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Thoughts on Marriage

While flipping through the channels yesterday looking for something to watch while grading J-term finals, I happened across The Princess Bride. The commercials were a little annoying, but the movie is one of our favorites, so I “watched” it. It reminded me that I’ve read three good perspectives on marriage recently that I’ve been meaning to share. I’ll share a bit of each here, but recommend that you check each of them out!

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First, from my college friend, and now Christian counselor, Fred Jacoby. He is thinking about some recent lessons on marriage and shared some thoughts in a post on the blog for Foundations Christian Counseling, the counseling organization he founded. Here is a taste of his post:

Among the many issues facing marriage today, there is an issue that is greater than all the other issues combined.  It is the issue that brings all of the other issues to the surface.  Unless it is addressed, marriages will struggle significantly.  No, it is not stinky feet or bad morning breath, it is simply this: the love of self.  I want what I want and you need to give it to me.  If you don’t, I will let you know by complaining, nagging, making side comments, sarcasm, yelling, or various forms of punishment.  Sounds kinda childish, yes, but it is how we are, thanks to our sinful natures. …

Well, instead of love, maybe the demands are for other things…like peace, rest, sex, respect, etc.  None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when they become idols in our hearts (a desire turns into a demand), then the focus is on me getting what I want, and others needing to give it to us.  Basically, other people become our servants who are supposed to do our bidding.  Not a good idea for marriage.  For husbands being obedient to Scripture, God (through Paul) calls us (Eph 5) to be servants, not to look for servants in our spouses (and children).  For wives being obedient to Scripture, He calls them (also Eph 5) to be respectful in submission as unto the Lord.  Notice that in both of these statements, Paul does not tell the wives to be sure to get your husbands to love you…make sure they do or else you are free to disrespect, complain, nag, criticize, or divorce them.   Notice that Paul does not tell husbands to withhold love from their wives if they are not respecting them or to try to get them to respect you by working more, being the strong silent type or by flexing your vocal cords in unloving ways.

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Next, I came across this list (called “What I wished I knew about men before I got married“.) from Tricia Goyer’s blog. I don’t know her, nor do I remember who posted this link. Sorry. The list is pretty simple, so I’ll just repost it here. She’s thinking of her husband, of course, but I enjoyed the list and found a lot of general truth in it. You can check it out on her blog if you’d like more info about her.

1. Men can’t read your mind. If you “hint” at wanting help, they will not get it. Asking sweetly works much better.
2. Men don’t like to be rushed with problems as soon as they get in the door.
3. Men feel like they’ll fail as a spiritual leader. Sometimes it’s easier not to try than to see disappointment in your spouse’s gaze.
4. Men are visual. Very visual.
5. Men like someone to listen to their dreams. It doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and quit their jobs tomorrow, but a listening ear matters.
6. Men are born wanting to protect the weak and fight for honor, but those emotions rarely have a chance to exhibit themselves in the real world.
7. A good meal and a warm wife can wash away every other care in the world.

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Finally, from my friend Josh Wood on his Post Calvinist blog. He shares about a silly disagreement between himself and his wife. The details of the “argument” are somewhat humorous, but the lessons Josh got out of it are pretty cool. Have a look at the whole post, but here is a longer taste, since he has so much good to say. Hope you don’t mind Josh! 😉

But I’m starting to wonder if any of our “fights” have been about anything besides one of us giving in to the desire to control the other. Make no mistake; we’ve had plenty of conversations and “hard talks” about serious, personal, raw, vulnerable things. But those, despite being tough, were also quite comforting. In dealing with those things without trying to control the other, we were able to be free to support each other even in the midst of disagreement. They weren’t “fights” even when they were strong, fundamental disagreements. They became learning experiences; they were times when our bond grew closer as we struggled to overcome obstacles together.

When we sat down to seriously talk about the debt-pit I had led us into, she could’ve responded entirely differently. She could’ve tried to punish me by yelling, or looking over my shoulder all the time, questioning and second guessing every decision I made, grumbling and griping… all, to my mind, forms of exerting control. Instead, we both had our full say and we set a new course, together. Sure, we might’ve fought horribly and ended at the same place, but it scares me to think what frequent bloody, mean fights would do to the foundation of our marriage.

I can’t look back at any argument that I remember having without very clearly seeing the intention to exert control: put the iron away, load the dishwasher correctly, don’t work so much overtime, clean more… etc and so on. (This is hardly an exhaustive list, by the way.)

Most of the things we fight about are things we should just let go of. They’re petty and irrelevant. I mean, I would never sit down for a heart to heart, family meeting to discuss proper dishwasher loading technique. It’s stupid. Get over it. Ditto for the stupid ironing board.

Even more importantly, when truly significant issues arise, I need to reject the impulse desire to control her to comfort me. Controlling her response by making her defensive, controlling her emotions by belittling her and controlling the outcome by overpowering her – all are just poison in a marriage.

Rather, I can be honest in a way that leaves her room to be beside me, not across the battlefield from me. If I do that, I’ll make an already ridiculously harmonious marriage even sweeter.

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And, of course, couldn’t resist leaving you with this video. (Embedding is disabled, so click play, then click to watch it on YouTube.)

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