An individual does not have to be in their teenage years to discover what generational differences are. They are real, run deep, and can cause definite issues. Generational differences run deeper than just music, clothing styles, technology, or history-shaping events. Although all of those issues are important, generational differences can be as simple as the ideological understanding of how relationships work.
Visit your closest livingroom, family reunion, or family gathering and you will be sure to find one generation conferring with their cohorts on how the other generations, “Have no idea…”, “Don’t get it…”, or the infamous, “When we were their age…”
One of the wisest things for any two different individuals that represent different generations to do is realize that while there are differences, there can be some similarities and more importantly, things to learn from one another.
After counseling lots of couples, reading loads of marriage and relationship research and anecdotal articles, and living everyday in my own marriage, I have discovered that lots of what our grandparents (or seniors) shared with us – was right. It wasn’t fluff, coined in cute taglines, or only limited to 140 characters for Twitter. The wisdom for the ages sounded corny and shallow and seemingly coming from people who had less education, less exposure, and less information than this generation. But, they knew what they were talking about! I am sure that there are thousands that could be added to this list, but I just want to highlight four ideas that “grandpa” and “grandma” were right about:
1) Stick With It
From the moment that you load the vehicle for the honeymoon, there will be things that challenge you to give up on the relationship. When you consider the age at which you get married, more than likely, you’ve had that many previous years of experience at breaking up. When you are single and the tough gets going, more often than not, you get going…literally! Unfortunately, that is an unintended consequence of the practice we had prior to marriage, that we take into our marriages. When things get tough or there’s a misunderstanding or your “rose-colored glasses” get stepped on, the default has been established to simply walk away and start over. But that is not what marriage is made of. Marriage is made of people who are humble and courageous enough to stick with it and make it work, in spite of the relationships difficulties. Of course, notwithstanding any forms of abuse or malicious repeated wrong-doing, most things you can recover from.
Marriage is made of people who are humble and courageous enough to stick with it and make it work, in spite of the relationships difficulties.
2) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
One of the first arguments my wife and I had was over how the silverware was placed in the dishwasher. After putting my manly foot down and her pushing back, she called her father and told him that she wasn’t going to live the rest of her life with some man telling her how to wash the dishes. She then shouted those famous words, “He ain’t my daddy!” Needless to say we got over that hump, but looking back on it today, it was absolutely NOT worth it. I’m glad that we didn’t divorce over the dishwasher, but over the years we have learned that there are bigger, more important, longer-lasting issues to work through than making major legislative decisions on insignificant personal preferences like what time we eat for dinner or whether or not we put the forks with the spoons in the dishwasher. At the end of the day, developing your love and making your spouse smile should be more important.
3) Learn When to Be Quiet
I’ll never forget when one of my mentors took a board and asked me to pick up the hammer and drive some nails into it. I drove about 10 nails into the board. He then told me that the nails represented my negative words and the board represented my wife’s heart. He then told me to turn the hammer over and remove a few of the nails. I did as I was asked. He asked me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see the holes where the nail was…” He picked up his napkin, wiped his face, and said, “Watch your words. Because the hole is ‘still’ there.” There was nothing else for him to say. I got the message loud and clear.
Even when you apologize, your words will leave a permanent impression in the life of your spouse.
Even when you apologize, your words will leave a permanent impression in the life of your spouse. I’ve learned this the hard way! In frustration, we will never really say what should be said nor will we refrain from saying what needs to be said. Our emotions should NOT drive what comes out of our mouths. Ultimately, if we care about the other person’s well-being and even honor them as a person who God created, then we would be wise enough not to say something in a temporary situation that has a permanent effect on their perception of themselves, you, or their life with you. Simply learn when to be quiet.
4) Learn to Laugh
Laughing is medicine for your soul.
As the story goes, a wife got so mad at her husband that she packed his bags and told him to “get out.” As he walked to the door, she yelled, “I hope you die a long painful death…” He turned around and said, “So you want me to stay?” They immediately both laughed until they cried. The truth is that every issue isn’t that simple and doesn’t get solved that easily. But there are lots of issues that can be resolved over time – by intentionally laughing with your spouse. Laughing is medicine for your soul. Your soul should be connected to your marriage. A logical conclusion then is that when your soul is healthy, it is easier for your marriage to be healthy. Watch comedians on television, go to comedy movies, make your own comedy, laugh at yourselves, be silly, smile a lot…whatever you do – laugh together! As a matter of fact, laugh right now – you’ll be glad you did!