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“Keys” is such a common and fascinating word. The use of the word can go from the basic meaning – like the instrument with which a door is unlocked – to profound meanings – like when referring to a deciding factor in one’s life.
Despite how we use the word, something is certain when we use such a meaningful word: we want to unlock something in some area of our life or of our existence.
What would you like to unlock? If you could have a master key for one thing in your life, what would that be? To achieve great professional success? Great riches? Perhaps, to solve that problem that is disturbing your life so much? Or is it something that is worrying you tremendously? Perhaps, your marriage? Would you like to have keys to a lasting, successful marriage and happy family life?
If so, rest assured: those keys exist! More than that, they are within your very grasp!
The family is under stress. That is an undeniable fact. True, the entire world is under stress! So, why should you care about family more when all around things seem to go wrong?
The simple way to answer that is: because even if the rest of the world would go mad, as long as you have a happy family, it would function to you as a safe haven, a refuge at the end of each day, a place you know you would feel safe and in peace.
Even if everything around was filled with uncertainty! That is how much a good, happy family life can affect one’s life.
The good news is that having a happy, lasting marriage is possible and you can have it! In fact, if both husband and wife put the following keys to use, they will unlock the door to happiness and joy. What are those keys?
The First Key
The first key is love. Interestingly enough, in ancient Greek, there were four different words for “love”. One of them was used to describe the type of personal, warm affection that we feel for someone, like for a close, deep friend.
Another word described the type of love existing between family members, like offspring and parents. A third word was used to describe romantic love, the type of love that one can have for a member of the opposite s3x.
Undoubtedly, all of these three types of love must exist between husband and wife. Nonetheless, the real key to a successful, lasting marriage is another type of love. Greeks recognized this as the greater and most important form of love.
In ancient Greek, this love was described and referred to as a-ga´pe. What is this love? Yes, what does it consist of that makes it different from all the other types of love?
So great, profound, and meaningful is this type of love that even the Bible (part of it written in Greek) makes mentions of it several times.
Here are some quotes where that type of love is mentioned: “God is love [a-ga´pe]”, “Go on walking in love [a-ga´pe], just as the Christ loved you and delivered himself up for you”, or even, “There remain faith, hope, and love [a-ga´pe]; but the greatest of these is love [a-ga´pe]”.
(1 John 4:8; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 13:13) Why is this type of love so profound that even the Bible, the most translated, read, and distributed book of all time, describes it as superior to faith, which is so important for billions of people?
Contrary to romantic love, for example, which is governed by physical attraction to another person, a-ga´pe love is governed not by appearances and physical aspects. Rather, a-ga´pe is governed by principles. But what are principles? Principles are basic, deep truths that guide us.
Contrary to laws, principles cannot be restricted to just one situation, but they apply to multiple situations with the same strength and validity.
To illustrate this, think of the famous Golden Rule and how it is an appropriate example of a principle. It says, in general terms, that we should do to others what we would like them to do to us, and treat others in the same manner we would like them to treat us.
There are no limitations to such a principle. It doesn’t apply only at home, but also at work, at the gym, etc. It doesn’t apply only to employees, but also to managers, directors, etc.
Here are some practical examples: young people that would like their parents to respect them more will respect their parents more. Parents who don’t want their kids to feel ashamed don’t embarrass other kids or their parents.
At work, someone wanting to have his or her work more valued by others will value the work of others more. And so forth. How, however, can this sort of love help to build a lasting marriage?
A Basic Truth
- Since there are no perfect people, mistakes will be made by both mates. That is why a happy marriage is made of two good forgivers, not of two perfectionists.
How it Works
As mentioned above, love guided by principles [a-ga´pe] focuses on qualities rather than on appearances. For example, learn to think of your mate in terms of his or her qualities.
Is he or she responsible? Then, value that more than his or her appearance. Is he or she loyal? If so, isn’t that of much more value than someone who perhaps is not as old or dresses better, but that is disloyal and in whom trust can’t be placed? Maybe your mate doesn’t always do what you think he or she should do.
But love [a-ga´pe] will help you to focus on all those times he or she in fact did what you wanted him or her to do.
Can you see how this sort of love is so important in lasting marriages? People who value, not appearances, but the correct display of principles and qualities by the other person can love such a person continuously, yes, even when his or her appearance declines as a consequence of the passing of time.
Another area where love a-ga´pe is fundamental is in dealing with your mate’s mistakes. What a sensitive, but vital area! How can love a-ga´pe help? It is interesting that, in one other reference to this type of love, the Bible directly relates it to our reaction in face of others’ mistakes, like those of our spouse.
It says: “Above all things, have intense love [a-ga´pe] for one another, for love [a-ga´pe] covers a multitude of sins” or mistakes. This is an appropriate truth to meditate upon, whether we are married or not: love a-ga´pe covers mistakes.
It doesn’t eliminate them, since all of us make mistakes, even many times. Therefore, learn to love in that way, that is, by “covering” the mistake, by forgiving it, instead of repeatedly mentioning it. Just apply to your spouse the same reasoning you apply to yourself when you make a mistake.
