THE Reason Why Marriages Struggle

September 23, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I hesitate to say that this is the ONLY reason why marriages struggle, because as a mathematician, it’s hard to say 100% of the time to situations.  I also hesitate because of course there are some extreme cases of abuse, neglect, etc. that are the central issue to marriages struggling and/or ending.  However, in every encounter they we have had with dozens of married couples over the last 15 years,  the problem between the couple came down to one issue.  The presenting problems have been vast, ranging from infidelity to pornography addiction to money problems.  We have seen a lot.  However, at the core of all of these presenting problems is a deeper rooted problem that is a part of all marriages that are struggling:

The husband is not loving his wife, the wife is not respecting her husband, and they lack the ability to communicate about it well.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  Ephesians 5:33

This is Paul’s summary statement about what a marriage relationship needs to look like.  He is describing what wives’ and husbands’ greatest needs are in marriage and how the other spouse is supposed to meet them.  When we can understand what this verse is asking from each of us, learn to implement it well and begin to have healthy conversations with our spouse about it, then we will see God produce healthy marriages in our homes.

What you are about to get is a relatively brief summary of the piece of advice that Heidi, my wife, and I have given countless times to numerous couples.  One of the hardest things that people say to us when we are counseling them is “We’ve been married _____ years and no one ever told us that.”  This idea is what the Bible says is the key to marriages working, our experience has backed it up numerous times and people don’t know because they haven’t heard.  That is why we talk about this in premarriage counseling all the time and why we share it with you today.  We don’t want you to struggle because you don’t know.

1)      The husband is called to love his wife. This is an unconditional command and the primary responsibility that a husband has to his wife.  The key to success is understanding what does love mean in the context of a husband’s relationship with his wife.  We have found that it comes down to 2 things.  First, a wife needs to feel cherished and valuable to her husband.  She needs to know that more than anything he values her.  He values her more than work, sports, time alone, money, other relationships.  Everything.  When she believes that there are areas or people in his life that he values more, the relationship breaks down.  Second, a wife needs security, both relational and financial security.  She needs to know that no matter what, he is not leaving.  She also needs to know that the family is going to be OK financially.  He will do whatever it takes to make sure of that and won’t do anything stupid to wreck the family.

2)      The wife is called to respect her husband. This also is an unconditional command.  “Wait, wait, wait.  Love is unconditional, but respect is earned.”  False.  That is not what the passage says.  Both commands are given without condition.  Just as a wife would say that she needs love the most when she feels unlovable, a husband needs respect when he feels unrespectable.   This also breaks down into 2 parts.  First is words of affirmation.  He needs to hear from you that you think that he is a great man and a great husband.  He needs to know that you believe in him.  Second is sexual responsiveness.  (Yep, I just said that.)  You being into him physically like he is into you makes him believe that you fully trust and respect him.

3)      Learn to talk about this well. Understand yourself well enough to know why you are getting angry.  You aren’t angry with your husband because he is messy with his dirty laundry.  You are angry because he is showing you that he doesn’t value you or your time enough to pick up his stuff.  Who cares about socks on the floor? You care about how he values you.  You also aren’t angry with your wife for asking too many probing questions about your day.  You are upset because you feel like she doesn’t trust you and is checking up on you.   Knowing why you are upset and being able to communicate that makes a huge difference.  The same goes for understanding why your spouse is upset.

Again, this is just a primer.  There is much more that could be said.  You can anticipate a lot more in-depth analysis on how we can understand and live out these three principles well over the coming weeks and months.  I leave you with this to think about.  The issue that has you so upset right now—chores, money, golf, personal space—is that really why you are upset? If not, what is it really?  What is it about those specific problems that triggers such a big response from you and how can you communicate that better to your spouse?