In a marriage, conflict can manifest itself on various levels of complexity. Some conflicts are singular and can be resolved easily, while others become lost within a black hole, leading to divorce.
I have two concepts to consider when addressing marital conflict, with my first thought reflected in a post by Dr. Tim Keller:
When I was a young pastor in a small Southern town, I did a lot of marriage counseling. Some marriages were harmed by things like drink, drugs, pornography or an extramarital affair. But, in most of the troubled marriages I saw, the problem stemmed not from bad things but from very good things that had become too important. When some good thing becomes more engrossing and important than your spouse, it can destroy the marriage.
He goes on to mention that if your spouse does not feel you are putting him or her first, then by definition, you are not. When this happens, your marriage is dying.
According to Dr. Keller, there are four primary “good things” we overcommit to in marital conflict.
The first and most obvious is our children. A strong marriage between husband and wife makes children grow up feeling the world is a safe place and love is possible. It is healthy for children to see that the marriage comes first.
On the other hand, take a look a mother who puts her children above her husband. It not only harms the marriage, but the children do not get to see how a good marriage works. By putting her children before her husband, she does not realize she is harming the children.
The second good thing is our parents. Some people never leave their parents. We are told to “Leave our fathers and mothers and cleave to our spouse.” Often, people don’t leave their parents and allow them to become too involved in their lives.
The third good thing is work. This is highly common in this age, where people are driven to be successful. If one spouse perceives that work is more important than the marriage, the relationship will slowly die.
The final good thing are our hobbies. If a spouse truly believes that a hobby is more important than the marriage, the relationship is in real trouble.
My second thought on marital conflict has to do with blame. When a marriage is in trouble, it is easy for spouses to point the finger at each other. They generally acknowledge they are partly to blame, but the real problem is their spouse.
Jesus gives thoughtful insight regarding this issue in the Sermon on the Mount:
And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mathew 7:3-5)
Jesus is telling us that we have a propensity to easily point out the flaws in the lives of others, when we are so blind to the major shortcomings in our own lives. This is particularly true in marriage.
Author Gary Thomas has this to add:
“I have a theory, behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies an unwillingness to admit our self-centeredness. Couples do not fall out of love so much as they are unwilling to humbly acknowledge they have shortcomings as a spouse. Sin, wrong attitude and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and, eventually, erasing the once lofty promise in the throes of an earlier and less polluted love.”
In essence, Jesus is telling us that if we take responsibility for and deal with our own selfishness, we are be able to see the other person more clearly, while being more effective in their lives.
It is essential to get a husband and a wife to stop blaming and pointing their fingers at each other and have each of them honestly answer this question:
What am I doing to cause problems in this marriage?
Couples who are both willing to take this approach have a great opportunity to turn their marriage around and see it begin to grow and flourish.
This blog was taken from the newest book by Richard E. Simmons Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure. If you are interested in reading more from this book or other books by Richard, visit our online bookstore or Amazon.com