As my wife and I walked in Dairy Queen, we smelled trouble. Not from the food, but from the couple we were meeting to mentor in their marriage. Let’s call them Suzie and Tim. Suzie was scowling at her husband, and Tim was texting on his phone, clearly irritated.
Our fears were soon realized. Three minutes into our time together, Suzie got a phone call from her mom. Her end of the conversation set the stage for what she expected from our time together:
Heavy sigh. “Mom, I am meeting with the marriage mentors. I know you told me to do this but I just don’t see the point. Tim will NEVER change.” Sideways glare at both of us.
“Sure, I will call when we are done. This won’t take long.”
Tim and Suzie were separated. She was staying at her sister’s house. He seemed almost happy she was not at home. Both agreed life was simpler without each other.
This couple didn’t need mentoring, they needed a miracle. My wife and I pushed through our hesitation and finished the meet-and-greet, knowing we were called to minister to married couples in trouble.
At the end of our time, we gave Suzie and Tim some simple homework. Three compliments each day to your spouse. Even if it is, “You take out the trash like a champ.” Anything kind, three times every day for two weeks until we met again. Each time we met with them, we continued this assignment.
I told them encouragement would change their marriage. I believed this statement, but I almost doubted if it would apply here. This couple seemed lost. I am happy to say I was wrong.
A couple months later, Tim and Suzie came to our house for our mentoring session. They didn’t even seem like the same couple. Joking and poking each other, then hugging after their playful war. Sitting close on our couch, holding hands. I asked how they were doing.
“This has been the best time of our marriage!” Suzie exclaimed. “I didn’t believe Tim when he was complimenting me for the first few weeks. I told myself he was just doing his homework. I asked him one day if he meant what he said. He told me…
Tim interrupted with a broad smile. He wanted to tell this part of the story.
“I love you. I want our marriage to last. If three compliments a day will make a difference, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes. You’re the most important thing in my life.”
As a tear rolled down her face, Suzie confided in us that she never believed she was important to Tim. She always felt like the extra baggage in his life, but no more. Now she knew she was loved.
Tim gave us a similar story. He felt like he never measured up to Suzie’s expectations. He assumed he was a failure of a husband, and she never said otherwise. Through her encouraging words, she showered him with acceptance and love. He knew he not only measured up, but made her proud.
Things were still hard for Suzie and Tim. Years of bad habits had to change. They had to relearn to trust one another. Wounds needed to heal. This took time. They stumbled along the way.
But a new foundation had been laid. One of encouragement. Tim and Suzie are still together. Working through the tough times that come in every marriage. Loving each other. Believing the best of each other. Working through the tough times that come in every marriage. All because of encouragement.
My friend James Prescott has written a new book on this topic you need to read, 5 Steps to Encouragement: A Manifesto for Changing the World.
Here are a few snapshots of his powerful message:
- We were made to encourage. Every single one of us.
- Encouragement is truth presented to others in the exact way it needs to be heard, at the precise moment a person needs to hear it.
- You are an amazing work of art. You were designed and created by the divine, to fulfill a unique role in the world.
There is much more where this came from. Click here to get your free copy of James’ book. You won’t regret it.