Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fireproofing Your Marriage

This weekend I finally saw the movie Fireproof. It was okay as chick-flicks go – it certainly had more action than the average “relationship” movie.

One thing I can say: I’m happy to see more Christians trying to prevent/fix bad marriages rather than just decrying divorce.

At one point in the movie we learn that our hero’s wife has been unhappy far longer than he realizes. This is a theme I keep seeing on the topic of divorce – one person, almost always the woman, is very unhappy for a long time and then asks for a divorce, catching the other off-guard.

I’ve sat through a lot of sermons and lessons at church about making a marriage work, but I’ve never heard this addressed. I think it should be.

Pastors need to say from the pulpit that, if you’re so unhappy the “d-word” has entered your mind, you have a responsibility to address it with your spouse now rather than letting it fester for another year or two.

Be Direct
Now, let me admit that men can be exceptionally dense at relationship issues. My own density approaches that of a neutron star. Sometimes a woman can tell a man in no uncertain terms exactly how she feels and he still won’t get it.

But a lot of times she tries to communicate in code.

Ladies, don’t use code. Don’t talk about “the number between 1 and 3;” just say “2.” Don’t say “I’d like you to be more sensitive” when you mean “You only touch me when you want to have sex.”

Be direct. Anything less than direct is just asking for trouble. Pretend we barely speak English; spell it out carefully.

Get Help
Sometimes we’re so dense that even the most direct attempts at communication are ineffective. Jesus’ instructions regarding conflict apply in marriage too – if talking to your mate doesn’t help, get a third party.

This has to be carefully done – most people, especially men, don’t want outsiders sticking their noses into our marriages. But if we’re talking about a marriage disintegrating, we have to be a little bold.

If you can involve a friend or relative of your spouse, do so. Again, do it carefully; the last thing you want is for your spouse to think you’re messing around with their friend. If you can’t involve a friend or relative, go to your pastor or other respected authority figure from church.

(Now, at this point someone might be thinking, “If I go to them, everyone will know we’re having problems.” Well if you get a divorce, the secret’s going to get out, so let’s set pride aside and deal with the problem at hand.)

The last thing we want is for your spouse to go on the defensive (though this is unavoidable to an extent), so ask them to think carefully about the words they’re going to use to approach this.

“Your wife says you’re a jerk” probably won’t be very effective. “Your wife’s unhappy” is better. “Your wife feels like she’s having trouble communicating to you just how unhappy she is” sounds better still. (I’m no marriage counselor. On this matter, it might be good to consult experts.)

Don’t Give Up Without a Fight
I know this sounds hard, scary, awkward, and a little painful. Do it anyway. Or do something else. Whatever you do, however you do it, just do something.

The whole premise of Fireproof is fighting for your marriage when your spouse wants out. I’m asking you to go one step farther: Fight for your marriage before you want out.

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