Friday, 5 July 2013

A Formula for a Satisfying Marriage

Frankly the title of this particular blog is a little presumptuous not to mention misleading.  First let’s put things in perspective: God most likely wants you to have, at the very least, a satisfying marriage but He is more concerned that your marriage glorifies Him, that it brings Him honor and praise. 

The formula to which I refer is Satisfaction = Experience - Expectations

In other words the degree to which one finds their marriage satisfactory is dependent upon whether or not what they experience as married life is equal to or greater than what they expected being married would be like.

What you will discover is that the higher your expectations the less likely it is that you will be satisfied.  By definition an expectation is something you feel entitled to, something you deserve.  Therefore if my husband/wife meets my expectations I will not be appreciative because I feel that they are only doing for me what they “should” be doing for me.

In reality expectations start out as desires, they morph into expectations which become needs which ultimately become demands.  It doesn’t matter whether or not my expectations are reasonable or not, what matters is whether or not I feel “cheated” because I am not getting  what I think I deserve.

On the other hand even if my spouse doesn’t fulfill all my expectations, if my life with him/her is so good that it outweighs those items on my “wish list” that have gone unfulfilled,  I will still feel satisfied in my marriage.

Another way of thinking about this is to consider a scale, the kind with a balance beam and a plate on either side.  One side has a pile of your expectations, the other side has a stack of all you positive experiences.  If the expectation side weighs more you will be dissatisfied;  if the positive experiences outweigh the expectations you will be satisfied.

God says that He will supply all of our needs. (Philippians 4:19), do you think He is not capable of doing that?  Package up your demands, your perceived needs and your expectations and put them back into the desire box from whence they came.  When your husband/wife fulfills one of those desires thank him/her.  By the way there is nothing wrong with sharing your desires with your spouse provided it is something they can achieve.   If they fulfill them be thankful, if they don’t assume that it is something God deems you do not need.

The lower your expectations and the higher your experience as a married partner the more satisfied you will be.  Work on both pieces of the equation.  Look for ways to continue to increase your experiences as a married couple while at the same time reducing the number of expectations that you have brought into the marriage.  Your satisfaction will dramatically increase.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

In modern psychology, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions.  This term seems quite appropriate to apply to what it means to live the Christian life.

For example the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is fraught with examples of sacrificial love.  Scripture teaches us that there is an indescribable joy that comes from loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  Husbands in particular are called to be other-centered as in love your wife as Christ loves His bride the Church.  We all need to hunger and thirst for righteousness; as well as to be merciful.  We are to be pure in heart; we are to be peacemakers; and we are to rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted for being obedient to God.

Talk about counter-cultural.  We live in a society that screams that we are to “grab for the gusto” ; “be all that we can be”; “just do it!” and that  “we deserve a break today.”  We are bombarded with messages that encourage self-centeredness, as if any of us needs encouragement.  How many people do you hang out with who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”?  Being merciful takes a little less imagination but being pure in heart– what does that look like?  I tend to be more of a peacekeeper than a peacemaker because confrontation does not come easily for me.  Finally, it is sad to say, I don’t believe I have been persecuted because I’ve been obedient to God.

I’m going to suggest you pick one of those attributes to work on, more specifically why not work on becoming other-centered. I believe it is easier to know when you are putting yourself first or when you are putting the needs of your spouse ahead of your own as opposed to trying to determine if you are more pure of heart today than you were a week ago or your hunger for righteousness has increased by ten percent.  The Great Commandment calls us to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength so love must be extremely important, not to mention that the second commandment is like the first, i.e. to love our neighbor (which includes our spouse) as we love ourselves.  Love demands sacrifice.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Use of a Marriage

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33

An article appeared in World Magazine entitled “The Use of a Baby”.  As the story goes Ben Franklin and an acquaintance were in Paris for the first manned flight (in a hot- air balloon).  The friend scoffed “What use is flying in the air?” to which Franklin answered “Sir, what is the use of a newborn baby?”  The point of Franklin’s satirical query was simply to state that “Babies are not ‘of use’; they just are.”  They are the future.

It seems as though there are many who are asking “what is the use of marriage?”  Between those who choose not to marry i.e. 40% of households will not be represented by a father, those who choose to co-habitate, those who choose to divorce and finally those who find themselves in a loveless marriage ask that question a lot. 

Statistics abound with the devastating short and long-term effects that divorce has on children.  Counseling offices are filled with couples who came from dysfunctional families, claiming irreparable damage done to their psyche. Marriage certainly hasn’t enhanced the lives of all these people.

Yet in my opinion, marriage “could” be the future of the world.  First of all, the obvious, i.e. without marriage there would be fewer children born.  There are some women who look askance at having a child out of wedlock and remaining a single parent by choice.  

Ben Franklin
But what if every man who identifies himself as a Christian honestly attempted to love his wife as much as he loves himself?  What if every wife who considers herself to be born again would respect, honor and revere her husband?  The children who are raised in such an environment would be self-confident and secure.  They would have the advantage of seeing a marriage that reflected the love of God.  This would become the model after which they would pattern their own marriages, and so it would go.

In reality this was God’s plan for marriage.  The relationship between husband and wife was supposed to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His bride the church – an all out, other-centered, self-sacrificing love.  What a future we would have