Recently a family friend and powerhouse Jesus guy was staying with Robin and I while he was teaching at our church and school at the Journey Center. Late one evening after a full day, he asked me what was the key to Robins and my relationship. He had admired the way we interacted and wanted to insure his marriage would continue to develop and grow. Impressed with my young friends genuine heart, I assured him it wasn't always that way. Over the last 32 years of life together you can be sure that Robin and I have had our tough times. I'm not sure I know of a marriage that hasn't survived trials and at least one extended season when one or both of the partners wanted to quit. If you think about it, every covenant relationship is going to experience difficulties.
I began with something like "it's commitment through love, honor and respect that wins the day in the times we don't seem to be connecting well". I thought that was a good start but my audience was not letting me get away with floury christian speech with a side of superlative, lazy commentary. The "don't waste my time" look on his face gave way to a rather direct "dude, seriously?". I love this guy man. I could tell his marriage was a good one, they were deeply in love and committed to one another. What he was looking for was some down to earth tools that he could employ in the times when he had previously reacted poorly as when he or his wife was frustrated with the others behavior. Simply telling him "love wins the day" wasn't going to feed this bulldog.
Going deeper, I gave him Robin's and my 90+5+5=100% rule. We tend to form covenant relationships with people in whom we have much in agreement even though we have very different personalities. Robin and i call that the portion the +/-90%. Even though we are certainly different personalities we still have tons in common. We both love to take risks, we love to laugh, we love to vacation together, we love our daughters, we love the challenges we share in our daily life together. It's important that we celebrate and rely on that 90% commonality especially during times when our feelings may be a bit rough toward the other.
Then there is +/-5% of our relationship that really needed individual work. This is the portion of the relationship that for a variety of reasons causes us to hurt the other. We all have developed poor behaviors that reflect a twisted value system that when gone uncorrected allow us to cut corners in honor and respect with those we are closest to. Just because we are in "until death do us part" covenant relationships don't give us the right to mistreat the other partner. When we allow our poor behavior to be acceptable to those we're in covenant with, it reveals a sin issue that is gnawing within our members. A good goal is to get this 5% as close to 0% as possible. We don't want any unresolved issues bringing pain into our relationships.
Then there is the last +/-5%. These are the things about the other that may irritate us but we give grace. In every covenant relationship, there are certain tendencies that can drive us batty but that's where the grace comes in. Robin and I have a strong belief that it is not our job to fix the other. We may try to help the other when we get off based but we don't mandate change in order to stay in covenant. Of course, we're not talking about abuse. Physical, sexual, and/or mental abuse is never okay and if that is occurring dramatic steps should be considered.
So for us, I told my friend, we focus on the 90% outwardly to each other; focus on the 5% inwardly that we need to correct; and give grace for the other as they continue to grow. This creates a safe and healthy environment for your covenant relationship to develop, grow and others will want to emulate.