You may be thinking there’s no way so few words can even touch on such a huge topic. My husband disagrees. When I texted him for his three words, he replied he only needed two: Yes, Dear.
Maybe it’s not the amount of words you’re worried about. Maybe you’re wondering if words alone can really change anything.
Think about your relationships with your parents, children, spouse, or friends. The people you’re close to often, with what they say, carry the power to hurt or heal. To make you hate them or love them. To make you feel good or bad about where you stand in their lives.
What wife wouldn’t want to soak in these words? “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace” (Song of Solomon 4:9 NIV).
What husband wouldn’t smile to hear this from his wife? “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine” (Song of Solomon 1:2).
These descriptions may be thousands of years old, but what theses verses convey to our spouse holds true today. They say I love you. I care about you. You’re special. You’re important. I’m glad you’re mine.
Sometimes we forget our spouse needs validation and our marriage needs time and energy. Life happens, and we get busy. Overcommit to things outside of each other. Get sidetracked by demanding jobs or high-maintenance kids or unexpected or tough situations. But the farther we drift from each, the more the glue in our relationship loosens and the easier it is to keep moving apart.
Many people will tell you that marriage takes two. God says a strong marriage takes three. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
I’m so glad that, just like in our walk with Him, He doesn’t expect us to do this marriage thing alone. If I’ve learned one rock-solid truth in twenty-six years of being with my husband, it’s that a long-term relationship is hard. Without God as our binding agent, our mediator, and our go-to intervention, my husband and I would not still share the same last name.
I’m not sure where you are or what kind of marriage you’re in. You may be closer to your honeymoon than an empty nest or somewhere in between. You may be holding hands, grateful for each other. You may be sleeping in separate bedrooms, wondering how much longer you’ll be a couple, and forget a marriage taking three, you feel as if there’s barely one. I’ve been there. And while they aren’t any fast fixes to a relationship gone wrong, know that God sees you where you are, and He wants to work in your life. I’ve been there too.
Whether you’re making your way toward a reconciliation or learning to love each other more, growing a good marriage isn’t a one-shot deal, it’s an ongoing process. The three words I try to say to my husband just might surprise you, but here they are—YES. NO. And MAYBE.
Yes, I will actively listen when you talk.
Sometimes I forget what you have to say is important. I am your confident, your safe place, your friend. You can tell me anything. You can trust me to listen.
Yes, I will pray for God to change our marriage by changing ME.
I’ve learned that when I need more affection, more time, more respect, more of you, if I pray for the desire to give those things first, we both change for the better.
Yes, I will be there for you no matter what.
You can count on me even when I’m exhausted or struggling or angry with you. It’s a privilege to be part of “you and I.” You are my team, and I’ve got your back.
Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
No, I won’t hold a grudge.
I won’t give you the silent treatment. I won’t sleep in the guest bed. I won’t complain about you behind your back. I will work out our issues and move on.
No, I won’t live in the past.
Next time we argue, I won’t bring back issues we’ve already settled. There’s enough in our future to deal with without being permanently stuck in our past.
No, I won’t put others before you.
After my relationship with God, you’re my priority. Barring a crisis, our marriage comes first before our jobs, our parents, our friends, and our kids. I signed up to grow old with you, not them.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Maybe it’s okay if I’m not always right.
I want you more than I want my way. More than I want to have the last word. More than holding onto the frustration that comes when things don’t go according to my plan.
Maybe I should stop expecting you to read my mind.
In my fantasies, you read my every thought and know my every need. But in real life, expanding my communication skills is what strengthens our bond. It’s better for us if I’m upfront about how I’m feeling and tell you what I need.
Maybe I can find joy not in a perfect marriage, but in exactly what we have.
Sometimes I look at couples around our age with a vision of what we’re supposed to be. But then I remember that what a marriage looks like on the outside isn’t always a true depiction of what happens behind closed doors. I like us. I like who we are now and whoever we’re going to become.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Yes, no, and maybe are my words in progress and I’ve interpreted them the way I’ve shared above. Maybe God has a different interpretation for you. I encourage you to ask Him. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your spouse. And think about writing a love letter to your husband or wife and sharing what He reveals.
Lord, how amazing is it that I can come to You, the creator and cheerleader of my marriage. Thank you for being the third strand in our cord. For wanting us to succeed. Show me the words you have for me. Open my heart to the change you want to make in my life and in my marriage. Thank you for blessing me with my spouse.
*Author’s Note: Please remember there’s a great difference between a healthy partnership between two people doing life together and a relationship where a spouse is being physically or emotionally abused. My three words are not meant shame anyone into being a better husband or wife. They’re about letting God work in your life. If you find yourself in a situation of abuse, I urge you to get help.
**This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com (February 2017).
About the Author: Lori Freeland is an author, editor, writing coach, wife, mom, and creator of imaginary people—not necessarily in that order. An acquisitions editor for Armonia Publishing, former editor for The Christian Pulse, and regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, she writes fiction and non-fiction in several genres and has presented numerous writing workshops nationwide. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, you can find her blogging at lafreeland.com.