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Marriage Problems happen to everyone. Some are small and some large but there are a few common factors that go into all of them. Let's take a look.
Communication is the only way to connect with another person, build and keep a relationship and work through conflicts and, yet, very few of us seem to have great communication skills. The problem is that what you say to me might be misunderstood as I take it in through my paradigms and outlook on life and feelings toward you. So, what you say may not be what I hear. If I think you said or meant something other than you did, then we are not communicating.
Also, many of us are not good listeners. We are thinking of what we will say next, or not really listening at all. Good listening skills means really focusing on not only what the other person is saying but also what they are not saying. Listening "between the lines" and listening for emotion are all part of understanding what the other person is saying.
In both of these cases, saying "this is what I heard you say," will let the speaker know you are listening and allow the speaker to clarify any misunderstandings you might have.
A great book on communication is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. A good communication book can do wonders for every relationship you have. Want an example of what good communication looks like? Click the link at left.
Along with not being taught good communication skills, we are rarely taught good conflict skills. Living in a fallen world means that we are bound to have conflict and if we know how to do this well, then we will find that conflict can be a good relationship builder. What? Conflict builds relationships? Yes, if done right. Here is a link to a sister site that will give you more information about what conflict looks like done right.
If we come together with mutual respect, a desire to truly understand the other's position, do not use any negative tactics, desire for us both to win and are willing to act as Christ would in the conflict then it absolutely builds. It builds trust when the other treats me with respect, safety as the other doesn't try to hurt me or overpower me, affection as I am shown affection, and connection as we treat one another as a child of the King.
Another issue that causes marriage problems is expectations. I expect that you will do this, not do that, act this way, not act that way, treat holidays the same as me, have the same likes and dislikes and fill my image of the perfect spouse. If I expect you to be one way then you are very disappointing when you are just you.
If we have not talked over how we will raise kids, what and how we will spend, our sexual life together, our family and friends, etc., then we may expect that the other person has the same ideas as me. Often, that expectation leads to problems and resentments and, sometimes divorce. If you haven't married yet, now is the time to talk about this. If expectations are causing marriage problems, it is not too late to talk them through and come to new compromises. You might need a counselor to help you with this if there is much distance between you. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.
At the altar stands the bride, groom and both of their pasts. Each brings to the marriage not just their physical possessions. They bring the entire history -
If one of the marriage partners has significant unhealed past wounds, then individual counseling is needed so those wounds aren't part of the marriage today. It takes two healthy people to have a healthy marriage, so making it a priority to be healthy emotionally can only help the marriage.
You can click here to read about counseling with this site's author. There are also other good Christian counselors available today. To find one in your area in the United States go to Find Christian Counselor. Don't allow your past to dictate the quality of your present.
In the book, "The DNA of Relationships for Couples" the authors describe the fear dance couples do. One person triggers a fear in the other who then responds in a knee-
Knowing your own insecurities and triggers will help you to stop your side of the dance. If just one of you changes the way you relate to the other, your dance, then the dance will change. Keep making good, healthy changes and the dance will become a delight. You can click on the link in the column to the left to pick up this book.
I will change when s/he does. So we sit, waiting for the other to change, building our resentments and defense for our case and move farther and farther away. I will when you will. Like stubborn children we refuse to give. Someone has to start the change.
Since you can only change yourself, I suggest you start there. Let me give you a bit more incentive. Christ tells us to love not when others love us first but because He is love. He tells us to forgive, to serve, to encourage, to submit, to care for the other not because they are doing this for us but because that is who He is and how we are when we are devoted to becoming like Him.
If you change the dance, if you start to humbly yourself and care for your spouse as Christ would, I guarantee you that things will start to change. But, even if they didn't, you would change and the Lord would be pleased that you obey Him by loving.
Power over is disrespectful at best and abusive at worst. Inequality starts from a position of "better than." Now I'm not talking about who does what in the marriage, I'm talking about a heart position that thinks it is better than the other. Last time I checked, it was level ground at the foot of the cross. We are all equal before God. He may have given us different roles but His love is not unbalanced or unequal.
When you look into the eyes of your spouse, you are looking at one for whom the Lord died, just as He did for you. If you started serving your spouse the way it speaks of Christ serving us then it would not be possible for you to continue to look at them as less than you.
Some people marry thinking "I will change him/her." The only person you can really change is you and, mostly likely, you need it as badly as they do. Don't focus on what is "wrong" with your spouse, focus on what needs fixing in you. Try the book at left to help you with this: "How to act right when your spouse acts wrong."
First, and most importantly, humbly yourself before God. Take full ownership of your part of the marriage problems. Ask Him for forgiveness and then ask your spouse. Work on you and seek to please God with your heart and actions. Try and make the 3 points from Dr. Laura (see text box to right) a reality in your marriage. Get help if you need it for yourself or for the marriage.
It doesn't matter how bad things have been, what has been said or done, our God is a God of miracles and restoration and healing. I have never seen a marriage fail when both partners humble themselves before God and are willing to do whatever is necessary to make their marrige work. I have seen marriages that one would think were beyond repair be transformed into amazingly wonderful and happy marriages. I have no reason to think it will be any different for yours.
~ In Christ, Dr. Kim West
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