A little boy stomps his feet, cries and quarrels with his parents. And nearly always gets his way. He’s never learned self-sacrifice, never learned to please someone else, and never been taught that others have rights. He’s been trained from infancy the art of self-centeredness.
At the same time, a little girl is raised similarly. She is petted, pampered, and spoiled by her loving parents. If she gets a gift she doesn’t like, she throws a tantrum and Mom and Dad take it back. Whatever she wants, she gets. Its the only way her parents can deal with her emotional fits.
Now, suppose these two later meet and fall in love. They decide to get married and share their lives together. Do you see what’s ahead for them both? Marriage requires a lot of self-sacrificing to make it work. These two are destined for a big crash. Because they never learned to be serving each other when they were small, they must learn it the hard way (or never at all).
If your parents thought their job was to keep you happy, that may be a part of the problem today. If you have little ones at home, now is the time to teach them self-discipline. That’s not their future spouse’s job, its yours.
Years ago I was contacted one evening by the Waterloo Police. They had a distraught woman and asked if I would meet with her. It seems her husband, who was a respected contractor, had just left her and their children for another woman. I met her in my office and asked what she thought was the biggest problem in their marriage. She replied in great frustration, “He just doesn’t understand that I don’t like sex!” I thought to myself, “Oh, I think he understands that just fine.”
God has given each of us this drive to be intimate with the opposite sex. God created man “male and female”. The first command in the Bible is to be fruitful and multiply. And we know where babies come from. A fulfilling sex life with our married partner is a part of God’s plan for us. But, we humans have a way of perverting God’s beautiful gift. Nothing is more personal and emotional than sexual intimacy. And nothing is more devastating to a marriage relationship than rejection.
When that “death” of intimacy enters the relationship it increases the frustration until something snaps. In this case, it was the husband’s will to stay in a loveless relationship. If they had sought counseling about that breakdown, they likely could have bridged that gap. When you can no longer work out the differences in this most significant aspect of marriage, sometimes you need to get an “unemotional” third party to guide you through. Fight for what God has given you and never let it die.
Years ago I attended a wedding for another couple. The groom had been financially blessed and was marrying a little later in life. The pastor was officiating and added this line to the marital vows: “And all my worldly goods to thee I endow”. I had never heard that before and it got me thinking. Marriage is about sharing everything in life. I’ve known a few domineering men who felt like they had to control their families, including the wife. And, when a woman has a history of being abused, sometimes its the wife who is the dominant one.
But a healthy marriage requires mutual surrender. Everything my wife and I own is owned jointly. Although we both have money that is in our control, we never spend more than $100 without discussing the purchase with each other. And we’ve chosen to always live within our means. If we can’t afford it, we do without. And we learned the hard way to keep the credit card paid off or don’t use it. Paying interest is like throwing money away (or sending your banker to the Bahamas).
Two heads are better than one, and that is true of financial planning, as well. A worldly marriage is 50/50, but a Christian marriage is 100/100. You both have to give, investing in each other.
Do you know what is the most important decision you will ever make, outside of your decision for Christ? It is whom you marry. Your life will either be like Heaven or like Hell based on who you walk through life with. Marriage is serious business because it connects us to another soul. What kind of person do you want to have such soul ties with? Marriage and family are the foundation of our entire social order. At the end of every work day after we have struggled with decisions and solved problems, we come home to…what?
Marriage is not a legal contract like buying a house. It is more than a civil ceremony. It is entering into a covenant relationship between one man and one woman that lasts until death separates you. I believe marriage was intended for both believers and non-believers, but certainly Christians should have a different attitude about marriage.
One of these days your adult children are going to leave your home and leave you alone with your spouse. So, they shouldn’t be more important than your marriage. If you made the decision to marry someone, work on that lifelong relationship. Its the second most important decision you will ever make.
There are three fundamental needs in us that a fulfilled marriage meets:
1) Everyone wants to be number one in someone’s life. Being number one is measured by the recipient, not the giver. Does your spouse feel like they are number one to you, or does he/she feel like you are their back-up (number 2)? A simple test of that is to ask your spouse. They’ll probably be honest. Make sure your other half feels secure in that.
2) Everyone needs someone else’s strength. If we could make it through life on our own, we probably would. But we each have areas of weakness that we need another’s strength to fulfill. The marriage partnership only works when we each invest in the other.
3) Everyone wants to feel needed and important. To feel purposeless and devalued will always frustrate the person God meant us to be. Some marriage partners never learned to make others feel needed and important because it was never modeled in their home as a child. They just don’t know how to say it. If you will ask your spouse why they need you, you might be surprised what they say.
Read this post together with your spouse and let it start a discussion that might open some hurts, but then bring healing.
How do you repair a broken marriage? How do you put pieces back together after you see there’s nothing left to work on? Is there a magic fix to hopelessness in an unhappy marriage? Yes, there is. When things have come to an impasse and you’re ready to walk out the door, this is the only fix: Take your spouse by the hand, look him/her in the eyes, and say, “This is not the answer. God will not be happy with either of us. We are failing Him. And I’ve failed you. Will you forgive me? I don’t know how we got this far, but I want to turn this around. Maybe we’re too emotionally wounded to turn it around, but I’m willing to talk to someone who isn’t so damaged for advice on how to make this better. Will you forgive me and work on this with me?”
The downward slide picks up momentum, like a snowball rolling downhill. If you want to turn the snowball around, you’ve got to take responsibility for your own failure, and ask for forgiveness. And you can expect a little push-back. Keep your mouth shut. If you want to fix it, stop justifying why you did what you did. Opening your heart to your loved one makes them be open to you. Someone has to stop the bleeding. Let it be you.
I have seen this work, but few people can follow through with the forgiveness part and asking that third party person to come into your mess and help you clean it up. Start dreaming again about how things can be…And aim for that goal. God will be pleased that you humbled yourself so He can be lifted up.
My wife and I are both set in our ways. She is a sanguine/choleric, and I am a phlegmatic/melancholy. She talks about what she feels, and I talk about what I think. She makes quick decisions and I have to ponder it a bit. She thinks out loud and changes her mind often, while I am slow to speak and carefully choose my words. I like action films, she likes romance movies. We are opposites, and opposites attract. But neither one of us are push-overs. We both have strong opinions. Your spouse is likely your opposite in many ways, as well.
Both are good ways for the way God made you. But, you can’t re-make your partner in your image. There is a reason God put your opposite in your path. Its not fair for you to be attracted and committed to someone because of who they are, and then make them be just like you. Learn to respect the other’s values and opinions. Lighten up.
Learn to laugh at each other’s idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. And quit criticizing and sending out cutting remarks as if you are rejecting your partner’s personality. God has a sense of humor and your marriage is proof of that. As John Lennon once said, “Let it be” and quit trying to change it. Be at peace.