Marriage CAN be, and was created to be a beautiful thing. Sadly for many couples , it has become day after day of walking on egg shells, snive comments made, or even complete and total silence. Unless this relationship is labored over consistently, it can easily turn into something neither person would have fathomed when they said “I do”. I write this blog post today, not as an expert on marriage, but as a fellow laborer. The insights I hope to share with you are biblical. They are practical. But they do not come natural. Let me explain…
Marriage is essentially two imperfect, sinful creatures coming together as one under the blessing of God almighty. It would be crazy for us to believe that these two sinful, selfish-natured people would ever have a perfect relationship just because they made a vow, attended some counseling, or read a book about marriage. Because of our sinful nature, we are like cars that need a front end alignment. Our natural tendency is to drift off of the road of holiness and into the more dangerous territory that lies to either side of the straight and narrow highway that God intended for us to drive on. Because our natural tendency is to drift, we must make small course corrections to keep on the road.
In a healthy marriage, each partner must begin to live in mutual submission to one another. There are very few decisions that Marilyn and I make without consulting one another. This was not always the case, but it is something we’ve learned keeps conflict away. From our schedules to how we spend money, constant communication and equally respecting one another as a PARTNER in the marriage relationship has made us closer today than when we first were married.
It’s NOT About You
Most people enter into marriage for the wrong reasons. If you view your marriage as a vehicle to fulfillment of your needs, you are just feeding your sinfully selfish nature. Marriage is not about taking care of you. Marriage is about taking care of your partner. When we begin to view it this way, we stop complaining about what we are not getting out of this relationship. We begin giving without thinking that our sacrifice entitles us to something. True love is not selfish, but self sacrificing. This is a principle written in the Bible, authored by God the Holy Spirit who just doesn’t know ABOUT love…HE IS LOVE.
Understanding What Is At Stake
For many people who are married, they will one day have children of their own. For those who physically can not bare children, this principle still stands true. Every one of you who enter into the marriage covenant have much at stake with future generations. Your marriage is an example to others, especially your own children. Sons will usually treat their own wife the way they saw dad treat mom. The same is true for daughters as they view love through the eyes of their own father. Without ever having to ask the questions, they pick up the answers to lingering queries:
- What is the role of a husband and the role of a wife?
- What does love look like?
- What is the proper reaction to conflict?
- Is it okay to say one thing and do another?
- What are healthy boundaries for marriage?
- Is divorce an option?
- How should I show and receive love?
These are all important questions, but in relation to conflict and staying within the frame of this particular post, I’m reminded of one particular young man’s story. He grew up in a home where the mom and dad decided they never wanted to argue in front of the children. At face value it sounds like a great idea, not to subject the child to any kind of discourse. However a very unintended thing came out of this well-meaned gesture. When the son finally got married, he didn’t know how to handle conflict in marriage. He never saw mom and dad argue. He never saw healthy conflict resolution because he never saw conflict. As a result, he was never able to fully communicate with his wife effectively and the two are divorced today. Aruguing in front of the kids should not always happen, but it should not always be hidden behind closed doors either. They need to understand that conflicts WILL come in marriage, and see modeled how to handle them in a loving, self-sacrificing, respectful way. Keep working on those marriages…all the labor is well worth the investment!
How do you and your spouse handle conflict?