Some of the best marriage advice I’ve ever received came from Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. (For those who don’t know, The Grateful Dead is a psychedelic rock band that came to fame in the midst of the drug culture of the 60’s.) In Garcia’s self-titled 1972 solo album, a song entitled “Deal” contained the following lyric…

“Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose, you and me got to spend some time wondering what to choose.”

When you apply this line to marriage, it’s some of the best advice you’ll find, because it reminds us…

  • It costs a lot to have a winning marriage. Even if you’re married to your “soul mate,” (whatever that means) a good marriage requires a lot of effort and sacrifice. At the risk of stating the obvious…anything of value cost a lot.
  • It costs even more when a marriage fails. Things can get so bad in marriage that ending it may seem easier than fixing it, but it’s not! It actually cost spouses more when their marriage ends then it would have cost to make the marriage strong and healthy. (Of course the exception is when a marriage is actually abusive and life-threatening.)

But this lyric also reminds us that, because the cost is so high, we “need to spend some time wondering what to choose.” Too often we don’t take time to choose wisely. Instead, we just react to whatever’s going on or whatever we’re feeling. We forget that we have a choice.

CHOICE IS UNDENIABLE. Choice is the one thing that can never be taken from you. Maybe your spouse refuses to deal with difficult issues. Maybe your spouse is controlling. Maybe your spouse wants out of the marriage and will not reconsider. Even in times like these, when you can’t choose what’s going on, you can still choose how you will respond to what’s going on.

Viktor Frankl understood this. A holocaust survivor, Frankl experience torture and starvation at the hands of the Nazis. His wife, mother, and brother were killed in a Nazi death camp. Yet, despite all this, Frankl knew that he still had a choice.  He said…“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way.”

Choice is so undeniable that even God Himself will not take away our freedom to choose. Look at what happened in the Garden of Eden. There, God refused to force Adam and Eve to do what He wanted them to do. He would not deny them the freedom to choose.

CHOICE IS INEVITABLE. You cannot not choose. Not choosing is in itself a choice. Let’s say you know you need to get control of your finances, but the thought of budgets and controlling your spending just seems too difficult. So you keep putting it off and don’t do anything about it. That’s a choice. Suppose your spouse says something hurtful to you. You know you could overlook it or kindly address it, but it just flies all over you and you come out with guns blazing. That’s a choice. Every decision is ultimately a choice, and that makes choice inevitable.

CHOICE IS CRITICAL. Your marriage rises and falls on your choices. Accuse your spouse or give them the benefit of the doubt? Hold a grudge or forgive? Avoid an issue or confront it? Withdraw or draw close? Be selfish or selfless? Be critical or encouraging? In each situation, it’s choice that will set the course of the marriage.  To quote Barbara de Angelis: “The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.”

So what can we do to make better choices?

For the answer, let’s go back to the lyric. “Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose, you and me got to spend some time wondering what to choose.”

There they are. The two simple things that will help you make better choices.

  • Spend some time. There are times when you must choose quickly and there are times when you have more time to choose. Either way, the key is to not just react, but to take whatever time you can to let the emotions settle and think through the options. This brings us to the second thing you can do to make better choices.
  • Wonder. The reason it’s important to take some time and not immediately react is that this will give you time to think before you act. You need to think about your options before you choose. You need to think about the current and future consequences of your choice. You need to think it through before you choose. This will improve your life in general and your marriage specifically.

Your ability to choose is a powerful tool in marriage. It’s a tool no one can take from you. It’s also a tool you can’t avoid. Make your choices better by taking the time and thinking things through before you choose, because when it comes to marriage…”It costs a lot to win, and even more to lose.”

Try leaving a comment and telling people about a time when you made a good decision for your marriage.

Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg