Married Life In Times of Crisis: When your falling out of love
The Prophet Amos asked, “How can two walk together unless they agree?” (Amos 3:3) The obvious answer is, they cannot. Conflict in marriage is inevitable, so the ability to resolve conflict in a way that produces agreement between husband and wife is critical to the success of the marriage. When a couple takes time to review where they’ve come from, where they are, and come to an agreement on any conflict, they are able to make tremendous strides in their relationship and in life. This week’s message was on the stages of marriage and how to keep from falling out of love.
Something To Talk About:
If marriage is nothing but sharing a house and sharing bills, it has little meaning, especially when the going gets tough—or the bills don’t get paid. Marriage is about more than just the challenges of today; it’s about carving out a future together, both for this life and the next. Here are the basic stages in marriage:
- Stage 1: Attraction: How significant should physical attraction be in the pursuit of marriage? Or, what role, if any, should physical appearance play in Christian dating? Dating relationships have to start somewhere. The initial meeting may take place over the internet, through friends, in a church or social group, or any one of a myriad of many different places. This is the initial meeting to determine if there is enough curiosity or interest to take it to the next level which would involve arranging a second or third meeting. This stage may last for months depending on the individuals and their maturity, experience, and self-understanding. Towards the end of this stage, and hopefully, at other times throughout it, the question should be asked: “Is this the right person for me” to emerge. That decision should decide if I love forward or move on.
- Stage 2: Disappointment: Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face? Somehow, someway, we’re able to deceive ourselves into thinking that we’ll be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we’re more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than they and we actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves we had finally found. Here’s where the Bible is so helpful. It’s very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have. We need to adjust our expectations and make them reasonable for where we are now. It doesn’t mean we give up hope and stop having dreams; it means we adjust them so that disappointment doesn’t continually rob us of the ability to live to build a lasting, joy-filled marriage.
- Stage 3: Acceptance: Every human being is woven together by God in a unique way. You can either magnify your spouse’s weaknesses, thereby causing strife with your scrutiny, or you can accept who God made them to be. This is a major cause of struggle in any marriage relationship. It is often the very traits that initially drew you to your spouse that you may have to come to terms with after you are married. Now, those same traits make him seem overly opinionated. Or maybe you’re married to a wife who is very detailed-oriented. While you were dating, you appreciated her planning skills and innate ability to efficiently organize her home. Now, it seems like all she does is nag and nit-pick you to get all the details right. Acceptance can be hard! Sometimes it can feel like acquiescence. You feel like you are “stuck with the other person.” It’s important to embrace the way God has made your spouse. It is also helpful to accept how God has made you. Understand that the way you two work and live and love together may not be the same as any other couple’s relationship. There are no cookie-cutter marriages. It all starts with acceptance.
- Stage 4: Appreciation: Even if I’ve never met you, I know one thing that is true about you and your spouse: you’re both married to an imperfect mate. I also know another truth about you: the Bible calls you to still respect and appreciate your very imperfect spouse. This is true whether you’re a husband (1 Peter 3:7) or a wife (Ephesians 5:33). Sometimes it becomes easy to notice all that our spouse doesn’t do. However, if pressed, each of us could make a list of all the things we don’t do, too. Those are the things we need to appreciate and express our gratitude for. If you are having trouble seeing what your spouse does regularly, try asking God to show you the things that are usually invisible to you. If you struggle with a critical spirit toward your spouse, this exercise is a sure antidote for dealing with the sin in your own heart and mind. Criticism tears down a marriage, while appreciation builds up a relationship. A verbal “thank you” is sometimes all that’s needed, but a written card or note can be especially effective in expressing thankfulness and appreciation to the one you love. If you haven’t said thank you to your spouse for the things he/she handles on a regular basis, take a minute and tell them how grateful you are for them.
- Stage 5: Relational Intimacy: Marriage is a combination of two uniquely individual people. A godly marriage does not happen by chance. To enrich and deepen the relationship takes a lot of hard work. Couples may stay together for the rest of their lives because of the commitment, but may never experience God’s design to be one unless they are totally committed to the marriage. Keep the chemistry with your spouse alive. Be committed to keeping your relationship fresh. Keeping your marriage strong, vibrant, and fresh isn’t always easy. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll discover how truly amazing your marriage can be if we simply feed the fires. Intimacy builds with every interaction. It happens with each glance, small touch, a kind word, an inside joke you quietly laugh about when you’re around others. True intimacy is extreme closeness, and closeness only happens with real commitment.
- Where would you like to see your marriage go this year? Do you expect your marriage to get better by doing the same things you did last year?
- Are there things you need to give up? Do you have the level of commitment that will see your marriage over the long haul? Are you vigilant? Are you content?
- Do you have the type of commitment that enables you to resolve conflict together? What is stopping you from having that level of commitment?
- What criteria do you use to determine if you are attracted to another person?
- How do you respond to disappointment in your own life? In your husband/wife’s life?
- What’s the biggest disappointment you’ve faced since getting married?
- How can you show acceptance to your spouse?
- How can you do more to be more appreciative? Meet more needs? Be more respectful?
- How self-serving are you in these relationships? Where can you be more self-sacrificing?
- What makes a deepening marriage? If we use the analogy of cooking, what ingredients are needed for a great marriage?
- What are some things in your life that “need to change or die” in order to deepen your marriage relationship?
- Share with your group any changes you want to make as a result of hearing this sermon?
Take one thing home with you:
Do you cherish your spouse? There’s a simple definition of cherishing that doesn’t fully encompass the word, but it’s an essential slice of it. If you cherish someone, you seek to enhance their life. If you cherish a diamond, you set it in gold and regularly shine it. If you cherish a car, it gets washes and waxes and you think about where to park it. If you cherish a spouse, you think regularly about how you can enhance your spouse’s life. Often it is the little things.