Three incredible pieces of marriage advice I've never forgotten

I recently got into a brief argument with my wife over something totally minor. In the moment, however, it felt like it was a huge deal. Pride has a way of converting little offenses into major ones.

After we stopped bickering about the issue, I was still stewing inside, getting more and more irritated with her.

I thought to myself: “She’s always so – ,” but then I stopped before finishing the sentence in my head with a negative description. The words of a pastor, a friend and a singer held me back.

The pastor who officiated at my wedding once gave me some advice I've never forgotten: “Beware of global criticisms of your wife where you use words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’ They draw an unfair caricature of her and nothing good comes of it.”

It's one thing to talk about keeping our hearts from freezing, but it's another thing to actually keep the fires burning. For my wife and me, that has required the warmth of apologies and the willingness to assume the other person might just be right -- it's the hard discipline of humility.

That advice has come back to me many times and stopped me from defining my wife in a totally negative way. If I reduce her to one big negative description, I eventually won't able to see her for who she is. I’ll lose her beauty and all I’ll get is the cheap pleasure of feeling right all of the time.

My friend Beth, who has been happily married to her husband for over 20 years, gave me similar advice on marriage: “Work on keeping a tender heart towards your spouse every day. Don’t even let the thinnest sheet of ice cover your heart or it will eventually freeze over."

It's one thing to talk about keeping our hearts from freezing. It's another thing to actually keep the fires burning. For my wife and me, that has required the warmth of apologies and the willingness to assume the other person might just be right. It's the hard discipline of humility.

In marriages without humility, our hearts get frostbitten and we find it harder and harder to love our partner as she or he is.

Along those lines, singer Sara Groves has had a lasting impact on my marriage through the words of a song called "Loving a Person." Here are some of the lyrics:

“There’s a lot of pain in reaching out and trying

It’s a vulnerable place to be

Love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces baby

Only one makes you free

Hold on to me

And I’ll hold on to you

Let’s find out the beauty of seeing things through”

When I was single and people would tell me that marriage was hard, I judged them, figuring they must not really love their spouse. Marriage changed my mind. I've realized that it really is hard work to keep choosing to reach out and embrace humility when you feel so right, but it's the only reliable path to joyfully seeing things through. 

Groves also sings:

“Loving a person just the way they are, it’s no small thing

It takes some time to see things through

Sometimes things change, sometimes we’re waiting

We need grace either way.”

As Scripture says: "God has made everything beautiful for its own time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So for all of us married folks, let's take the time, however long it is, to risk everything and love our spouses the way they are – just like we need them to do for us.

Joshua Rogers is a writer and attorney who lives in Washington, D.C. You can follow Joshua on Twitter @MrJoshuaRogers and Facebook, and read more of his writing at JoshuaRogers.com.