Thursday, 5 August 2010

“Horsemen of the Apocalypse” – Have No Place in Marriage

John Gottman is one of the preeminent researchers in the field of marital relationships. His “Love Laboratory” has filmed and followed hundreds of couples. He claims to be able to predict with over 90 percent accuracy whether or not a couple will stay together after listening to them discuss a sensitive issue for fifteen minutes. Among other factors John has identified four symptoms that raise a red flag in terms of how a couple relates, he refers to them as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.
Criticism unlike a complaint usually infers there is something wrong with the other person’s character or personality. “Why are you so forgetful?”; “Can’t you do anything right?”; “You don’t care about…” Criticism is often a form of general character assassination. There is nothing wrong with a specific comment about a specific event, i.e. “I am disappointed that you forgot to take out the garbage for the second time this week.” That is a complaint. Criticism doesn’t convey love or respect –the two things Scripture indicates that we need.

Contempt appears in various forms. It may take the shape of biting sarcasm, cynicism, name calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is the worst of the Four Horsemen because it conveys disgust and it rarely leads to reconciliation but rather heightens the conflict.

Defensiveness usually escalates conflict because it is often seen as a way of blaming your partner. “Perhaps if you showed me a little appreciation I would be more willing to…”

Stonewalling can manifest itself as tuning out, disengaging or simply withdrawing. Obviously this will not lead to an amicable resolution. It often occurs later in a marriage than the first three Horsemen and is preceded by a lengthy negative spiral. Men are more often than not the ones who respond this way.

The Book of Ephesians gets to the heart of the matter. In verse 4:29 we are told “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Verses 5:22-33 provides the framework. How could a husband display the same love that Christ has displayed for us and speak to his wife with contempt or with a critical tongue? How could a wife respect her husband by pointing out his faults and putting him down?

It seems ironic that most of us would not hesitate to read directions, the operating manual or the installation instructions when it comes to adding a program to our computers, seeing why the dashboard indicator light is on, or making a complicated recipe. Yet for some reason, even if we accept that the Bible is without error, we ignore God’s instruction manual and wonder why we are struggling in our marriage.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Pain verses Suffering

In a recent posting Mort Fertel [] asked the question “What is the difference between pain and suffering?” He then illustrated with a story.

There once was a man who was sentenced to 25 years of backbreaking labor. His wrists were tied to the handle of a huge wheel that was inlaid in the wall. His job was to turn the wheel 10 hours a day.
For years, day in and day out, the prisoner would wonder what he was doing with this wheel. What was the meaning of his work? What was on the other side of this wall? Was he grinding grain? Pulling up water? Moving some sort of conveyor belt?
For 25 years he contemplated the meaning of his work, and for 25 years he spun that wheel. It was grueling, but he survived. When his sentence was complete he was released from prison. The first thing he did was run to the other side of the wall to see what he had been doing all this time. What did he see?Nothing!                                                                                                                                              
There was nothing attached to the wheel. For 25 years, 10 hours a day, he was spinning a wheel
for absolutely no purpose. When the man realized his true sentence, he collapsed and died. The prisoner was able to survive 25 years of backbreaking labor, but when he realized that it was all for nothing, he couldn't survive for another moment. So what's the difference between pain and suffering?
Pain has a purpose. Suffering is true torture because it has no meaning.
Pain is bearable. Suffering for no reason is devastating.
How does this relate to marriage? It relates because some of you feel as though you are in a very painful marriage. You may have even felt as though you were being made to suffer. This is cause for you to examine what you believe about God and your understanding of a marriage that is covenantal and not contractual. From the moment you said your vows before God, your marriage had a purpose. As the all loving, all powerful Creator of the universe you can be certain of one thing, He does not waste pain.

This is not to minimize the emotional pain you may be experiencing and we are certainly not talking about a situation involving physical abuse. It is conceivable however that you are experiencing the Refiner’s fire. What might God be saying to you and/or your spouse? Can you honestly say that you have attempted to lead a God glorifying marriage?

If you are uncertain, read Ephesians 5:21-33. This is the foundational text for marriage. When a woman gives birth to a child they tell me the pain is incredible but in most cases the ensuing joy makes it worthwhile. The same can be said of a marriage that looks to the joy that the pain can produce