12 April, 2024

‘We’re Talking About (Marriage) Practice’

by | 1 September, 2023 | 0 comments

By Osharye Hagood 

Practice is a key principle to having a “winning” marriage. Back when we were learning to drive a car, or playing on a sports team, or perhaps learning to dance, we underwent the repetition of practice. This perspective has been extremely helpful for me in my marriage to Rudy. I wake up each day with the desire to have a great marriage, and I understand this can only happen over time, with practice, by the power of God. Please hear me when I say, the gift of love does not equate to a world-championship marriage. It takes practice.  

Rudy loves basketball, so I’ll share an illustration from that sport. The word practice took on a new life four days after the Philadelphia 76ers’ season ended in 2002. A sportswriter asked Allen Iverson, the team’s franchise player, about coach Larry Brown’s comments to the press four days earlier. Brown had said, “Your key player’s got to be there. He’s got to be practicing. He’s got to set the example, and he knows that.” To this, Iverson famously replied, at his own press conference, “We’re talking about practice . . . not a game . . . we’re talking about practice?” He repeated the word practice 22 times, and it became a famous pop culture reference.  

Similarly, I’d like the word practice to take on a new life as it relates to marriage. 

Practice to Become Proficient 

People who have been married for any length of time have learned that no one comes into it as an expert. We’re just human beings doing our best; in other words, we’re practitioners. So, if we want a world-championship marriage, we have to put in the practice.  

Merriam-Webster defines practice as “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient.” A practitioner is defined as “one who practices, [especially] one who practices a profession.” So, we are practitioners who practice marriage.  

Consider a primary difference between a physician and a nurse practitioner. Doctors can prescribe medication to patients as part of their duties. Nurse practitioners also prescribe medicine, but many states require that a doctor or physician provide direct oversight of the nurse practitioners’ scripts. What I’m saying is that even the most skilled among us are just practicing. Even life and death decision-making fall within the guidelines of practice. No one is perfect at it. We will all make mistakes.  

Marriage is a beautiful and divine piece of art. Marriage is the blank canvas God has entrusted to amateur artists who are producing world-class art, and this is possible only through practice and divine inspiration. 

Consider this adaptation of 2 Peter 1:5-8 as viewed through the lens of marriage and practice: “Make every effort to add to your marriage goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive.”  

Practice Until It Becomes Second Nature  

Let’s return to the basketball illustration. Allen Iverson obviously had put in a great deal of practice to become the franchise’s top player. He was at the top of his game, even as he continued to dwell on the shooting death of his best friend from seven months earlier. His coach arguably thought that practice could have been a critical ingredient in that hour. We all need practice, it does not guarantee a win, but it gives a person a greater chance at winning. 

Here are six reasons practice can be a game changer for marriages: 

  • Practice changes the brain. Repeated practice helps trigger an “autopilot” switch that causes our actions to become automatic and unconscious. 
  • Practice is proactive. It helps us become more in control and less reactive. Practicing helps diminish being ruled by frustrations and negative emotions. 
  • Practice establishes a routine. If we practice giving our spouse what we’ve learned they love and need, it typically increases their happiness. 
  • Practice promotes continuity in our marriages. 
  • Practice gives us hope. 
  • Practice helps us eliminate (or at least minimize) our mistakes. 

We all remember learning to drive a car. Having access to a car did not mean we instantly knew how to drive it. We had to get into the vehicle and learn how to make various adjustments (to the seat and mirrors), and we had to learn about the difference between the gas pedal and the brake. We probably didn’t think about these things when we weren’t driving. But then, the more time we spent behind the wheel practicing, the better we got at driving. In the same way, we need to practice to create the marriage we desire. If we want to be happy in our marriage, we must practice. In time, it will then become second nature. 

We won’t need to think about dribbling and passing. We won’t need to focus intently on keeping the car going straight. And we won’t need to think about being considerate and loving toward our spouse. Marriage practitioners aren’t perfect people, but they practice perfection. 

So, strive to have the best marriage in the world—a world-championship marriage. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but we must continue to practice. Practice to win. We are a key player in our marriage.  

The Bible says, “We are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). That applies to our life in Christ and to our marriages, as well. Now, get out there and practice! 

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