The rising divorce rate is alarming in the United States. But the Bible is clearly against it, unless there has been adultery. The passage of scripture in Malachi (2:10-16), that objects to divorce gives the reason for it, and it’s because of the desire of God’s heart for us to have Godly offspring.
In order for us to produce the character in our lives that pleases God, we must navigate some storms at times and that includes relational challenges. If we will allow God to grow us, strengthen us, and mature us, we will become more like Him in our nature, and less of who we are in our selfish state.
Over several decades of marriage, I can say that I’ve learned a few things. If I would have had a “marriage operating manual,” ahead of time, I’m sure that I could have avoided many pitfalls and difficulties, but thankfully, our God is both merciful and mighty, and He stands behind the covenants that we make in His name, when we promise, “I Do.” And, He promises to give us great wisdom and strength.
A few of the practical things that I’ve noticed that help to chart the course, are listed here:
1-Re-entry: There is a thing called “re-entry” that the military couples have to experience all the time. They offer workshops on the topic that help families, especially husbands and wives learn how to adjust when one spouse is gone for six months or so, and then comes back into the family environment, where the other spouse has needed to step up to take charge of things while the other was away. When the spouse who was gone, “re-enters,” there is often some challenge of “how things are done,” and “who’s in charge.”
Just because you may not be a military family, you may still have these challenges. If spouses have one role at work, and another at home, it may be opportunity for collision, if there is not some acknowledgment of how things run at home, and under whose direction.
For me, when my husband is traveling a lot, or working long hours at the office, I tend to be in charge of the home, and the children’s activities, meals, and schedules. When my husband, “re-enters,” the home, he may not realize that I’ve already given our children direction of who is doing what chores, and when schoolwork should be completed, and what the bed times are. If he comes in with a different plan, the atmosphere can get tense. So, I usually give him the update, and ask if he has any needs or concerns, so that we can adjust if needed. That way, things can run more on auto-pilot and with greater ease.
2-Task Mode versus Relationship Mode: This one is a big one for us. My husband, who is a business man by trade, stays very much in the “task-mode.” He goes from one task to another, and expects everyone else to do the same. Me, on the other hand, a journalist by profession, am trained to be the people person. I care very much what a person is going through, how they are feeling, or if they are up for the task at hand, or if we need to make alternate accommodations based on their needs at the moment. Once the person is taken care of, then the task can be accomplished. Not vice versa.
To me, the people are more important, and the tasks can wait. Of course, I know that’s not always possible, but in those circumstances, I show kindness to the people and explain why we must move forward with the task regardless of how they are feeling at the moment. I believe this promotes greater overall well-being and more quality relationships. I believe that when we focus too much on tasks, we are people users, and we use people up. That’s not good for long-term relationship building. Instead, it causes harm and great damage.
When it comes to a marriage partnership, we must be willing to meet in the middle. When my husband is in task mode, I shift to task mode, for his sake. When he has shifted to relationship mode, and wants to talk about things personally, I down shift and listen, and shift into relationship mode, and out of task mode, in order to follow his lead, respect his position in our relationship, and safeguard the climate change in our marriage. If I expect him to change to meet my tendency, or preference, I am being self-seeking, or demanding my own way, and in addition, I am disrespecting him, and not showing appreciation or honor, and ultimately not producing positive results for our livelihood, our home, or our children. Our general well-being is improved by living in harmony, rather than trying to operate out of sync.
3-Don’t Take Things Personally: When things are said or done that are not acceptable to my social norms, and what I regard as polite and courteous, it can take a tone of offense. My delicate sensitivities can be grossly offended by what my husband considers to be blunt or to-the-point actions or communication. When I am desiring him to act in a highly-civilized manner, like a diplomat, clergy, dignitary, or person of high class or esteem, and instead he is coarse in his speech or demeanor, or less than gracious, it can seem rather rude, insensitive, and quite off-putting to me.
There is a scripture in Proverbs 14:4 that I think is humorous that says, “without the ox, the stall is clean, but the strength of the ox is a benefit.” I often think about how funny that is, when I think of my husband and all the things he’s good at, like fixing the front-porch railing, the pipe under the sink, the brakes on the car, or even the website that’s down, but sometimes, he smells bad, makes a huge mess, says insensitive things, or has a rotten attitude. When these things happen, I try not to take things personally, but rather, thank the Lord for the strength and the benefit that is there because of him, and ask for the divine ability to not take things personally, and cover it all with grace.
May God bless you in your marriage and may you focus on things that are eternal, while you live life each day, with joy, peace, maturity, strength, and grace, to the glory of our God.
Article Written by: Debbie Harper, Ph.D.