3 Common Marriage Problems
You’re probably wondering how on earth a marriage counselor could have any common marriage problems. Aren’t marriage counselors supposed to know all the do’s and don’ts of marriage?
The answer is yes, I should have known better and actually, I did know better. But, there was a huge gap in knowing better and doing better (John 13:17).
Do you have this kind of gap in your marriage? Knowing better, but not doing better?
It is easier to know what God wants, but the how gets a bit stickier. Especially when you mix in hurt feelings, emotions and unforgiveness.
Early on in my private practice, I stopped seeing couples. I honestly had no hope for my own marriage problems, so offering hope to others was unfathomable! I couldn’t sell this idea of marriage to anyone. At that time, marriage was the bane of my existence.
Spoiler alert: My marriage is now filled with joy and peace. I often share my testimony to couples I see in counseling (ironically, my practice is mostly made up of couples now!) of the miracles God breathed into our lifeless marriage. God started with me. I didn’t want Him to change me first. But He did.
Hindsight always brings clarity. I can now see how much grace God extended. I’m offering 3 common marriage problems and their solutions…there’s actually more. But these are some of the common marriage problems I see in my practice.
Are you ready to dive in?
Common Marriage Problem #1: I got in the way of my husband’s leadership.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” ~Ephesians 5:22-23
This “let your husband lead” is such a hot topic these days. Honestly, when I reflect on my early years of marriage (okay, who am I kidding, this still takes effort and intentionality), I was constantly fighting for the alpha-dog position with my husband. (This is a very common marriage problem.)
I distinctly remember playing a game of “Go Fish” with the kids, talking about the chain of command in life…
The conversation began with, “God’s my boss, I try to obey him.” Then, I said, “I’m your boss and you need to try to obey me. And, Daddy has a boss, too.” My son, (4yrs old at the time) responded with, “And your daddy’s boss, right?”
Nothing like your four-year-old, innocently pointing to your lack of obedience in marriage! So, I responded with… “go fish”. But, his words struck a nerve. I already knew the truth. However, I felt powerless to change.
Knowing what a godly wife looked like and how to live it in a struggling marriage are two very different things. So, why the resistance? I was resistive out of fear and pride. I perched on the same 2 excuses for longer than I’d like to admit.
My 2 excuses for saying, “No, thank you,” to God’s design for my role as wife.
1. I would love for him to lead, but he won’t do it.
It actually never occurred to me at the time that he wasn’t leading because, I was. In hindsight, I literally wore him down until he surrendered the position. He also wasn’t taking the lead because he was plain tired of fighting for it.
2. Deep down I only wanted him to lead if he would do it my way.
Once in a while I stepped out of the way and tried out this submissive wife stuff. The problem is he didn’t do things the way I did, so I would take it over again.
The problem is this, over time I became weary and resentful. I wasn’t living within God’s design for me as a wife…We will always be weary when we blaze our own trail apart from God.
I had to make a choice to trust my husband’s lead even when it doesn’t look the way I want.
Common Marriage Problem #2: I made ALOT of assumptions.
“But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” ~James 4:12b
I made a lot of assumptions about what my spouse was thinking and the motives behind what he was doing.
When I do marriage counseling now with others, this habit is plain as day to me. This is not only a common marriage problem, but a relationship problem. I can spot it in a second, yet I did this very thing constantly in my own marriage.
Making assumptions is one of the wonderful ways God made us. Our brains are literally wired to fill in gaps of missing information. This feature keeps us safe and helps us problem solve all day long.
But when this feature is applied to a marriage, it can wreak havoc. Why? Because when we make assumptions about our spouse we are judging their heart’s motives. That job is reserved for God alone.
How could I not know I was making negative assumptions? The answer is simple. I never actually shared these assumptions with anyone. I simply viewed my assumptions as facts (unwise).
How to turn this marriage problem around…
Guess how I broke this nasty habit? I made this rule for myself… I have to choose to assume the best or… if I’m standing firm on my negative assumption, I have to say it to my husband. I literally tell him what I am assuming about him.
I hate doing that, by the way. It’s so vulnerable and awkward. (Especially when I’m wrong.) Because I hate it so much I try to assume the best. And like anything, practicing assuming the best has become my new habit.
The result? There is a lot less that steals my joy. And our marriage grew in intimacy at an exponential rate. Funny, how being honest does that! Asking clarifying questions is a simple way to turn this common marriage problem around.
Common Marriage Problem #3: Why do I have to be the first to change?
“Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” ~Joshua 1:16
I’m gonna give you the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of our marriage testimony. We married very young and brought a lot of baggage to the marriage. As a result, the ignorance of our youth, emotional baggage and utter selfishness we caused monumental damage to our marriage before it even began.
Summing it up even further… we had a snowball’s chance in hell of making it and only by God’s grace are we coming up on our 18th year of marriage. Consequently, we have a marriage that has more joy now than I ever thought possible.
So, all of that to set the stage for our marriage problems. I absolutely did not want to be the first to change. Hadn’t I done enough?
I was becoming increasingly convicted to change some of the hurtful ways I related to my husband. But I felt completely powerless to actually make the change.
I was becoming increasingly aware of my disrespect and unkindness, but he was disrespectful and unkind, too. Why should I be the first to change? It didn’t seem fair. I stood on that for a long time. As a result, more conviction.
I distinctly remember correcting my daughter for something she had done to her brother.
Her: “But he started it. What about him?”
Me: “We’re not talking about him, we’re talking about you. Just because he is unkind doesn’t mean you respond with unkindness.”
Holy Spirit: (Whispering) The same thing goes for you, Sunshyne.”
Me: (Thinking) “Ugh!”
So, why did I finally decide to be the first to change?
Because God calls me to behave according to His Word. He doesn’t call me to respond according to my circumstances or my spouse’s behavior…Even when it seems unfair. Or when it’s hard.
Being the first one to change gets the ball rolling in the right direction. It’s the necessary action to turn common marriage problems around. Doing the same thing keeps the marriage stuck. Which would you prefer… moving forward or stuck?
That’s what I thought.
My hope is that your biggest take away is – do life within the boundaries of God’s best for you....do life within the boundaries of God's best for you. Click To Tweet
Embrace the role He carved out for you in marriage as wife or husband. Challenge any assumptions you are making about your spouse. And, most of all – be willing to be the first one to change. You never know what God has in store for you and your marriage! He is in the business of turning common marriage problems around and doing a new thing in your marriage!
Are you frustrated by marriage? Would you like to learn some new strategies to improve your marriage today?
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