Explore unfinished business.
One of the reasons many couples have harmful residue building up over the months of their marriage is that they never come to terms with unfinished business. This business may have to do with unpaid bills, a question of how long the in-laws are staying for Christmas, or whether the kids should be disciplined a certain way. Whatever the issue, mark this down: Every couple has unfinished business. And that business nags at them. It drags them down and drains them of energy.
Every time we have an issue that goes unattended, we increase the pressure and tension in our relationship. So begin your session of ridding yourselves of harmful residue by noting your unfinished business. Talk about whatever it may be, and do your best to make some decisions at this point and gain some closure. To get you started, ask each other: What unfinished business in our relationship is weighing on you most right now?
Talk about your money.
A Reader's Digest survey found the most common lie between spouses is over how much they spent on a purchase. Roughly half, or forty-eight percent, of secretive spouses said they hid the cost of purchases (even in affluent households) within the last month. That was much higher than the two next-most-common secrets, which were over a child's behavior or grades or a failure on the job.
The biggest problem with deceiving your spouse about money is not found in trying to balance the checkbook. No. Money matters are a metaphor for other troubles in a marriage troubles involving power, security, competence, and self-esteem. That's what makes money so difficult to talk about. And that's why talking about money is vital.
Talk about your emotional needs.
[Talk] to your spouse about your emotional needs. If you are feeling neglected, say so. If you are wanting to be admired, let him or her know. If you don't talk about your emotional needs, it can be nearly impossible for your spouse to meet them. And second, cultivate your relationship with God. Within each of us is a God-shaped void, an emptiness that can only be filled by God. And until we find our connection with God, we will always suffer twinges of disappointment in our marriage. He hears us when we pray.
Talk about your anger.
Anger requires limits and must be talked about routinely. The healthy handling of it begins with admitting you are (or were) angry. Most of us want to deny the presence of anger to control it. But that never works. Repressed anger has a high rate of resurrection. So 'fess up. Own your anger without hiding it or projecting it onto your partner.
Once you have admitted your anger, the next step is to release your vindictiveness do your best to "turn the other cheek" (see Matthew 5:38-48). This practical principle releases revenge and is an insurance policy against resentment. How do you do this? By talking to your partner about how you feel hurt and then surrendering your desire to hurt him or her back. Let your partner know you are letting it go. And if you are inclined, say a prayer that God would protect you both from the reemergence of angry feelings.
Give each other freedom to fail
You and I don't have to be perfect people to have a great marriage. We are all human. We all make mistakes. Because of this very fact, we must give each other the freedom to fail. If you don't, you'll never rid yourselves of harmful residue. And when you are having difficulty letting go of a hurtful mistake by your partner, it is time to consider our next piece of advice on forgiveness.
Forgive when you feel hurt
We do need to forgive each other if for no other reason than because we are married. And no marriage, no matter how good, can survive without forgiveness. We are bound to get hurt. It's inevitable.
In a healthy marriage, two people help one another become better at forgiving by asking for forgiveness, as well as by giving it when needed. "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?" These simple words offer a possible way out of the inevitable blame game that traps so many couples and they are sure to release you from the harmful residue that would otherwise bog you down.
Update how well you know your spouse
Mrs. Albert Einstein was once asked if she understood her husband's theory of relativity. "No," she said, "but I know how he likes his tea."
Good answer. Knowing simple intimacies about your partner is at the heart of a healthy marriage. And keeping up-to-date on those ever-changing intimacies is a healthy habit loving couples cannot ignore. So in your pursuit to rid yourselves of harmful residue, take a moment to check in with your spouse. What would he or she like you to know? A quick update will keep next month's harmful residue to a minimum. To get you started on this topic, ask each other: What do I need to know about you that I may not know already?