Keith Wishum: On course to happily ever after
As the plane prepared for take-off, the pilot pulled out a .38 revolver and placed it on top of the instrument panel. Turning to the navigator, he asked, “Do you know why I have this?” The navigator replied timidly, “No, why?”
The pilot responded, “Because I shoot navigators who get me lost!”
Without reply, the navigator quietly placed a .45 on his chart table. Seeing the pistol, the pilot asked, “And why do you have that?”
“To be honest sir,” the navigator replied, “I’ll know we’re lost long before you will.”
Hopefully, those two won’t be co-piloting your next flight. Obviously, it would be much
simpler (and safer), instead of shooting each other, to avoid getting lost. The same is true of marriages that get off course. The spouses want to blame and blast each other. It would be much more productive to navigate well from the start.
Easier said than done? Maybe, but it’s not as complicated as we may think. Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea that marriage is a mystery, and that it’s purely luck of the draw who ends up happy and who doesn’t.
God suggests otherwise. “A man reaps what he sows,” he says (Galatians 6:7). Not sometimes. Not just in some areas of life. Always. In marriage, we pick what we plant.
So, instead of pointing the gun at each other for getting off course in relationships, let’s look for ways to avoid getting lost. Fortunately, that’s relatively simple. In a unique approach to marriage research, Dr. Nick Stinnett, retired chair of the Human Development and Family Studies department at the University of Alabama, evaluated over 14,000 successful, happy couples to determine what makes a marriage work. In conjunction with Joe Beam, he authored Fantastic Families, in which they provide six simple characteristics that any couple can cultivate in their marriage to produce a stable, happy home.
What are these qualities that are common to successful couples? Commitment, appreciation, positive communication, time together, spiritual well-being, and the ability to cope with stress and crises — those are the landmarks by which any family may navigate to happiness.
Take a moment to reflect on those six traits. Are they ones that you are bringing to your relationships? Do you dare ask your spouse to rate you on each of those characteristics? It might help keep you on course to a happy marriage.
In the meantime, keep in mind: If you shoot your co-pilot, you’ll still be lost. Plus, you’ll have to fly alone.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.