“Mom, he just doesn’t understand the way I feel. He constantly talks down to me.” “Hey dad, we just can’t get along. She expects too much. Should I call it quits?” 

If these are the questions either husband or wife are asking, and if these are the people from whom they are seeking answers- their parents- then there may be a good chance that their marriage could be in danger. The fifth sign that a marriage could be in trouble is if either person involves parents in their marital problems.
Marital problems will happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when. They are not fun and can a temporary break in fellowship. But these problems belong to the married individuals, not the respective parents. Scripture is clear that a husband is to “leave and cleave,” Genesis 2:24. And this means that the individuals are cleaving to become “won.” Involving others in arguments will most certainly breakdown communication. This has the potential of making the husband or wife feel that trust was betrayed and getting that back is an uphill process.   

If there’s a significant problem that can’t be worked out, a neutral third party such as a pastor or counselor is always the best way to go. What’s needed in these situations is someone who will speak truth an life into the situation, not someone who will pick sides.  

So there you have it, 5 signs that a marriage may be in trouble. Do you have any other signs to add?

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Marriage Investment 

     Well, so far I have listed three out of four possible reasons for a high divorce rate, even among Christians. To review these were: Unmet expectations, not counting the cost and unequal yoking.

    Now I’d like to discuss the last reason, which may actually be the most important and the most tragic: failure to invest in the marriage.

    When the word invest is brought up people may think about mutual funds, or retirement accounts. In other words our minds usually turn to something on which we can have a return. The principle is that the more you invest the bigger return you will earn and visa versa. However, investment doesn’t always have to apply to a financial goal. In biblical terms, this can be described as sowing and reaping. 

    Investment can also apply to relationships, specifically the marriage relationship. The old adage about quality versus quantity would apply here. Investment in this context refers to where and how our time is spent within the relationship. Not only that, where we choose to invest says a lot about what we are passionate about. For instance, if most of my free time is spent playing sports or working instead of nurturing my relationship with my wife, it would be clear that I’m very passionate about sports or work. In the same manner, wherever I choose to apply my time, energy and money, there will my heart be also.  

    If we consider the sowing and reaping principle again, one could say that what you sow into your marriage, you will reap. If I sow quality time, encouraging words, acts of service and open communication, would it not follow that I would reap love, joy, peace? And fellas: you might actually get playtime with your friends, LOL! In other words, intentional investment can have great returns and make the difference between a successful marriage and one which is fostered by resentment and bitterness.  

    What does this look like practically?The best way I can explain this is by borrowing three words I saw that a certain company uses to describe their service: Invest, Protect, Extend.

    INVEST

    When we invest in those things that are important to us or things that we value, these things also receive our interest focus and passion. Guys, we all did this during courtship. Ladies, your TV shows and/or friends were not as important during dating. Investment does not just involve date night but more importantly involves talking about potential problems, Sharing each other’s days and serving one another.  

    PROTECT

    Protection can involve limiting our time from distractions that can remove us from being able to invest in our relationships. This can be TV, sporting events, social media and yes, even children activities. This can also involve protecting ourselves from engaging in inappropriate communication with the opposite sex. 

    EXTEND

    And finally extend. This refers to reaping and sowing. If we spend time investing in our marriage, we will be much more likely to prolong the life of the marriage relationship.  

    Please do not get the idea that these things are easy to do. It does take work. And just like any activity, work will take energy. But it is only through intentional investment in that which we care about that we will be able to realize its full potential. The full potential of a marriage relationship should be the true merging of two to “won.”

Unequal Yoking- What to do?

In my last post I shared what a possible third reason for a high divorce rate may be: unequal yoking.  But what if you’re already in a unequally yoked marriage?  What’s the solution?  Try to change your spouse?  Separation or divorce?  Absolutely NOT, on both accounts.

First of all, we cannot change anybody’s heart.  Only God has the power to change someone.  As much as one hopes to try and beg or  convince someone into being a believer, this can’t happen through human efforts.  However, one should never give up praying because as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.”
This leads us to the second point, which is that the Bible instructs believers that find themselves in this situation.  We are instructed to be light in an unequally yoked marriage.   In 1 Corinthians 7, after Paul admonished spouses not to divorce, in verses 12 through 14 he went on to write the following, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.”  

