Friday, 9 March 2012

Dr. Robert Paul is known for his work at the National Institute for Marriage, where they conduct four day intensive marriage counseling workshops for marriages that are all but over.  It is referred to as a “marriage emergency room.”  Dr. Paul writes,

Sadly for most of us, hopes and dreams eventually fade into responsibilities and routine.  Our day-to-day reality may not be all that bad, perhaps falling somewhere between ‘a little disappointing’ and ‘entirely unfulfilling.’  

Without hope, we atrophy and diminish. Without dreams, we are no longer inspired.

Many people, consciously or unconsciously, have their windows to inspiration locked tight or severely restricted by a lack of willingness.  A lack of faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness is often caused by doubt or woundedness.”

Could this possibly be what God had in mind when he created the institution of marriage?   In part I can assume your answer to that question is determined by what you believe about God.  If you believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent then you would have to conclude that God wants more for the institution of marriage than for it to be disappointing or unfulfilling.

God’s Word says that marriage is supposed to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and His bride.  Do words such as disappointing and entirely unfulfilling sound like words you would use to describe the relationship between Christ and the church?

Furthermore we are told in 1Cor.10:31 that whatever we do we are to do it to glorify God.  Somehow I don’t believe that a marriage that lacks hope or is deemed as unfulfilling would describe a marriage that would bring glory to God.

Psalm 100 tells us that God’s faithfulness continues through all generations.  Lamentations 3:23 tells us that God’s faithfulness is great.  So we can either assume that God’s Word is a lie or that He really is faithful.  And to believe in a God who by definition is not good seems incomprehensible.

So if you are among those who are disenchanted with your marriage, who are feeling unfulfilled and lack hope that your marriage can be any better, then I would ask you to offer your marriage up to the Lord in prayer.  Even though he knows what you are feeling, tell Him.  Ask Him to change your heart, to help you become the husband/wife He has called you to be, and ask Him to transform your marriage into one that would bring glory and honor to Him.  Ask Him to fill you with the joy and hope that you can expect when you sincerely take your woundedness to the Great Physician.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

How Did We Get Here?

A couple asks, “How did we ever get to this point in our marriage?” One might quickly assume that the couple asking this question isn’t wondering how they have arrived at such a blissful, God glorifying state of matrimony.

Proverbs 11: 2 gives us one clue, i.e. it tells us, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Some of us avoid addressing difficulties in our marriage because of pride. What would people think, after all we must keep up appearances – so we avoid dealing with what is obviously broken.

Some of us are very good about being in denial, particularly guys. Husbands are usually many months behind their wives in recognizing that there is something wrong in Camelot. Because most guys are not known for their conversational ability they don’t sense that the relationship is in dire straits. It gets a little clearer when the wife throws a vase through the flat screen TV at half time during the Super Bowl.

There are some of us who will go out of their way to avoid confrontation. Husbands have been known to set records in the 440 yard dash at the mere sight of a tear in the corner of a wife’s eye. Some of us fear the reaction of our partner particularly if they are prone to anger. There are some who recognize their inability to control what they say in the heat of battle and attempt to withdraw before they say the wrong thing.

Some fear that having a discussion will only dredge up the past and make matters worse.

More often than not it is the wife who suggests counseling when she is still hopeful that change can take place. The husband often initiates counseling when the wife has threatened to leave him.

Let me be blunt. The biggest problem in marriage is self-centeredness, yes both of you. We, as humans, are incapable of being other-centered without the help of the Spirit of God, we are dealing with heart issues. There are secular psychologists and counselors who teach couples skills that may improve the marriage but in most cases the heart doesn’t change; only the Holy Spirit can enable us to make heart changes. True healing begins with the acceptance that marriage is to glorify God and asking God to “create in (you) a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within (you).” (Psalm 51:10)

Monday, 5 March 2012

Jumping to Collisions

My wife had a childhood friend who accused her of “jumping to collisions” though she meant conclusions. Ironically this phrase seems quite appropriate when applied to marriage. How often do we as husbands or wives formulate an opinion about our spouse and then look for evidence to support our opinion?

“She’s always late.” “He never helps around the house.” “He doesn’t love me; if he did he would _________.” “She doesn’t respect me; if she did she would ___________”

First of all notice that these conclusions usually have a negative bent to them. Secondly we tend to generalize and our conclusions become black and white, which are categorized as always or never. We tend to reject evidence to the contrary and register only that which supports our contention.

Often the focus is on what our spouse does or doesn’t do. It is not unusual that to some extent our conclusions may be based on our expectations. “I thought husbands who loved their wives brought them flowers every week.” You might be inclined to tell this wife to get a grip but she apparently feels unloved because her husband isn’t meeting her expectation. Or the husband who feels disrespected because after a busy day at work he just wants to watch sports and his wife has the nerve to suggest that they talk. Surely watching competitive Frisbee should take place over idle chatter. (tongue in cheek)

Some thoughts:
• Seriously question where your accusation is coming from and why. Is it an expectation, if so why do I feel so strongly about it. In the situation cited above the wife might have a romantic notion that she got from a film.
• Secondly look harder for evidence that you are wrong than evidence to support your preconceived notion. “Always” and “never” are literally fighting words. Maybe it has been months since your husband has done something around the house but it is unlikely that he has never done anything.
• As the wife, be honest with your husband. Tell him what you appreciate about him but that in spite of those amazing qualities you are feeling unloved. Then share with him a few specific things he could do to make you feel more cherished.
• As the husband, be honest. For some reason guys can feel disrespect but they have a hard time verbalizing it. It may result from your wife’s tone of voice, a look she gives you, or an outright question, i.e. “Are you out of your mind for spending money we don’t have on a new putter?” In any event consider that God may be using your wife as part of His sanctifying process. Objectively ask yourself, “is it possible that she is right?” In this case it is fine for you to tell your wife that her tone of voice and question made you feel disrespected. Then thank her for being part of your sanctifying process and take the putter back.