Monday, June 16, 2014

The Family Feud--Biblical Advice for Solving Marital Problems

Unlike the popular gameshow "Family Feud" where families vie for a cash prize of up to $20,000 each show, most (if not all) married couples have family feuds of their own with their spouse. Financial, spiritual, emotional, and sexual problems can all result in a failed or miserable marriage if they are not properly dealt with and if the couple does not communicate well.

I was reading some passages in the Bible today on humility, grace, forgiveness and love and I came to realize that problems in marriage, or the "family feuds," stem from 3 main sources: his past & her past, his concerns & her concerns, and mutual problems from relationship. Understanding that there are 3 main sources of conflict within marriages and relationships can help us break down the method to resolving conflict according to God's plan and commandment for us.

Before I analyze how to deal with the individual sources of conflict, I want to say that I am a firm believer that marital or relationship problems can be solved if each spouse is willing to diligently follow God's word for how we are supposed to deal with trials and problems. Some people believe that the concept of marriage is flawed. God's perfect plan is not flawed. People are flawed, but reading and applying God's scripture to your life and your marriage can dramatically impact your happiness and the happiness of those around you.

So, onto dealing with the sources of conflict...

1. His past & her past:

I praise God everyday that Marisa still wants to be with me. I have an interesting past filled with things that I regret doing (but appreciate the lessons I learned), as well as a handful of baggage from my parents' divorce. I also suffer significantly from feelings of disrespect that stem from the way my Mom has treated me like a child for years into my adolescence and early adulthood. I often mistake things Marisa or anyone else does careless or rudely as direct signs that they disrespect me, which is obviously not true.

I also suffer with some feelings of worthlessness and feeling bad about my body. I matured early, was tall at a young age, and had (and have) far more body hair than most of my peers. This has caused me to believe at times that I am unworthy of the truly beautiful woman Marisa is (inside and out) and has caused intense feelings of jealousy whenever she gets too close in my opinion to other guys.

I am quite the case and it is truly a blessing that God has given me to have Marisa in my life. She has taught me so much about sacrificial love and persevering through trials and I am so grateful for the maturity in Christ and in general that this relationship has allowed me to acquire. All that being said, I still have the various issues from the past that cause conflict, and the way Marisa and I resolve conflict depends on the way we are able to address and resolve issues in the past. 

Ephesians 4:32 commands us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." It is key to your spouse's happiness to always be gentle and always forgive. Love covers a multitude of sins, including sins that have roots in the past. You must love and bear with your partner through their issues and the emotional baggage of their past. I am blessed that Marisa follows this commandment from God and that I do the same for her life. 

I think this is the most important thing you can practice to resolve conflicts that are rooted in the past. There is a saying that says "everyone comes with baggage... find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack." You need to be committed to helping your spouse or partner sort through the past and you need to be gentle, understanding, caring, and loving as they deal with any unresolved conflict. God tells us to be understanding, supportive, and caring towards our spouse because it is way easier to deal with the past and help people understand their personal problems than trying to retroactively deal with problems caused by the past. 

2. His concerns and her concerns: 

It's natural to be worried and wonder about your future, but too much worry, fear, and doubt can destroy a marriage. If there is one thing I have learned throughout my life, there are only one thing certain in life and those are God and His Word. Obviously money is important to paying bills and having a sense of financial security, but God is the ultimate provider and the world is an ever-changing place. However, money is a false sense of complete security. In October of 1929, millions of people woke up around the world to find their vast fortunes or entire life savings blown away by the wave of run off spending due to fear and speculation. 

People tend to use fear and speculation to drive their life, especially their financial choices. People save money for the future, believing that some greenbacks (since nothing is really "gold backed" anymore) equate to security. It's crazy to me that we invest so much into believing that something that is completely worthless is (in some peoples' opinions) more powerful and secure than God. We speculate about our retirement and our lives with our families and become concerned that we do not have enough money.

The same basic principles of fear and speculation oftentimes cause conflict over concerns pertaining to the future. God has given us his Word about the fleeting nature and uncertainty of the future and advice for how to deal with a spouse that is overly concerned. 

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Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. --Matthew 6: 31-33
God knows and can meet our needs if we trust in him. Whenever your family falls into a place of economic uncertainty, dwell on God's promise to us and you will find that your heart will be put at ease and you will be inspired to put God's plan for your life and success into action. Encourage your spouse to place their trust in God and believe in his blessings if they are struggling. The future may look bleak, but God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 that he knows the "plans he has for you...plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I think most concerns people have about the future pertain to potential financial problems. However, for other areas of concern, bear with your spouse knowing that the two of you are a team and that you have made a committment in front of God and the community to tackle the problems of life together. Embrace the concept James speaks of by "counting all trials as joy" because trials develop you into better people and can draw you closer in love through their overcoming. Work with your spouse diligently and persist in love. If a third party is needed to help you communicate your concerns about your future, seek out counsel from your pastor or from a licensed Christian Marriage and Family counselor.

3. Mutual problems from the relationship:

A lot of people enter relationships and marriages with the expectations are going to be a certain way. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, expectations are oftentimes not reality and this leads people to communicate poorly because they intentionally believe their spouse is doing something wrong.

Whenever you get into a heated argument because of failed expectations (or any other reason), follow the advice of Proverbs 15:1 by using a "soft answer" to "turn away wrath" instead of harsh or abusive words that create more problems. There are times where you will be wrong, there will be times where you spouse will be wrong, and there are times where you will both be loved. The important thing is preservers and your actions play a big role in whether or not your relationship stays together and his happy. This website gives readers 3 key phrases that they should always practice using with their spouse during and after arguments. They are the following:  
  • I love you.
  • I forgive you.
  • I'm sorry.
Just saying these phrases will advance you so far in your relationship and your ability to truly understand and meet the needs of your spouse.

A final note: One thing I struggled with at the beginning of my relationship with Marisa was pride and a belief that there was nothing wrong with me and all of our problems stemmed from her past and her wrongdoings. This is a bologna way to think about things! You as much a part of the problem and you can be an equal or greater amount of the solution. We're all imperfect and sinners. We must recognize this and not act haughty around our loved ones. Praying the following prayer Psalm 15: 1-13 daily can help you approach "problems" you think your spouse is solely responsible for with the attitude of grace, humility and love: 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

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