Printers Are Disposable. Marriages Are Not!


Way back in the 1990s, someone said to me, “If your home office printer isn’t working, just throw it out and go buy another. Nobody fixes them anymore.”

Ain’t that the truth? I buy a “4-in-1” printer for about $100 and when it stops working, into the dumpster (or recycling) it goes!

Too bad, actually, to waste all those plastic parts and metal pieces. But, it’s the “way of the world.”

Sadly, the world seems to view marriages as home office printers. 

Not working? Get a new one! Too hard to deal with? Dump it! Not running smoothly? Upgrade!

Recently, our oldest offspring, Kristin, my co-speaker at QBQ, Inc. and a mom of three—posted a 2005 wedding photo on her 10th wedding anniversary.

I immediately left this comment:

“Congrats to Erik and Kristin! You’ve just made it five times longer than the average celebrity marriage! Whoo hoo!”


Well, Karen and I will mark 35 years on Sunday, June 21.

Thirty-five years since my dad—Pastor Jimmy—married us in our Danby, NY church, built in 1813. Now that’s a building that has lasted. Just like our marriage.accountability-marriage

Even though, to be honest, we are—what does the world call it?—incompatible.

I won’t detail all of our differences, since I did that last October on Karen’s birthday. Enjoy that post here: Relationships: Being Different is Okay

But I will say something that struck me the other day:

Where there is “incompatibility,” there is likely a lack of personal accountability.

That may offend some and I’m sorry. Yet let’s remember what Ben Franklin said: “If it hurts, it instructs.”

I can’t speak for other marriages—the ones that make it or the ones that don’t—but I can speak for ours.

Karen and I have good days and Karen and I have bad days—and we can characterize the difference easily …

A Bad Day: When we try to fix each other.

A Good Day: When we practice PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY and work on fixing ourselves.

John and Karen - and Pastor Jimmy Miller, June 21, 1980
John, Karen, Sydney Giles, Pastor Jimmy Miller – 6/21/80

Sound hard? It really isn’t. All one needs to do is ask The Question Behind the Question (QBQ).

QBQs like these turn “incompatible” into something possible, functional, enjoyable—and worth saving:

“What can I do to serve her <him> today?”

“How can I honor our differences?”

“What can I do to change me?”

And, what we call The Ultimate QBQ:

“How can I let go of what I cannot control?”

Not surprisingly, the good days—those QBQ-asking days—are always more fun than the bad days. And in our next 35 years, Karen and I want to have some fun.

So, if you’re like the Millers and don’t view marriage like a busted home office printer and want to make it work, ask QBQs and see the difference PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY can make!

Share below the #1 lesson you take from this message and how you will apply it.

We’d love to hear!

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33 Responses

  1. We’ll be married 34 years on August 1, so just a little more than a year less than you! We love QBQ!

  2. First, congratulations on your anniversary! My husband and I just celebrated our 42nd anniversary on June 2, I can’t really add anything to your observations about QBQ in a marriage. I will add that many people, when learning of our long marriage, tell us we are “really lucky.” While luck has a bit to do with a long, successful marriage, I believe it takes hard work – accountability, communication and a focus on improving ourselves, as you articulated, not our spouse. Great advice for any relationship!

    Thanks for all you do – I love your work!

  3. There is a pretty good chance that if I do my job right (love), then she will be able to fullfill her role well (respect). I read a good book about it once, and the original source is great too. (Eph. 5)

  4. John,

    Happy Anniversary to you and Mrs. QBQ. My wife and I will be celebrating 22 on Friday. While I think QBQ are three awesome letters, I think the acronym ACT applies in my situation. I chose three words to focus on in 2015 and the three I chose were: Appreciate, Challenge & Teach. It just so happens that the first letters of those words spell ACT. It reminded me that I need to act like a leader every day and that starts by asking QBQs.

    In my marriage for the last 22 years I have had to ACT as well. Appreciate what I have because even when it seems like it’s not working, it’s most likely better than what many divorced or single people have. Challenge myself each day to become better and “act” the right way as well as accept challenges that I face. Teach others what I have learned and seek opportunities to help in any way that I can.

  5. Even with printers there is maintenance. You replace the ink cartridges. clean the heads, and add paper once in awhile. You can’t just let the machine sit there and expect it to work when you haven’t paid it enough attention. Congrats on your anniversary. My wife and I are at our 25 this year.

  6. John, proud of you and Karen! I frequently forward your newsletter and share it’s truths with others. My wife and I celebrate 32 in August. We’ve also adopted (4 from China) with 15 total.

  7. John – 35 years on Father’s Day! Quite an accomplishment for you two. Congrats.
    We’ll be married 30 years this year. QBQ!, personal accountability, attitude of service all relate. Always look forward to the QBQ posts for reflection and learning.
    Thanks! Jeff

  8. I applied this concept of practicing personal accountability in my marriage a few years ago. The bad days were more numerous than the good days and I was ready to call it quits. I made a choice to make one last attempt to improve our relationship starting with ME. Once I changed my outlook, my thoughts, my feelings about our differences and what I perceived to be the problems a miracle happened. My Husband changed! Really, he didn’t change, but my perspective changed which caused me to see his good traits the the good life we had built together and appreciate our differences. That naturally translated to feelings of deeper love and respect. 32 years married now and going strong.

  9. My husband and I have been together for about a year and a half. It just so happens we married exactly one year to the day he came to visit me in my town for the first time. We definitely have our good and not so good days. But I know that when I get angry or irritated or whatever, I try to step back and think about what it is that irritates me. And it’s always because He doesn’t meet the expectations I’ve set, but haven’t told him yet. So I’m working on being accountable for my actions as well.

  10. We are coming up on our 20yr anniversary this summer. We have some awesome days and some awesome opportunities to practice Personal Accountability! Thanks for all your inspiration!

  11. Our anniversary in October will be our 44th. My husband is a wonderful husband, an incredible father, and the best grandpa, We both try to let go of what’s out of our control (that’s difficult), and make decisions together (that’s easier). I love your posts, and try to pass them on. Thanks for the great advice.

  12. Thank you so much! I needed this and will share with my other married friends! It all goes back to commitment!

  13. Thanks for Standing for Marriage. We need more voices to fight the fight! They enemy is destroying marriages to destroy the image of Christ and the Church on the earth!

  14. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary! What I take away from this post is your mindset is about others. And, if you are focused on others and not yourself, it raises the happiness factor.

  15. Hi John,
    I needed awhile to meditate on this and think how to express what I learned. First, relief, that we aren’t the only ones who have “Incompatible” moments. Second, grateful for the reminder that I can only fix me. Often we are trying to get to the same goal, in marriage, however we are coming at the end result in two different ways, hence the bumping and confusion. I plan to work on my communication with my husband. Instead of seeking to BE understood; I’m going to try harder to understand what HE is trying to say in a given situation. (and not get grumpy if he isn’t trying to understand me!:) I try to remind him (in the middle of a heated discussion) that we are on the SAME team. I want to be a helpful partner, not the thorn. (We’ll celebrate 17 years of marriage this year.) Thanks for bringing a great principle into a very important relationship!

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