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  Ten Tips for Making Marriage Fun  
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By Robert H. Schuller

Today I'm concluding a series of messages on positive ideas for happy families. Throughout this series I have made no apology for the fact that our family is really very happy. I'm so proud of the fact that I have five children; they all are accomplished and all involved in some form with this ministry. They've embraced the faith, and they love it. They're happy people!

The joy of my life is my family. Of course, our happy family is the direct result of a very successful marriage. My wife and I have been married thirty-seven years and we have had a terrific time. So to conclude this series on happy, positive marriages, I would like to share with you, "Ten Tips on How To Make Marriage Fun."

The first step toward a happy marriage is a process that I call Operation Big Switch. Operation Big Switch is switching your mind from the negative to the positive. It is making a cognitive, intelligent, rational decision to adopt a positive attitude about marriage.

I realize that this will require an immense effort for some of you, however, I want to encourage you to believe that it is possible to have a happy and successful marriage. It's important to have a possibility thinking attitude toward marriage before we can even begin to discuss the ten tips for making marriage fun. So, if you have a negative attitude toward marriage, I challenge you to make the Big Switch now!

Once you've decided to be positive about marriage in general, then you're ready for the ten tips, or ten commandments for a happy marriage, that I have shared with countless couples in the last thirty-seven years that I have been a minister.

COMMANDMENT #1: Mind Your Manners!

This first tip sounds terribly simple, yet it's an important place to start. One of the most basic things to remember in keeping your marriage happy is to be polite and treat each other with respect.

In the thirty-seven years I've been married to Arvella, I don't think we've ever had an argument. We've had disagreements. We articulate and verbalize our disagreements with integrity and intensity, but that's not what I call an argument. An argument is when you shout at each other and choose words that demonstrate a lack of respect. I have never failed to respect my wife for the person that she is. And I have never felt that she treated me with anything other than great respect. She treats me like a king; I treat her like a queen.

Of course, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live up to this commandment because the environment and the society in which we live is rapidly becoming more disrespectful. However, I challenge you to rise above the subconscious signals that are being sent out by the media. Mind your manners. Treat each other with respect.

COMMANDMENT #2: Never Stop Courting!

Relationships are never frozen in concrete or cement. Relationships are plastic, fluid, and in the process of change. Consequently courting is a constant thing.

My wife and I have planned a date night into our calendar every Monday night. And when we couldn't afford anything more, we'd buy a hot-dog and sit on a bench overlooking the ocean. In my opinion, no restaurant in Southern California has a better ocean view than the park benches, and the best part is: they're free!

Money is not an excuse for not having a date night. It's not important where you go or what you do as long as you are able to get away from the telephone, the children and the business, and be alone where you can look into each others eyes and talk to each other.

The other day I read a past issue of Psychology Today which said that we are confronted every day by hundreds of thousands of inputs which bombard the subconscious human brain.

Your subconscious gets a lot more input than the conscious mind is aware of. You look at a newspaper, and the subconscious photographs everything. Your cognitive mind probably doesn't read it, but it has nevertheless been programmed in.

When you consider the many, many inputs that affect our minds and our moods in one week's time, you can recognize how important it is to communicate, in depth, and get your relationship realigned every week.

COMMANDMENT #3: Manage Money or Your Money Will Manage You!

Aside from sex, money is the second biggest cause of breakups in marriages. So, allow me to share with you a short and simple formula that has worked for us.

When we started our ministry here, our salary was meager. However, I always took 10% of the money I received and gave it to back to the church. Then I took a second 10% and I saved it for myself and my family. Later I invested it and prayed that it would multiply, which I'm grateful to say it has. Finally I disciplined myself to live on the 80% that was left.

I decided that if I couldn't live on the 80% balance, I was living too expensively for my means. The result was that we fared very well and my wife and I never had any quarrels about money.

Whether or not you decide to live by that formula, make the commitment to manage your money before it manages you and creates unwanted strife.

COMMANDMENT #4: Enjoy Sex!

Sex was meant by God, our Creator, to be lifeís greatest pleasure. Nobody has ever enjoyed sex more than those who have kept it within the confines of the marriage commitment. The first reason is that sex is safe when it is kept within the boundaries of a permanent relationship. You don't have to worry about picking up herpes simplex or AIDS or some other dreaded disease. The best safe sex is to find a super mate and make a commitment to be faithful to each other.

Safe sex is more than just protection from diseases that can kill you. Safe sex is protection from people that would extort or exploit or blackmail. I feel very safe, knowing that I have had sex with only one woman in my life, my very sexy wife. And I have to be very honest and tell you that nobody has enjoyed sex more than I have.

COMMANDMENT #5: Discover Mutual Friends!

