Here are ways to improve and heal damaged relationships between mates!
IS YOUR marriage as happy as you want it to be? Or is it troubled? Did you know that a marriage doesn't have to remain perpetually locked in unhappy categories astutely labeled by one marriage counselor as the Spare Time Battlers, or the Weary Wranglers, or the Gruesome Twosome? God never intended marriage to be this way! Such marriages are the result of breaking spiritual laws set in motion by the Creator. God established immutable spiritual laws that, if obeyed, will produce happiness and love in marriage as in all human relationships. Break these dynamic living laws and we guarantee marital unhappiness and misery.
The Husband-Wife Relationship
God created humans male and female. And for an incredible transcendent potential, little realized. He created woman to be a helper and companion to man (Gen. 2:18). Few realize today the Almighty Creator ordained that man shall rule over his wife and properly lead her. But emphatically not as an irate master unjustly and cruelly ruling a slave. This needs UNDERSTANDING. There are two areas in the husband-wife relationship. One, a husband, as captain of a two-person team, must call the signals. But, on the other hand, there must be teamwork. Where opinions, ideas and preferences differ they must be wisely, lovingly discussed on a basis of equality. For a husband and wife are, indeed, heirs together of the grace and kingdom of God (I Pet. 3:7). Damaging marital relations cannot be solved if marriage partners forget the structure of government God ordained in marriage. Society is trying to play a game with 50-50 marriages; it doesn't solve problems — it compounds them. The leader of a marriage, the husband, and the wife must not act in ways that antagonize the other member. The husband should take the lead in resolving differences and encouraging cooperation. Isn't it time you learned or recaptured the loving and healing marital values and attitudes? What are the wonderful attitudes that lead mates to build each other up instead of tearing down each other? How should mates approach each other to heal the wounds of misunderstandings and past mistakes? How should mates communicate feelings? Communicate needs to each other so both partners can start to tackle their problems and difficulties in a constructive way? There is a way! Now is the time to try anew to improve or, possibly, to save your marriage by expressing these healing attitudes! What are those wonderful attitudes?
Damaged marital relationships need a positive first step in the right direction. Somebody has to step forth first and break harmful patterns of communication. Before you married, you saw qualities that you appreciated in your mate. Undoubtedly you expressed your admiration and appreciation of these qualities many times and in many ways to the one you loved. But in marriage so many make the big mistake of failing to continue to express appreciation for the small things — or even the big things — provided by their mates. Even good marriages can slowly sour and die because husbands and wives take each other's labors and efforts for granted. What good qualities do you appreciate in your mate now? No, I don't mean for you to immediately reply, "But he (or she) has all these bad qualities and habits that bother me!" Right now focus your mind on your mate's good qualities. List them in your mind. Write them down to impress your mind if you have to. It's important to recognize good qualities in a mate or in your marriage even if those qualities seem to be only a few now. Are you thankful for those qualities? Have you recently told your mate you appreciate them in him or her? If you're a wife, maybe your husband is not as considerate or affectionate as you would like, but he's a good provider of physical necessities. Have you told him you appreciate his efforts and energy to provide for the family? If you're a husband, maybe you feel your wife is not handling her part of the budget as thriftily as she could. These are difficult and inflationary times for all. Have you told her you appreciate her efforts to do the best she knows how under the circumstances? Have you encouraged her, not harangued her, about handling her expenditures? Have you commended her for her care of the children perhaps, or her housekeeping, or possibly the added income she provides? There isn't a human being alive who doesn't want to receive appreciation. God created that a living law! Break that law by constant focus on negative things or problems about a person, and everything in life begins to appear totally negative. Lack of expressing appreciation for good things causes one to lose touch with the reality of any good in another. Many mates destroy their marriage out of ingratitude. Marriage counselors see this problem all the time. The scriptures teach us the need to be constantly expressing appreciation to each other, "Giving thanks always for all [good] things..." (Eph. 5:20). You want to be appreciated? Then express genuine appreciation to your mate — or to any other person for that matter. If you are consistent at expressing appreciation where it is due (and it is due even for small things others do for us), there will be a remarkable response. Maybe expressing appreciation won't solve all your marital problems, but it is a positive first step to improve and heal wounded marital relations and communications. Jesus taught us the critical overall principle in all right living: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is [the purpose of] the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
Give Honor and Respect
It may seem difficult at times of heated differences of views or opinions, but again, every human wants to be shown honor and respect. Differences of opinion are not an excuse to drop respect. What happens when husbands and wives fail to show respect and honor to each other — or to any other person? An automatic wall of suspicion is created. Others are more easily hurt, more touchy, when we must point out their mistakes. They are less receptive to even constructive correction. Many disrespected, unappreciated persons start imagining wrongs and insults when none are intended or exist. God commands us in all of our human relationships, "Honor all men" (I Pet. 2:17). Yes, even if a person does not always express right character! Why? Because respect breeds respect! Disrespect inflames bad feelings. It makes a good situation bad and a bad situation worse. Remember, your mate is a person who willingly gave up many personal options and freedoms to marry you. Have you shown honor and respect to your mate for taking on the challenge of marriage and family responsibilities? Or to live with all your imperfections? Treat your mate with dignity and, chances are, he or she will want to rise to a higher level of respect for you!
