My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Forgetful or Dishonest?
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
What’s the difference between dishonesty and a spouse who conveniently “forgets”? This happens with bill payments and a lack of follow-through on several other important matters. What can I do? I’d like my marriage to survive and thrive, but what I’m experiencing is unsustainable.
Marriage is God’s idea. We see this demonstrated dramatically in the first two chapters of Genesis. A sobering reality is that what God created for our joy, Satan has tried to destroy. Marriage is definitely one of those blessings often turned into a curse because of the inherent sinfulness in human beings. For marriages to survive, spouses must intentionally connect with each other every day through the grace and power of God.
While we have no idea how long you have been married, we are pretty sure the reason you married—like most people who get married—is because you thought you loved each other and couldn’t wait to spend your lives together. So we invite you to go back to that place in your mind and make a list of the positive attributes you remember identifying in your spouse-to-be, and the reasons you were sure this was the right person for you. If you push yourself to be honest, you will find two things:
1. Your spouse still has a number of those positive attributes that were present when you first met, and
2. Some of the negative points about your spouse were also present at the beginning of your relationship, but you chose to ignore them, thinking they would go away with time.
Your marriage is not unique. Every marriage experiences challenges, and every marriage needs some maintenance. It’s similar to taking our cars to the mechanic for regular service, rather than waiting until they breakdown.
We cannot say if your spouse is dishonest or conveniently forgetting. We do know, however, that every marriage needs maintenance, such as participating in a marriage retreat on a regular basis, or visiting a good Christian counselor from time to time to help you talk through the difficult issues in your marriage.
We are sure about something else: you cannot change your spouse; you can only choose to change your attitudes about how you see your spouse. Since your spouse is human, it is very possible the negative attributes you have identified are real. But since you are also human, it is very possible your spouse is not in love with every one of your idiosyncrasies. No spouse has a corner on all the bad qualities experienced in marriage. Each one in the marriage contributes negative energy to the relationship.
We encourage you not to give up. Visit a good Christian counselor together, and trust God to reinvigorate your relationship. Remember the message of 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is patient, love is kind.”
You and your spouse are in our prayers.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You may correspond with them at family.adventist.org.
Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.