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
Real Family Talk
Surviving a Difficult Marriage
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
My spouse is a church worker, and we have been married for more than 20 years. Despite our belief in God, we’ve had a difficult marriage all along. I know God’s plan is for married couples to remain together until death. However, I feel as if I’m dying every day I stay in this marriage. I want to do God’s will, but something is wrong when the person you’re married to puts you down every day. I feel as if I’m losing my mind and I need out. I would like to hear your opinion on my predicament.
We are very sorry to hear about your marriage predicament, despite being a Bible believing Christian and the spouse of a church worker. To be sure, Satan is an equal opportunity deceiver, and he doubtless spends twice as much time trying to destroy the homes of church leaders.
The Christian church, regardless of denomination, is by definition a place where the love of God is primary and operationalized by love for our fellow humans and love for God supremely. Marriage is the first institution established by God at creation, and regarded by Christians as the place where a man and a woman can intimately share their lives to reflect God’s love for them and their love for God.
A Christian minister’s or church worker’s job is to proclaim the message of divine love, helping individuals who respond to it to grow in love for one another. Married church workers can logically be expected to create in their own marriage relationships an impression or model of how other married couples through their love for God, can develop a strong and vibrant love relationship with their spouses.
When ministers’ or church workers’ marriages do not demonstrate the kind of selfless and vitalized warmth and tenderness of human love at its best, members of the congregation, as well as others, tend to say and think that if their religion does not work in this closest of relationships, perhaps the gospel they share does not really work as well.
The truth is, church workers whose marriages aren’t working are in a very difficult position—in more than one way—because unhappy marriages not only cause difficulty in personal lives, but also in the performance of their ministry
As a couple in ministry ourselves, we empathize with your predicament, because we recognize how easy it is for ministry couples to find themselves where you do. To be sure, people in ministry tend to be passionate about their calling, often leaving little time for each other, resulting in a less than desirable marriage.
It is important that at this stage of your married lives you practice what you preach or you will become a casualty of the evil one, who loves nothing better than to destroy ministry marriages. This is a time to employ the Word of God and believe what it says as you shared it with others in moments of distress.
Remember the messages of the apostle Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). And the psalmist: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). And, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19).
When couples find themselves where you find yourself, they tend to give up and believe their situation is hopeless. However, we encourage you to claim these promises of God, and trust Him to lead you and your spouse to an able Christian counselor—preferably one that is not a member of your congregation—who can help you repair the pain you have endured and get your relationship back on track through the power of God.
Be of good courage. With God on your side, you cannot fail. You will continue in our prayers as well.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, 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. You may communicate with them at: Family.Adventist.org of HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
All Bible references 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.