Handle With Care

wife and husband in embrace
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On a video screen at my wedding reception, God gave me a gift I'll never forget. I saw footage of my wife, Christi, at 3 years old. With her mom by her side, this innocent little girl sat in the bathtub splashing water and singing as if she didn't have a care in the world:

Oh, the Lord is good to me.
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun and the rain and the apple seed.
Oh, the Lord is good to me.

Two weeks later, on the last day of our honeymoon, we found ourselves in the middle of the biggest argument we have had to date. As I sat across from her at dinner defending my perspective, Christi's eyes welled with tears. Without warning, my mind replayed that precious footage of my wife singing in the bathtub, and my defenses melted. My argument no longer mattered.

How had I allowed myself to become hardened and insensitive to the person I loved most? Rather than being "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19), I was quick to defend myself, quick to cast blame and slow to be gentle.

So how do couples develop an attitude of gentleness toward each other?

The famous preacher A.W. Tozer wrote that one of the five keys to a deeper spiritual life is to never defend ourselves. When we do, we put up emotional guards that make us hard and self-centered. In turn, we cast blame in an attempt to protect ourselves.

In my case, my defenses dropped when I remembered the innocence and purity of 3-year-old Christi. The image of her as a child gave me a new perspective. Because she had given me her heart, she was emotionally vulnerable — just as I was vulnerable to her. Once we understood this reality, Christi and I began learning how to treat each other with gentleness. We found that gentleness did not depend on who was right, but on lowering our defenses and handling each other with care.

Talk About It

  • How have we shown gentleness to one another? 
  • In what areas of our marriage do we need to practice gentleness toward each other?

When we’re tempted to defend ourselves, how can we protect one another instead?

Dr. Joshua Straub is a counselor, speaker and consultant.

Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family's Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you'll love!

This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine.
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Copyright © 2011 by Joshua Straub. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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