Do to him or her what you would like him or her to do to you. And who of us likes others to repeatedly remind us of our mistakes, accusing us all the time? Learning to lovingly forgive is a vital thing since, as a general rule, when others notice that they are being treated in a loving and forgiving manner their hearts get more attached and attracted to that person.
The contrary is also true: no one feels attracted to insensitive, proud, and cold people who are always ready to accuse and hurt with their words! Therefore, in your own interest, don’t be such a person!
- The person that is always and constantly accusing others of their errors and mistakes is like an angry dog that is always violently barking and biting people. Would you like others to see you in that way?
The Second Key
The second key has the sense of giving consideration to others and honoring them. Do you know what it is? If you were asked to summarize the above in one word, what word would you use?
If you are thinking “respect” you are correct! Respect is a vital and, unfortunately, often missing factor in a successful marriage. Like a key, the correct display of respect towards one’s mate can open up the way for him or her to think and feel about us.
When there is respect between a couple, their marriage prospers and does not feel like a burden. Another advantage is that when both spouses display respect towards each other, their children learn to imitate such attitude and behavior and are significantly more likely to show respect towards their parents and others.
Nonetheless, it is fitting here to clarify a common, wrong notion concerning respect: respect is not something you demand or are entitled to just because you are a man, or just because you are a mother, or pretty/handsome, or rich or because of your position in society or in your company.
It’s true that it is correct to expect a measure of respect from others in any circumstance. Respect, however, is mostly something you earn. How can that be achieved?
The simplest way to answer that question is: by thinking more of others than of yourself. The more you notice, think about, appreciate and value other people’s strong points, the more you will respect them.
Respect, however, is much more than just a disposition towards others. Respect is, mostly, action! That is, if you respect others, that can be seen and perceived in your actions towards them – in both the way you speak as well in your actions.
How it Works
Here is how a correct sense of respect works:
- If you want to respect, or honor, someone, you treat such a person with kindness. Think about this: if you yell at your spouse, how can you convince him or her of your respect?
But, if you are kind in your words and manners towards your spouse, especially when you have motives to not be pleased, won’t your spouse be impressed by your respectful reaction? In that case, will it be hard to convince your spouse of your respect?
Additionally, won’t it be much more likely and easier for him or her to react in the same way when the roles are reversed?
- If you want to respect someone, you are respectful of that one’s dignity and views. Yes, respect is closely related to being open-minded and not thinking too much of ourselves.
If we do think too much of ourselves, we will likely always insist on things being done our way and will diminish or disregard our spouse’s views on things. If that happens, if you always put your views above those of your spouse, how will that affect his or her respect for you when you show none towards him or her? And isn’t that really likely to spark conflicts and bitterness?
A tip about dignity: originating from old Hebrew and Aramaic, this word has the sense of putting someone in the high, elevating him or her, in a figurative sense.
Therefore, treat your spouse with dignity by putting his or her opinions and views “on the high”, so to speak, valuing them, never diminishing them or ignoring them as if they were of no importance. That is displaying respect towards your mate!
- If you want to respect your spouse you do not make him or her an object of demeaning comments or jokes. You don’t expose his or her faults to others – and this means, to anyone!
Wouldn’t you like to be treated in the same manner? If you had someone saying something bad about you to others, even if the thing said is true, you know that it would cause pain, embarrassment, and resentment with the person revealing such a thing.
Being true or not is not a relevant factor. The relevant factor is that you preferred to laugh with your friends by humiliating your spouse rather than avoiding hurting him or her. That is disrespectful and unloving.
- If you want to respect your spouse you are ready to fulfill any reasonable request made of you. Yes, do not only consider what is good for you – which would be selfish. Remember that your marriage is formed by two people – which includes your spouse.
Therefore, he or she also has preferences, likes, and dislikes. It is not reasonable to expect two people to always like or want the same things.
Could you compromise more in this area and make more effort to fulfill your spouse’s reasonable requests, even if you have to leave your preferences aside every now and then? Doing so shows respect and will cause an impression on your spouse. As a result, he or she might be more likely to start wanting to do your will as well without fights or resentment.
Will They Work In Your Case?
There is little doubt about it: maintaining a lasting marriage demands effort. But a happy family is surely worth the effort, wouldn’t you say?
Additionally, what important thing in life doesn’t demand effort? Doesn’t finding and keeping a job demand an effort? Even when we are tired and sick, why do we continue to get up early every day to go to work? Because, although every job has its challenges, it is important to have a job.
Thus, we make efforts every day to keep our jobs and, if possible, even to improve our position. Should family and our relationship with those that should matter the most be taken less seriously or be viewed as not worthy of our efforts, love, and respect?
Unselfish love for others and their good qualities, together with a correct display of respect in the various areas of family life are powerful keys to family happiness.
Nonetheless, remember: having the keys doesn’t mean you are going to be able to unlock the door. Only if and when you use the keys will the keys work. The same is true of everything mentioned above.
Therefore, may you be successful in your marriage and remember the following words written by a famous lawyer of the past, when he urged those reading his words to continue “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just [their] own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of others”, including those of their mates. — Philippians 2:4.