life to feel the effects of your lack of forgiveness, here’s a better plan: forgive him or her, and be set free—just as God has forgiven you.
- Leave it. Do not give the devil a foothold by dwelling on the offense. If you have forgiven your spouse, quit replaying the situation over in your mind. Leave it and move on! Otherwise, not only will you cause those angry feelings to come back, but you will also give the devil the opportunity to add fuel to the fire by telling you how evil your spouse is. This will only send you back to square one, negating any progress you have made. “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26–27 niv).
Anger is real, but our reaction to anger is a choice. We can choose to throw water or gasoline on the fire of anger, and the results will be obvious.
Take a moment to read the following scriptures, and then answer the questions below: Ephesians 5:1–2; 1 Corinthians 13; Colossians 3:12–17.
It’s time to be honest with yourself and your spouse. Is there something you need to forgive AND forget? Take time today and write down those things you are holding on to. An unforgiving spirit will only hurt you and hamper your relationships. Get rid of that anger and unforgiving spirit TODAY!
As we have walked through these chapters together, we’ve learned that proper communication is key. We’ve talked about biblical expectations, valuing your mate, dealing with anger, and celebrating our differences. While all this information is important and even life-changing, it never reaches its greatest potential without teamwork. So many relationships teeter on the brink of collapse because couples do not realize they must each be a couple, and not individuals striving for their own agendas.
Listen as Rick and Bubba take a lighthearted look at what often characterizes a marriage relationship—track 2 on their CD, “The Book of Blame.”
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 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 4:9–12)
These verses from Ecclesiastes make it very clear that by working together we can accomplish much more than we can alone. Nowhere in life is this more evident than in marriage. If you have learned nothing else from this study, please learn this: you and your spouse are in this together. The only way to take two imperfect people and have an “almost nearly perfect marriage” is to work together and depend on God.
Now that you have completed this study, take some time as a couple to evaluate where your relationship is and to set goals for where you want to be this time next year, in five years, and beyond. Once you agree on where you are and realize where you are going, you have made great strides toward the relationship God intends for you. Pray this prayer of commitment together as a couple:
Dear Lord, thank You for blessing me with my wonderful [wife/husband]. Please give me the wisdom to celebrate our differences, a desire to fulfill biblical expectations in our marriage, control over my emotions, and an understanding of my mate’s value. In all that we do as a family, help us to honor You. We know that in our own strength this is impossible, but with YOU all things are possible. Please grant us the power and strength to accomplish all that You desire in our relationship. Amen.