Lately, I have been doing a good bit of marriage counseling. I have been meeting with couples together and individually. Some really want to work on things, others don’t know if they want to put the work in. As I listen to the problems, conflicts and situations, I see some recurring themes. Most of these couples are not communicating, they are fighting. They are also focused on their problems and not on God.
When I meet with a couple, I first want to hear how they met and fell in love. I ask about their families and some of their past. The reason I do that is two fold; first I want to hear their stories to better understand them and secondly, I want them to remember something good, and why they got married.
After that we begin to zero in on what the problems seem to be. Many of the problems are a result of a much deeper issue or issues. The hard work is digging down to discover what is causing you to react in this way when problems come up. Why do I get so angry when she does this? Why do I get so upset when he does that?
If you are not willing to look under the surface and deal with the old junk, hurts or habits, the surface problems will continue. You see, we all have core fears that trigger these reactions of anger, defensiveness, blaming, manipulation, sarcasm or withdrawal. Identifying your fear buttons is an important first step toward working through it. A great book called “The DNA of Relationships” by Dr. Gary Smalley can help you identify your fears and help you work through them.
In a marriage relationship communication often is a big problem. I believe one of the reasons we struggle with communication is that men and women are usually speaking different languages. Can you imagine living with a person that speaks mostly Japanese with a few English words mixed in? While you speak mostly English and understand a few Japanese words. It would be very difficult to communicate and gain understanding, especially if you don’t make an attempt to learn their language.
Men and women think and communicate in different ways. Men tend to think and communicate with logical steps and want to fix things. Women tend to think and communicate with emotion and want to express themselves and be understood. When my wife and I have a conflict, it is usually because I have not spoken her language. To avoid that I need to try to listen more and speak less. I need to listen and try to understand and not fix. I also need to think before I say something. How will she filter this message I am about to deliver. To do that I need to know my wife and how she thinks and what is important to her. I need to know what her “Love Language” is and what her “fear buttons” are. Some books to consider reading are “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
That takes some time and work. It means I need to become curious about my wife and try to find out what makes her tick. Unfortunately many couples don’t want to work at that. It is much easier to go on the attack, to do the selfish thing, to ignore the problems, to escape through work, recreation, alcohol or the Internet. It is easier to just say whatever I think and not be concerned about the hurt I am causing.
There is a better way and it leads to healthy relationships. You see on our own we can’t do the stuff I talked about. We can’t love our wives or respect our husbands. It takes bringing God into your marriage. It means giving God your spouse and marriage. It means turning your focus from your spouse and problems and focusing on growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Even if your spouse is far from God, you can grow in your walk with God. When you do that God will give you the ability to deal with the problems, to react in a different way, to use different words, to show love & respect. Ephesians 5:33 says this “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
I always try to point couples to God. I ask about their prayer time and if they are reading God’s Word. Are they attending Church together and involved in a small group. Most of the time the answer is no. Did you know that couples that pray together on a consistent basis rarely get divorced. It doesn’t mean they don’t have conflict, but they are working together as a team. They are on the same side and working together to work through conflict. If you are not viewing your marriage relationship as a team effort, then you are struggling in your marriage. You will act in selfish ways and view the other person as the opposition, instead of a teammate.
My question is this, what is your next step in your marriage? Do you need to reconnect with God, get counseling, pray together, go on a date, stop using hurtful words, start learning his/her love language, start speaking his/her love language, Discover your core fears, get in a couples group, read a book on marriage together. I don’t know what it is for you, but you need to take a step.