The attitude, "I'll never forgive you for that!" is the surest way for wounds and hurts in marriage never to heal. An unmerciful, unforgiving attitude leads to discouragement and depression. It inflames tension and strife. It hardens discord and hate. How many mates have the habit of dredging up past mistakes — in private or public — to embarrass or put down a mate? That's being unmerciful and unforgiving. It reopens old wounds. You, of course, want mercy and forgiveness for your shortcomings. You don't want them repeated again and again. Then be willing to show the wonderful attitude of mercy and forgiveness to another. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father [in heaven] also is merciful," instructs scripture (Luke 6:36). You and your mate are imperfect human beings in an imperfect world. So when you're wrong why not simply say, "I'm sorry." You'll soon be hearing it in return! Many mates realize, after much suffering, that they have had immature ideas of what real love is, of what marriage should be. Why not admit shortcomings? Take up the challenge of growing in right love and maturity together. If an abusive mate asks for forgiveness, be willing to give it. If we fail to apply the living law of mercy and forgiveness when it should be applied, we guarantee that past mistakes and shortcomings will destroy a marriage. One who shows no mercy or forgiveness will not have his mistakes and sins forgiven either (Matt. 18:35). Of course, persistence in physical abuse must stop if a marital relationship is to survive. Outside counseling may be required.
Be Helpful Be Constructive
One of the United States' leading divorce and family law attorneys was asked what is the single biggest reason couples split up. He said, "No. 1 is the inability to talk honestly with each other, bare their souls and treat each other as their best friend." You want your feelings, needs and opinions to be heard and considered? So does your mate! Many mates develop the habit of putting down their mate's feelings, opinions and desires. But how do you stop this vicious, degrading and damaging cycle? Quietly sit down together. Make outgoing love your aim. "Love is kind," reveals I Corinthians 13:4, RSV. The J.B. Phillips translation makes it even clearer: "Love... looks for a way of being constructive." Be constructive. Work on a positive solution to a problem instead of destroying or putting down your mate when a problem arises. Talk, listen to your mate. "Love does not insist on its own way" (I Cor. 13:5, RSV). "Be swift to boar, slow to speak," commands scripture (Jas. 1:19). How often do mates cause enormous marital problems because they disobey this command? "A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger" admonishes Proverbs 15:1. Next time, before being so quick to lash back or respond to a mate, stop. Ask yourself, "Is what I'm going to say helpful and constructive to solving the problem, or am I really trying to get back and put him/her down? When a mate tries to be positive and constructive about the situation, it encourages the other mate to do the same. But whatever steps you take, don't forget to strive to apply the attitudes that help and heal in marriage!
"We're a Team!"
A healthy, loving husband-wife relationship is not a master-slave relationship. It is not a mother-son or father-daughter relationship. It is a sharing, complementing relationship where each mate recognizes the God-ordained role of the other and contributes talents and energies for the good of the marriage. It is a union in which each mate expresses appreciation of the other's contribution. Lasting marital happiness requires team effort. One of the newer tragic trends is the growing concept or pressure to go your own way — or, as some express it, "do your own thing" or "find yourself" — even if it means forsaking a mate, children or family responsibilities. It's when two mates realize they need, help and complement each other that they draw close and grow to respect and love each other. The Chinese have a saying that describes it, "One hand washes the other." What a wonderful, healing attitude to have in marriage! "My love, we're a team — to share the joys of life together, to conquer the difficulties and challenges of life together!"
... And God's Marital Laws
It is ignorance to drop burning matches into gasoline cans to see if they will burn or explode. Similarly, to break God's marital laws will burn you. Break God's laws and they break you! Millions are paying painful mental, emotional and physical penalties for rejecting or ignoring God's revealed laws on sex and marriage. God's law commands, "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14, Matt. 5:27-28). A penalty is always exacted: a mate is less loved, or maybe a home is broken, or there is shame, guilt, disease, ill-begotten children — or the ultimate spiritual penalty if sin is unrepented of, death (Rom. 6:23). "Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?... So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife: none who touches her will go unpunished" (Prov. 6:27, 29, RSV). True love is the way of giving, sharing, helping, encouraging, being constructive, and being encouraging. It is the opposite of the way of taking, of adultery, of selfishness, of hurting others and being unmerciful. Those are Satan's ways and attitudes. They produce evil and suffering in human lives and marriages. So let us not forget. God commanded a man to properly rule over his wife (Gen. 3:16). Women these days are increasingly ruling over weak and ineffectual men, which is sin, contrary to God's law (Isa. 3:12). God will punish both men and women for forsaking their proper roles (verses 16-18). God's Word teaches that a husband is the head of his wife (I Cor. 11:3), that man was not created for the woman, but the woman for man (verses 7 and 9). God commands men to love their wives. And wives to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33). Note how simply but beautifully the Bible expresses the truly loving, healing attitudes that are to be expressed between husbands and wives: "... husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge [of God's mind of a woman's needs] giving honor unto the wife... as being heirs together of the grace of [eternal] life: that your prayers be not hindered. Finally... having compassion one of another... be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing..." (I Pet. 3:7-9). "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.... As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Eph. 5:21, 22, 25, 28, RSV). Why is it so important for mates to live this way? "He who loves his wife loves himself" (verse 28). A man who misuses his wife, or a wife that rails against her husband, damage and destroy themselves and their own happiness! By contrast, God's way to marital peace is to "let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph. 5:33, RSV). Isn't it time you admitted any wrong attitudes toward your mate? Isn't it time you sought God's forgiveness and help to express right attitudes and actions in your marriage? Obey God's living laws of marital happiness and healing. Express appreciation to your mate. Give honor and respect. Be merciful and forgiving. Be helpful and constructive. Live as a team, with each respecting the other's God-given role. Obey God's instructions on marriage. You can improve and/or save your marriage! Many troubled marriages need the assistance of a qualified spiritual counselor. Don't neglect to seek such help if necessary.