Furthermore, in verse 16, he wrote: ” how do you know, wine, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”  The point is that by showing the selfless and unconditional love of Christ to your unbelieving spouse, he or she may be won to Christ.  
There are some practical ways in which a believing spouse can witness  to his or her partner:
1. Be patient.  Things won’t change quickly.  But as Christians we are called to persevere, be gentle and kind. 
2. Don’t nag.  This will most of the times drive a wedge between you and your spouse. You will show that you care by being a gentle witness who does not brow beat your mate.
3. Be real.  Don’t try to be a person without flaws.  That’s not a real christian.  Be real and transparent about who you are without pretending to be “mr super christian.”  
God created a perfect plan for the marriage relationship.  That a believing man and woman should come together to be “won.”  God’s view of the importance and permanence of marriage is demonstrated by the fact that His word instructs how to be a witness in a marriage with an unbelieving partner.  By following this guide a marriage that is headed for trouble can be restored.

Unmet Expectations

In my last post I mentioned 4 possible reasons for the high divorce rate. The first reason is because of unmet expectations.

Sometimes both men and women can have a predetermined expectation of what a perfect spouse should be like. And this expectation is carried with him or her for several years into a marriage. The problem with such expectations is that the starting point assumes the impossible: that there is such a thing as a “perfect spouse.” As I stated in my last post, we are all flawed.

An expectation that men may have that can lead to severe disappointments is the expectation of having a woman who will “take care of me,” “clean for me,” “cook for me” and “wash for me.” Well, that sounds like a maid not a wife! Wives are to be helpers of their husbands, yes, but that does not mean that a husband “lords it over” his wife. The husband should lead in a way that glorifies Christ. That means we lead by serving. Husbands need to remember that we “leave and cleave,” as the bible describes in Genesis. We do no inherit another mother but a helper who is our equal. As husbands, we have the responsibility of leading as Christ leads us.

Wives are not immune to having unrealistic expectations either. I have heard women on occasion say that they wished their husband would be romantic all the time. Not to say that a husband should not occasionally and surprisingly keep romance in the marriage, but to expect this on a daily basis is what Hollywood sells not real life. Job requirements, school and children activities can be very exhausting. Romance in the mist of this chaos can look different than unrealistic expectations. Cooking a meal, cleaning up the kitchen or helping to fold the laundry should be just as sexy as a two night stay at a bed-and-breakfast. Now this may not pack the same punch as a spontaneous vacation getaway for two or flowers sent to you just because, however expecting such actions to be a true test of love in marriage is a recipe for disappointment and failure.

A better test of true love in a marriage is how the husband treats the wife daily. A good litmus test for this is Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. Using a “romantic” meter to measure true love is flawed because it uses a worldly “how I feel standard” to measure a husband’s (or wife for that matter) worth. Yes, I understand the emotional side of women wanting to have things done that will stir up their emotions. However, Hollywood is not reality. There’s nothing wrong with flowers sent to the office or home or a surprise as spontaneous “let’s go out to dinner night.” But when did just serving each other on a day-to-day basis not become enough? When did providing for your family and treating your wife as Christ would the church not become enough?

Now husbands, before we become puffed up, let us be reminded that in our eyes we may have done “enough,” but for our wives it may be the opposite. We can very easily get stuck in the “provider role” and neglect caring and romancing. I’m not suggesting that one should be done at the expense of the other. What I am suggesting is that in order for a marriage to be successful, in order for two to stay “won” we must listen to our spouses desires and love language as well.

On my next post I’ll discuss the second reason that can be the cause of a divorce: Not counting the cost.

What Can A Husband Learn About the Resurrection and New Life?

Rob n Lisa Godspell 2014

As I contemplate on Good Friday and Easter, I first thank God for sending His one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Scripture is clear that Jesus, Lord of Lords and King of kings, came to be a servant to many; Matthew 20:28, “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He gave us an example of what it is and how to love, as stated in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus also gave us an example of how to be a great leader in Mark 10:43-44, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

I also think about how this applies to a marriage relationship. First, let’s talk about love. If we learn anything from God’s word it’s that love is a verb not a noun. In other words, if I am to love my wife as the Bible teaches me to love, then I have to do more than just say “I love you.” I must show and be the fruits of the Spirit for my wife; gentleness, kindness, patience, peace, joy and perseverance (Galatians).

Second, I must serve my wife with the compassion with which Jesus served. Although my wife also has a responsibility to serve her husband, I must be the lead in this. I must not wait to be served but I must serve with love, with patience and with joy.  Serving in this context means being available, being helpful, being supportive, being loyal, and being trustworthy.  In other words, I am leading by serving.

Third and last, as a husband I must be a leader. Jesus taught his disciples to be servant leaders.  This is also the type of husband I am supposed to be; Matthew 20:25-26a, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”  Although this was not a direct teaching about marriage, it does have applications to how I am to treat my wife.  If I am to be the husband that brings glory to God I must not only love and serve, but I must lead.  I am to be the spiritual leader of my wife.  This does not mean that I am her boss or her master. But being a servant leader means that I serve my wife and sacrifice for her.