If you have just gotten married, I have a warning for you: get ready for a new set of friends. You can't carry your previous friends into your marriage unless they happen to be good friends of your mate as well. If either of you has difficulty with any of your old companions, then it is best to let those old relationships fade away. Marriage is the time to establish a whole new set of friends. Marriage comes first before your old buddy or your old girlfriend.

COMMANDMENT #6: Establish By-laws On In-laws!

In the marriage ceremony it is customary for the minister to ask the question, "Who gives away this woman to be wed?'' It is significant when a father gives away a daughter. That act states that the bride and groom's first commitment is, from now on, to their mate. So one of the first by-laws on in-laws is to put your relationship before all others. The second by-law on in-laws is: Never tolerate conversation that includes negative insults about the other person's family. It is never wise to make unkind comments about your spouse's relatives.

COMMANDMENT #7: Find Happiness In Relationships!

Unfortunately there are too many people today who look for happiness through chemical stimulationís rather than through real and lasting relationships with their spouse. Find happiness where it's real, not hallucinatory. Any experience of joy or happiness that happens to be chemically induced is not real, it is a chemical fantasy. It doesn't generate from the strength of your own brain power, heart power or body power. Find real happiness in relationships that are meaningful.

COMMANDMENT #8: Keep Your Mate In First Place!

Make a decision to grow closer as the years go by. That starts early in marriage when the first child arrives. Don t let your children become more important than your husband or your wife. Your relationship as husband and wife must take priority over your relationship with your child.

It is often tempting to divert your focus from your mate to your children. The mother feels, ''My child needs me more than my husband does."

That's not true! The child needs to be fed, clothed, cared for and comforted, but the child does not need you more than your husband. In fact, your children need a strong marriage from you and your husband more than anything else. When the marriage is strong, the children respond favorably because you have a united authority in exercising discipline or offering encouragement. So draw closer as the years go by. Avoid the temptations that will try to draw you apart and make a concerted effort to cultivate the same interests.

COMMANDMENT #9: Keep Faith With Each Other!

Don't ever lie. And don't ever once break fidelity. You might be exposed.

Some of you are being exposed to temptations, and there are relationships that could really easily get you emotionally involved to the point where you have an affair. You think you can keep it secret. But you can't. If anything was taught to us by Sigmund Freud, it is the inevitability of what we call Freudian slips. You will inevitably give yourself away.

Now, for some of you, this advice comes too late. You've already lied or you've already been unfaithful. Well, remember where we started this message: This is Operation Big Switch. Become a positive thinker, a possibility thinker. And just because you've blown it, doesn't mean that you can't start life over again, here and now.

You can repair the damage you have done. You can repent. There can be forgiveness. It comes through the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Years ago on one of my first trips to the Holy Land, I bought a jug for 25 cents in Hebron. I tucked it in my carrying case along with some rocks I had collected along the way. The rocks were so heavy that the strap broke, the case fell to the floor, and the pitcher broke. I threw it in a waste basket in the airport in Rome. But my companion, a fellow minister, said, "Oh, take it home. You can glue it together again." I did. I glued it together, and you could see all of the scars and the scratches. I used to keep it on a shelf in my office and when couples came to see me where trust had been betrayed I would point out my jug and say, "Oh, you can repair it, but it's going to leave a scar. You can turn your scars into stars, but it's extremely difficult. It will require the grace of Christ." Be faithful! It's much easier to prevent a break in trust than it is to fix a betrayal!

COMMANDMENT #10: Find A Faith!

Every one of the previous commandments are tied together through this tip. It's the last word, and without it, I don't know if our marriage would have survived. That's because our faith gives a centrality to our emotional system. That central force is the very presence of God in Jesus Christ. St. Paul said, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me." I really believe that there is a God. Iíd believe He had to let us know what the score was, and He did that by coming to earth in the form of a human being called Jesus. Jesus Christ was crucified; that's history. They never found a bone, a hair, or tooth. The body just disappeared!

There's ample evidence that the ultimate miracle happened - that Jesus came back to life, and that He's alive today in Heaven. If we accept this by faith and accept Him, that's a leap of faith. When we do accept Him into our live He will respond. Your life will no longer be the same.

Give Jesus Christ a chance to be a part of your marriage, and I would say, if you're an agnostic or an unbeliever, then the least you could do is pray this simple prayer and mean it: "Jesus Christ, if you're alive, I'm willing to be a believer, I'm not so stubborn that I can't change. I'm not so arrogant that I think I know it all. If it's real I'll become a Christian. What have I got to lose? Amen."

A portion of the messages seen on the ìHour of Powerî and under the general title, "Positive Ideas for a Happy Family" are taken from the Fleming Revell publication entitled: The Positive Family, Copyright 1972.

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