Neil, you talk about two issues that if resolved, will set a marriage free…
Often one of the first questions I ask is, in what ways haven’t you left mom or dad? Sometimes people don’t leave; and sometimes mom and dad don’t give them away. They kind of hang around and haunt the marriage [laughs]. This is a very important step. The second common issue is setting aside destructive behaviors; if I brought something into this marriage, it’s my responsibility to deal with it. When you’re married, you didn’t just get your spouse, you got the weird uncle, the sick brother and three generations of habits, traditions, and customs.
You say, you can have a house full of Christians, but not have a Christian marriage. How is that possible?
You can have people professing faith in Christ, but if each is doing their own thing (which is very possible), then you don’t have a sense of unity. To be united in Christ we have to be right with God. That makes the family dynamic interesting.
Suppose a wife loves the Lord and the husband doesn’t. Can there be oneness in marriage? Probably not. Suppose mom and dad love the Lord, but they have two rebellious kids — the home won’t have much harmony. Again, you may have a house full of Christians, but not really have a Christian home where we’re functioning together, working in the same direction. So, to get a marriage right with Christ, the individual must be right with Christ. It’s a two-step process.
Why is it so counter-productive to expect our needs to be met by our spouse?
Well, because they can’t. Christ will meet all our needs, but putting that guilt trip on our spouse will lead to disappointment. Often young people have an idealistic expectation that they’ll get together and be this loving, harmonious thing — on their first date. There are a lot of pitfalls in marriage. When you grow up you realize you married someone quite different than yourself, which God intended to be a strength. I think God brings couples together in a complimentary fashion. Often the thing that attracted you to that person can end up being the biggest bone of contention later on — what was attractive at first can be annoying later on.
I think Jim, the big issue you’re bringing up is there are a lot of young marriages with unresolved issues, and getting married will not resolve them — It will expose them. I think couples should have an opportunity to resolve their individual issues before they get married.
Neil, please talk about sharing needs appropriately…
Often a wife doesn’t feel loved; we all need to feel loved, we all need to feel accepted, we need to be affirmed. But often that doesn’t come out as a need, it comes out as a judgment. It’s very important to realize that when go into marriage we understand our individual responsibilities. I think every Christian has to assume responsibility for their own life and their own character.
Now suppose everybody did that. What if everyone said I will be the person God created me to be and then turned around and said I will love one another and meet other people’s needs. What if everyone did that? Well, that would be heaven [laughs]. Why are we struggling so hard when something so common is given in scripture, but we can’t seem to live up to it? I think it goes back to we have too many unresolved issues in our personal lives, and until we deal with those things, working together as a couple won’t work.
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