So let this Easter be a new beginning  to your marriage. Just as Jesus came to make all things new, let the Spirit of the risen Christ encourage you to keep your marriage relationship fresh, new and “won.”

Sacrifice in marriage…a requirement for success

BlogPicSacrifice

Everything that is worth having is worth working for. This old adage couldn’t be any truer than in the marriage relationship. In the context of marriage this “working for” can be labeled as sacrifice. Sacrifice has a bad connotation in our society when it comes to relationships because we are told to always look out for number one. But we admire those who sacrifice of themselves for others in other contexts- military, physicians, firefighters, etc.

When you sacrifice for someone, you show them love. And love is more of a verb than an emotion and therefore requires action. Love as a feeling is conditional and dependent on our mood or our feelings. True love however, should cause you act in tangible ways for the one you love. We think of our spouse’s well being first. True love requires sacrifice.

Men, by nature are explorers, conquerors, and protectors. The first two characteristics serve well in the context of dating. But when a commitment is made, when two truly become “won”, the role of protector should take over. As such, sacrificing of ourselves for our wives should come as a natural extension of who we are. When we sacrifice of ourselves for our wives, it communicates that they are important, that we care about them and we want what’s best for them. Sacrificing of ourselves more importantly puts us second. This is not only sacrifice, but it’s the basis of servant leadership.

What does sacrifice look like in the context of marriage you ask? Great question! Well, I can say I would watch “The Notebook” with my wife if she wanted me to instead of the World Cup but I would be lying! Just kidding. But really, there would be no way I could do that. That would be a disgrace to my Brazilian heritage! Ok, just kidding again. I think…

True sacrifice in marriage means that I would be willing to do whatever is needed for my spouse’s well being. That means I will be cancelling a planned golfing weekend to be with my wife after a stressful week. This means that I will leave work early to pick up and stay with the kids if she needs time with her friends. This means that I will wash dishes after she has cooked. And it definitely means that I will help her onto a boat if I sense danger in the water while snorkeling. … Well actually this is one area that I failed since I did the exact opposite when confronted with the same situation during our honeymoon. But to my defense, it was my first time snorkeling. Ha!

The real take home point here is that when we sacrifice for our loved ones we are really sacrificing for ourselves because in marriage two become “won.”

We’ve got work to do…

So in my last post I alluded to the fact that marriage takes work. Everything that is worth having is worth working for.  I want to expand on this and share my view of the kind of work that is involved in a marriage.  I have tried to condense the work involved in marriage into the three C’s.

 Communication:

        Whether it’s work, organizations, or relationships they all require communication to function.  In marriages this is vital in order for a couple to survive.  In too many marriages however, this communication is one sided.  The stereotypical picture is a woman talking to her husband while he stares aimlessly and dumbfounded at the TV. But is it really true that women talk more than men? Actually, it turns out to be an urban legend according to a study by researchers at the University of Arizona. But I digress.

         Without a two way communication it is impossible for the institution of marriage to function as it should.  Where there is poor communication there is misunderstanding.  Where there is misunderstanding there is bitterness.  Unresolved bitterness over time leads to divorces.  If we can communicate at our jobs and within groups, shouldn’t we work just as hard in our marriages? 

This may be occasionally difficult at times but it is worth it. Remember if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!   : )

 Compromise:

The Rolling Stones had a hit song called “you can’t always get what you want.” This couldn’t be any truer in the marriage relationship.  But should it be about getting what we want?  If two are truly becoming “won”, then the focus will be her or him instead of me or I.   When a couple can compromise, communication improves. When communication improves there is understanding.  The focus then shifts from getting what I want to getting what’s best for “won”. Don’t we look for athletes to think of the team rather than themselves? Why should the thinking be any different for a marriage relationship which is so much more important? This does take work but again, it is worth it!

 Customize:

Finally, we arrived at the last C of marriage work.  In a marriage relationship there can be a lot of distracters such as work issues, children activities, family issues and emotional issues (No disrespect ladies) that can alter or change communication and compromise.  What happens then? Well, we must be flexible.  Also men – we must be sensitive to times when our wives may require a little “extra grace.”  One thing to remember during these times is the following: Chocolate saves lives.

 I hope you enjoyed reading about the 3 C’s of marriage work.  Sure, this may be an over simplification. But the 3 C’s are at the starting point for everything else. Next we can tackle roles in a marriage.

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