Friday, 24 September 2010

Is "Ever After" Too Long?

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “Divorcing After 40 Years of Marriage” cited the recent break up of Al and Tipper Gore as becoming more the norm. There appear to be no shortage of reasons for the breakup of couples who have been married for twenty years or more including the fact that we are living longer, the discovery of Viagra, women in the work force, intimacy has become a vague memory, financial stability and needy grown children.

Didn’t God know all this? And what’s this “until death do us part” malarkey – what was God thinking? I find it interesting that we use our increased longevity as a reason for divorce. It is like marriage was a sentence that got commuted because we died. It’s like saying if you are going to extend my sentence by an additional ten to twenty years I’m going to make plans to break out.

As a general rule, intimacy becomes a vague memory because there are problems in the marriage not because there are performance issues that can’t be addressed.

I can’t imagine dissolving a thirty year marriage because of having a thirty something child who is a leach that drains the blood out of his/her parents marriage. Quit enabling the kid. No doubt they have made some bad choices and that necessitates dealing with the consequences if they are ever to learn from their mistakes.

Women in the workforce and financial security seem to be tied by a pseudo umbilical cord. This contends that men are only good for security and an occasional one night stand. There is no question that women should be encouraged to find fulfillment by using the abilities, skills and spiritual gifts that they have been given. Check out Proverbs 31:10-31. The wife described therein is obviously incredibly capable but she is not using her vast skills to gain independence.

Partners in a God centered marriage are not looking for an exit strategy, they are praising God and thanking Him for each day they have together. This is what God wants for each of us who have said “I Do”. 33However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [[a]that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and [b]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

So You Want Your Marriage to Get Better?

I would love to win the Pennsylvania lottery but I never buy a ticket. And your response to me is “Dah” or something equally as insightful. Well I see many couples who want their marriage to be better than it is but aren’t willing to do what it takes to make it better. Now I ask you, does that make any more sense than my desire to win the lottery?

In many cases when a couple comes for counseling one member of the couple, if not both, come begrudgingly. Some come to get their ticket punched, i.e. they can say that they tried counseling but it didn’t work. In the vast majority of cases one of the partners is coming so that the counselor can change their spouse. Occasionally a counselor will be blessed with a couple who is willing to make the changes necessary to significantly improve the quality of their marriage.

In my opinion improving one’s marriage starts with individual’s relationship with God. Most problems in marriage stem from “problems of the heart” and God is the only one who can change a person’s heart. All too often it seems as though God is an appendage to one’s life, an afterthought. Real change occurs when God is placed at the center of one’s life /marriage. When God remains on the periphery of one’s life He has little influence, it is still about the kingdom of me. When God is the primary influence I am more apt to ask “What would God want me to do in this situation?”, and that will change the outcome dramatically.

You see when God is in first place in your life then it is easier to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should not only look to your own interests but also the interest of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4) As long as the kingdom of me is still in charge it will negatively impact every relationship. Once we surrender our hearts to God and ask Him to help us to change those things about us that grieve him, then we are on our way.

How do you know you have surrendered to God? You have a desire to read and memorize his Word. You begin to read other Christian books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan. You come to church to worship God and be fed, not because it is just the right thing to do. You get involved in a study group and/or an accountability group. You begin to pray every day. And you reflect the love of Jesus to those you live with and those who you meet on the street.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Can Divorce Be Predicted?

John Gottman, the pre-eminent marriage clinician, states that he can predict, with over 90 percent accuracy, whether or not a couple will stay together. He bases his predictions on listening to a couple discuss a topic that has in the past been charged with emotion. In a recent blog post on the Marriage Counseling Blog the headline read “The No. 1 Predictor of Divorce” which went on to say that the habitual avoidance of conflict is the number one predictor of divorce.

It is a little difficult to see where these two theories converge, if they in fact do. By listening to how a couple handles conflict Gottman can predict the ultimate success or failure of the relationship. Yet theory number two would have us believe that avoiding conflict all together leads to divorce. So bottom line whether you have conflict and avoid it or you have conflict and handle it in a way that is destructive you are headed to divorce court. And just like the weather person has a fifty percent chance of being right, so too do these two theories based on the rate of divorce within the general population.

I could be as accurate by asserting that fifty percent of all married women who eat chocolate get divorced.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a high regard for John Gottman’s research and I believe that conflict avoidance can certainly contribute to marital dissatisfaction. I think underlying both of these theories is a claim made in the Book of James, i.e. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)

In the final analysis it is all about me (and you). When my desires are not met I might get ugly and attack your character. If I want peace and quiet and you keep nagging me I might just tune you out completely. These responses are two of Gottman’s four horsemen, the predictors of divorce. When enough of my desires are not met I have an emotional tantrum and run away from home, i.e. divorce. Your desires are also thwarted if I am unwilling to engage you in an adult conversation by merely withdrawing.

In either case it is about me, my wants and my desires. It is self-centeredness that is the number one cause of divorce. James suggests that the answer is to take your desires to God and leave them with Him. If your desires are in accordance with His plan for your life most likely they will be fulfilled in some way. If they are not in accordance with His plan for your life you don’t want them fulfilled.