By Gary Moore
In every relationship there come those times when what we expect doesn’t match what we experience. What we usually do then seems more like a reaction than a decision. We really don’t think we have a choice at that point and so we just react to the situation. But happy couples make a choice.
What is that choice? It’s found in the book of 1 Corinthians – specifically in chapter 13. Even though chapter 13 was not written to address marriage, many of us had all or a portion of 1 Corinthians 13 read at our weddings. It is popularly known as the “love chapter”.
Reflect on your relationship as we look at what Apostle Paul says love is. Beginning with verse 4 and reading through verse 7, he says, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Let’s look specifically at verse 7: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” If you look closely at this verse, there is one characteristic that doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense because it’s not dependent on the lover, it’s dependent on the lovee. And that is, “always trusts”.
Always trusts – that’s stupid, even naive. Always trusts? Really? What happens when what we experience doesn’t match what we expect? Every time this happens there is a choice we make. Again, most of the time we don’t even realize or recognize that we’re making a choice because it feels like a response, like a reaction.
The size of the gap between what we expect and what we experience is dependent on how much mutual understanding we have. The more mutual understanding, the smaller the gap. When faced with this gap we always have two choices – and, they’re the same two choices every time. We either choose to “believe the best” or we choose to “assume the worst”.
Happy couples choose to believe the best. And, they choose to believe the best every time – until they just can’t believe the best anymore.
In 2005 Marcus Buckingham published a book titled, The One Thing You Need to Know. In this book he cites a 20-year study of happy couples in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The researchers were looking for a common denominator as to why these couples still enjoyed each other’s company.
One of their primary assumptions was that over time happy couples had downgraded their expectations of each other – their motives, virtues, and character. What they found was just the opposite. These happy couples had, as it turned out, an unrealistically positive view of each other. At the end of their study, here was their recommendation: In a relationship, find the most generous explanation for each other’s behavior and believe it.
Believes all things…
Every single time there’s a gap – even when it’s the same gap over and over – what you place in that gap is what you decide to place there. You’ll either believe the best or you’ll assume the worst. Whichever way you go, it’s your choice.
Let’s take a quick look at two obstacles in this process. One is what we experience – he did it again; she did it again. Two is who we are. We didn’t show up in the relationship with a blank slate. Some people have a harder time trusting than others. Because of your past experiences, certain behaviors trigger certain responses.
Even with all your junk, it’s still your choice – every single time.
Let’s return for a moment to 1 Corinthians 13. Verse 6 says that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”. Love isn’t trying to catch the other person doing something wrong. Love isn’t building a case against the other person so they can finally step in and say, “you did this” – “you said this”. Love doesn’t keep score of the past.
Verse 7 says “love always protects”. From what? Love always protects the relationship from suspicion and from a lack of trust. Love knows that whatever I choose to put in the gap between my expectation and my experience affects the relationship.
Verse 7 says “always trusts” and, “believes all things”. Love chooses a generous explanation. Verse 7 says “always hopes”. Love always trends positive. And, “always perseveres” – this implies resistance against such things as doubt and negativity.
So, here’s the question. Based on your personality, based on your experience, based on what you know about yourself, when what you expect doesn’t match what you experience, do you believe the best? Or, do you assume the worst?
It’s your choice.
Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. Monday mornings at 10 a.m. he does live relationship teaching called MUM Live on his Facebook page Mutual Understanding Method. He may be contacted at [email protected].