Is it just me, or does it seem like a lot of couples are having marriage problems? I feel like I am constantly talking to people who are having problems, on the verge of divorce, or in the middle of divorce. And it’s not just people I know; I seem to hear from others about how their friends or family members are having problems. I realize that “everybody” isn’t having marriage problems, but it sure does seem like more than normal. What about a lasting marriage?
Part of the problem seems to be that people aren’t aware of the subtle nature of both marriage improvement or decline. Therefore, they aren’t aware of where the cause (or causes) of their problems are coming from. As a result, they neither address and deal with problems early enough, nor do they do the normal everyday things necessary to strengthen their relationship and have a lasting marriage.
Eventually, things pile up until the situation becomes so overwhelming that they don’t know what to do or how to climb out of this “hole” they have found themselves in. When things finally reach a crisis point, they either look for a quick fix (which rarely works), settle for mediocrity (which usually continues to decline), or give up and call it quits. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
You CAN have a rewarding and lasting marriage!
Your marriage CAN prevail! But it’s going to take work and it’s going to take time. It’s also going to take an understanding of what I call “the three laws of marriage” – the law of inertia, the law of vigilance, and the law of incremental change.
Each of these laws can either hurt or improve your marriage. They aren’t sexy, mind-blowing, instantaneous, or miracle working. Each of them takes time (think in terms of years), and a lot of work. However, if you can recognize their importance, put in the effort, and harness their power, you can set your marriage on a trajectory that will prevail over any and all obstacles that stand in your way.
About 20 years ago, I remember this particular argument I had with Karen. I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I vividly remember this very important FACT. I was going to win! This was not one of those fights where I would end up apologizing. Oh no! I had this one in the bag. It was an open and shut case. Did I already mention that I was going to win?
It was at the end of the day and I was on my way home. As I was driving, I mentally rehearsed how this argument was going to go. Don’t judge me because you do that too. Anyway, I had it down. First, I was going to confront her. Then she would get defensive and say the opposite as me. Then I would counter with some remark, and she would quickly respond back. And then…BAM! I would drop my ironclad, take-no-prisoners, can’t argue with this, response! She would be left speechless, unable to respond to the obvious fact that I was right and she was wrong.
There was just one problem. At the time, I was preaching through the book of Luke and I was in chapter 17 where Jesus lays out what it looks like to be a servant. That day, God had revealed to me that for Christians, serving isn’t something we do, it’s who we become. We are to become like Christ who, according to Philippians 2, became a servant for us. He took on the very nature of a servant and calls us to the same thing.
Oh how I wish I knew 27 years ago what I know now. I entered marriage like most men do; I thought I knew what I was doing. I lived in this fantasy world thinking that marriage would be like our engagement, where we were madly in love, had no problems, and lived in a state of constant bliss. You guys know what I’m talking about. You thought marriage would mean that your wife looked like a supermodel, you would have sex every night, and your kids would obey everything you said. For some reason I thought that would happen naturally; that I wouldn’t have to work at it.
One of the main Scriptures read in virtually every marriage ceremony is found in Genesis chapter 2. It’s the first verse in the Bible to talk about marriage. In the English Standard Version, it reads; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, ESV). In this verse the words “hold fast,” are translated as cleave, joined to, united, etc.; Typically, the commentary or sermon then goes on to talk about the commitment of marriage, or the “oneness” that results from sexual union, or something like that. All of these are good applications, and correct use of Scripture. But something stood out to me recently as I was studying this passage.
Karen and I have taken on a challenge this coming February. As the date approaches we’ve been wondering if we should’ve thought this through a little bit more. But like it or not, the first weekend in February (5th & 6th) we’ve decided to do a marriage conference at Grace community Church. Check out this link to find out more about the conference.
We’re taking this on, not because we have the perfect marriage or because we have it all figured out, but because, like you, we’ve had our share of struggles and pain, successes and failures, heartache and joy. In the midst of all of that, it seems that we have learned a few things over the past 27 years. And today we are more in love than we have ever been in our lives.
In 17 years pastoral ministry I have had more than my fair share of counseling sessions or discussions with married couples in need of help. When it comes to conflict and arguments in marriage, most arguments are more of a power struggle then they are about conflict resolution (this is also true in other relationships). It seems that being right is more important than reconciliation. Arguments often begin something like this:
Women are a treasure. They are meant to be treasured. Eve was presented to Adam as a gift; his greatest treasure. That is how God thinks about it. I know that most men are not that great at communicating that. But it is true.
The women in our lives are a treasure. They are meant to be loved, adored.
Genesis 2:22-24 (ESV)
And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Deep inside the heart of every man is a little boy who just wants to impress the girl, especially the one that he is the closest to. And that one single reality that is the secret to becoming the wife your husband needs.
One of the things that we miss in today’s society is the fact that men actually have needs. We try to deny it. We idolize the self-made man. We want to be like Jason Bourne and Chuck Norris and not need anything. But the simple fact is we do. And one of our greatest needs is to be admired; to be respected. Because, deep inside the heart of every man is a little boy who just wants to impress the girl, especially the one that he is the closest to.
It seems to be inherent in humankind that we don’t understand the opposite sex. And in our lack of understanding, we often seem to see our differences as negative instead of just seeing them as what they are…differences. They aren’t right or wrong. If we aren’t careful, these feelings can make us critical towards one another and cause distance and difficulties in our relationships. It doesn’t have to be this way. I know, because I’m the lone man in our home (we’ve got 3 male dogs but they’ve been neutered so they don’t really count). I’ve raised three women and I’m married to another who, after 26 years, still loves me. I believe that the secret to my survival is that I’ve worked hard to understand the women in my life even though we are extremely different.
For the past month or so, Facebook and social media have been blowing up over Bruce/Caitlin Jenner and The Village Church because of an incident with a couple that is getting a divorce. Blogs and articles have been written about these subjects and people have voiced their opinion and bashed the people involved. People are really bad about that; especially Christians, at judging from a distance. People write these blogs and comment on things that they actually know nothing about.