Friday, 3 August 2012

Is This Worth Fighting Over

As a former corporate guy I tend to salivate over graphs and charts.  I owe this entry to a blog posted by Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition blog.

The vertical axis of the Beever Grid defines the importance of the subject at hand.  At the bottom of the vertical axis might be some inane debate over who was the greatest left handed soprano of all time in the Metropolitan opera? – a subject that comes up a lot.  At the top of that column might be something as important as should we have another child?

The horizontal axis defines my degree of certainty.  At the far left on this continuum I am relatively clueless.  On the far right I am reasonably positive that I am right.  A question such as who won the 1952 Summer Olympics gold medal for pole vaulting?  On the far right might be some deeply held Christian values.

Imagine now that the graph was divided into four quadrants.  In the lower left quadrant would be a subject that I would find unimportant and I know almost nothing about it.  In the upper left hand quadrant the subject might be of great importance, i.e. do we refinance our home but one of the  partners just has no knowledge of or interest in financial matters.

Ernie Ells - 2012 British Open champion
The lower right hand quadrant is reserved for topics which are of little importance but I’m reasonably sure I have the right answer, i.e. I know who won the 2012 British Open Golf tournament.

The prime area for conflict is the upper right hand corner quadrant.  This is a subject of much importance and I have a fairly strong opinion that I know what is best, such as should we have another child.

As you can see it is a total waste of time to have a conflict that might involve subjects that fall in three of the four quadrants.  Don’t waste emotional energy and doing irreparable damage to your relationship by constantly doing battle in areas where you either know very little or the topic is just not that important.

When it comes to the upper right hand quadrant agree to pray together that the resolution you come to will be one that will bring honor to God. Also agree that it is of utmost importance that you truly understand one another, so much so that you can paraphrase back what the other person says. Then take turns sharing your opinion with the other person feeding back what they heard.  Do it calmly and with limited emotion because you want your partner to listen to you and hear what you are saying and take it seriously.

You may have to agree to come back to visit the subject  again after you have both prayed about it OR you might be able to reach a compromise that would bring glory to God.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Marriage Counseling

“Over my dead body” is a typical response to a wife’s request to go to marriage counseling.

First of all this is probably the first four word sentence his wife has heard in weeks.  Since I am a guy let me translate what those four little words mean.  “There is nothing wrong with our marriage that a little peace and quiet wouldn’t resolve.  I’m not going to go to some touchy-feely guy who wants me to bare my soul.  And I’m certainly not going to sit in front of a stranger while you tell him all the things that are wrong with me.”

It is when the wife says, “Either we go to counseling or I’m leaving you” that the husband acquiesces.   Oh, and by the way they have been married for twenty-two years.

Does this seem a little exaggerated?  I wish it were. There are several factors that contribute to an unwillingness to seek help.  One may be that we don’t want anyone at church to know that we are having marital difficulties.  Another reason is that men prefer to appear strong and in control, many men perceive the need for counseling as acknowledging a weakness.  Finally there is a concern that this is just going to be a gripe session where he looks bad and the wife comes across as a victim.

 I must admit, counseling is the least favorite part of my job.   In part because by the time most couples seek help there is so much acrimony that they are polarized.  The years of neglect make it difficult to penetrate the shield of protection that each partner has erected.  Marriage is a union of two sinners saved by grace, neither partner having reached perfection. The answer is to follow God’s plan for marriage and ultimately that means “heart surgery” for both, the kind that can only be performed by the Holy Spirit.

I have experienced a difficult marriage and I have experienced a marriage filled with joy.  Joy is better.  Don’t wait to seek help.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Why Bother? They Will Never Change

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller addresses a delicate subject that has more than likely contributed to the downward spiral of many marriages.  Specifically I am referring to our unwillingness as husbands and wives to confront sin in one another with the express purpose of helping our mate to become more like Christ.  By sin I am not necessarily talking about something egregious and I’m not inferring that you may not have what would be considered by most a “good” marriage.

What does this mean and why are we reluctant?

Some of us are conflict avoiders.  As I’m sure I have said in a previous blog, if conflict avoidance were an Olympic event I would be representing the US in Britain this year. 

Somewhere along the way we came to believe that keeping the peace, regardless of the cost was the noble thing to do.  Some of us fear the reaction of the other person.  Some of us, wanting to appear to be humble, wouldn’t think of pointing out someone else’s sin to them.  Still others of us are afraid that if we were to speak the truth in love that we would in some way jeopardize the feelings of love that the other person bestows on us.

Unfortunately the bottom line for the rationale stated above is self-centeredness, which is in my opinion the number one problem in any marriage.  Keeping the peace at all costs was not something Christ was known for.  By fearing the other person’s reaction and/or fear of losing their affection, the fact is that I am concerned about the effect my exhortation would have on me.  The Bible calls us to speak the truth in love – so much for humility.  God is far more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.  God has placed your partner and mine in our lives as though we were instruments in the hands of our Redeemer.  We are each an extremely important component in the sanctification process of our partners and they in ours.

Some keys:

1.    Ask your partner to be part of your sanctification process.

     2.    Think before you speak – Proverbs 12:18.  Actually pray before you speak.

3.    Speak the truth in love and then only that which is helpful for building her/him up.  Ephesians 4:29.

4.    Avoid using certain phrases, i.e. “you never and you always”, etc.

5.    Use “I” messages “I am concerned that we are not growing spiritually as a couple.”

6.    Be absolutely positive that your partner believes that you truly love him/her.