The Seven Second Rule in Marriage

A couple weeks ago, I asked you a question: did God create marriage primarily to make us happy or holy? If you’re curious of my conclusion or want to weigh in, please check out the post.

But today, I want to share a simple story from one couple’s life. This personal example stuck in my head and benefits my relationship with Josh every day.

In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes about an annoyance he discovered early in marriage. Growing up, his family adhered to the rule: if you empty an ice cube tray, you fill it back up.

Gary discovered that his wife habitually left near-empty ice cube trays in the freezer. He asked her repeatedly to stop, and his irritation with her built in those early days. He begrudged the fact that his wife couldn’t spare seven seconds to fill the ice cube tray and make his life slightly more convenient.

He writes:

“It finally dawned on me one day that if it takes Lisa just seven seconds to fill an ice cube tray, that’s all it takes me as well. Was I really so selfish that I was willing to let seven seconds’ worth of inconvenience become a serious issue in my marriage? Was my capacity to show charity really that limited?”


We all have those irritations, don’t we? He doesn’t put the toilet seat down. She leaves her socks on the bedroom floor. He puts the toilet paper roll on backwards.

Josh and I both had pet annoyances early in marriage. I squeezed the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, and he left clutter on the kitchen counters. Often, I would puff out an irritated sigh while gathering up his keys and the scattered mail. And he would bite his tongue when he found the toothpaste tube contorted from the middle.

These minor annoyances can become major issues in our marriage, can’t they?

We ask our spouse to stop or to change. And we believe they love us. So why don’t they alter a tiny behavior that irritates us so much? Seeds of doubt are planted. He’s just selfish. And rude. Now that we’re married, he doesn’t need to prove his love in the small things. 

If we don’t address these doubts, the seeds will grow. Over time they can lead to fear, misunderstanding, and spite.

When I read Gary Thomas’ example, these situations came crashing into perspective.

“Was I really so selfish that I was willing to let seven seconds’ worth of inconvenience become a serious issue in my marriage?”

Can we ask our spouse to change behaviors? Of course.

Should we both try to alter simple behaviors that annoy our spouse? Absolutely.

But as they say, old habits die hard. Josh’s “kitchen counter clutter” has diminished over the years, but it’s still more than I’d prefer at times. I’m still learning to squeeze from the bottom of the toothpaste tube.

But we’ve both realized two truths.

Number one: clutter on the countertops and a contorted tube of toothpaste do not mean “I don’t love you.” We try to show more understanding to one another. These are just habits and not subconscious methods of sabotaging each other’s day.

Number two: it only takes seven seconds. This has become my motto when I find a pile of clutter or some other minor offense that threatens to irritate me or plant a seed of doubt.

Yes, Josh and I ask each other to make minor changes, and we try to accommodate one another. But when we fail to meet the other’s expectations, we remember it only takes seven seconds. 

Now, I might be tempted to mutter under my breath or grit my teeth, and sometimes I still choose to get frustrated. But in general, I remind myself: Josh loves me, he really is trying, and this seven seconds of inconvenience are not that important in the whole of our marriage.

It’s not an earth-shattering principle, but it has led to greater understanding, patience and joy in our marriage. I hope it will do the same for yours.

Remember, it only takes seven seconds.

2 thoughts on “The Seven Second Rule in Marriage

  1. Politeness and courteousness go a long way not only in marriage but when our children see it, it influences them. I want to leave a good example for our children and the other people that we influence. Love is an action word and not just words.


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