Marriage Problems

Request:

We’ve only been married for three years but we seem to struggle with so many things. Is it worth working on them or should I just walk away? If you love someone it shouldn’t be this hard!

Response:

Since I don’t know too many of the specifics of your situation and am not able to talk with both of you, here are some thoughts of general nature that you can sort through to see if there is anything helpful.  When two lives are bound together in a long-term intimate relationship there are bound to be some problems.  Sometimes there is lack of emotional maturity, stability, or flexibility that threatens its success.

Consider the following components of a successful marriage:

1. Mutual respect. Each accepting the other, as he or she is, not trying to manipulate, but unselfishly nourishing the partner in such a way that he or she becomes the person God intended.  Respect distinguishes between the ideal and the real, and does not demand too much (Ephesians 5:33).

2. Genuine commitment. “Forsaking all others.” (Matthew 19:5)  Time and experience in marriage reveal that being “one flesh” does not mean an abdication of personality or personal rights.  Rather its a fulfillment of those things.

3. Good communication. For good communication, there must be an understanding of the emotional, mental, and physical differences between a man and a woman.  There must be companionship.  “I’d rather be with my spouse than anyone else.”  There must be conversation, not only when differences need to be discussed, but also a meaningful exchange on the intellectual and emotional levels.

4. Time and effort. Love must be given the opportunity to mature, the climate for which is set in God’s Word.  When the going gets rough a couple doesn’t just “fall out of love”; they stay together and work things out.  They do not consider themselves as martyrs of a “bad bargain” but “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

5. An attitude of forgiveness. This is how problems are solved (Ephesians 4:32).  Ten words that will safeguard a marriage are: “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you.”   This also safeguards one’s spiritual life as well.  Keep the slate clean every day (Ephesians 4:26).

6. Spiritual unity. Understanding the spiritual dimension in marriage has profound implications.  Paul compared marriage – the union of husband and wife – to the eternal relationship between Christ and the church Ephesians 5:22-33.

A few suggestions:

1. Read, study and apply the Bible as it relates to life and marriage.

2. Pray daily.  Pray for each other even while upset with each other.  It will help to change attitudes.  Pray about existing or potential problems (1 Peter 5:7).  Bible study and prayer help to anticipate problems before they become one, and makes us more spiritually sensitive.

3. Be involved in a dynamic church.  Spiritual resources can be found in fellowship with committed Christians in consultation with a committed pastor or counselor.

4. If further help is needed, contact a pastor or Christian psychologist or marriage counselor.  You may need that help because concessions and adjustments have to be made on the part of each partner requiring prolonged professional guidance.

Here’s another suggestion.  Together plan to attend a “Family Life Conference” near you.  You can find times and locations at FamilyLife or FamilyLife Canada.  One of the key sessions in it is “Five Threats to Oneness”.

There also are numerous books available that could give you much more than what I have said.  We have the following and more in our bookstore or in most Christian bookstores.

Building Your Mate’s Self Esteem – by Dennis Rainey
The Five Love Languages – by Gary Chapman
Each for the Other – by Bryan Chapell
Communication, Key to your Marriage – by Norman Wright

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