When marriage is what it is supposed to be it is wonderful. Husbands are to “so love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28) and “even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:28). Wives are to be “an help meet” (Genesis 2:18). The wife should live purposing to “do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12).
This writing will address some common areas of difficulty in marriage in order to help our homes be more the ideal God planned.
1. Communication: Read 1 Corinthians 2:11. The only way we can know God’s mind is for God to reveal His mind (will) to us (which He has). Even so, the only way we can expect our mate to know our mind is through clear communication. Learn to speak. Bill Flatt said, “silence is ambiguous” and indeed so something is being said but who knows what exactly. The wife who gives her husband the silent treatment when he comes in is confusing. “Is she saying she is angry with me, and if so about what?” or “Is she saying that she has had a bad day with the kids, or with work?” or “Does she just not feel well?” or “Did somebody die?” Not only do we need to learn to communicate, we need to learn to listen with interest, and patience. “He that answered a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13). May we be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
2. Intimacy: When marriage takes place, two people should view themselves as belonging to one another (1 Corinthians 7:3). Each should be considerate of the other (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). The Bible says, “marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). There is nothing wrong with physical intimacy. In the Song of Solomon, the woman desired to be kissed (Song of Solomon 1:2). They embraced (Song of Solomon 2:6; 8:3). Isaac and Rebekah caressed (Genesis 26:8 NASB). Reserve this affection for your spouse alone. Brother Wendell Winkler has said, “Do nothing in your companion’s absence that you would not do in their presence” (The Home as God Would Have It, p. 91).
3. Money: Every list I have ever seen indicates that this is the number one reason for divorce in this country. This is a major cause of stress and conflict in the home. Some of us buy things we do not need, with money we do not have, to impress people we really do not know! This creates unnecessary stress. The Bible teaches such things as: (1) Don’t be lazy or slothful (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 10:4; 19:15; 22:13; 24:30-34). (2) Don’t be wasteful (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 21:20); (3) Don’t live the high-life, or the fast-life (Proverbs 21:17 cf. Luke 15); (4) Don’t run with the wrong crowd (Proverbs 23:20-21); (5) Remember to prepare for the future (Proverbs 30:25); (6) Be careful with credit (Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:7). Learning these lessons will improve one’s financial situation.
4. In-Laws: In-laws can be a source of help, or they can be creators and agitators of conflict. While it is true that the in-laws will always be a part of your life, the Bible teaches that there is to be a leaving and a cleaving (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6). Bill Flatt suggested “In-laws should make themselves available for help when needed without trying to control the young couple (The Home as God Would Have It, p. 113). David Knox advised, “The son or daughter who values the spouse… should tell the parents that he loves the mate and does not want to hear anything negative about his mate” (ibid).
5. Children: Usually children bring much joy to a marriage; But children can also be a point of conflict. The conflict usually centers in how to rear the children.. Should we spank, or not? Should we expect the children to do chores, or not? The Bible teaches that children need correction (Proverbs 29:15; cf. Hebrews 12:6-8). It isn’t to be done in such a way that provokes wrath and discouragement (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Bill Flatt has written, “A parent needs to have enough independence and self-esteem to do what is right, rather than just what will cause him to be liked by the child… (some) afraid of losing love dare not deny anything to the child” (ibid, p. 114).
6. Role Conflicts: What is the wife’s role? What is the husband’s role? Can a wife work outside the home? These are common struggles in marriage. Can a wife work outside the “home-making” duties? Absolutely (Proverbs 31:16, 24; Acts 18:1-3). Who makes the decisions? Ultimately the husband is the head of the family (Ephesians 5:22-ff). Does this mean that the husband does not get input from his wife? Look at Ephesians 5:28. Does the head of the body take input from the body before making a decision? Certainly. Ray Jenkins has written, “I cannot think of a single decision that a husband should make that affects his family that he should not discuss with his partner – his wife” (ibid, p. 36). The issues of roles should be settled by consulting the scriptures. God has spoken on these things.
7. Upbringing: How one was reared has a lot to do with expectations in the home. In matters of opinion we need to learn to “give and take”. Bill Flatt, “It is difficult for two people to become one in marriage. The husband may have learned from his parents that he should mess up the house; Whereas, the wife may have learned from her parents to keep the house clean. The wife may have learned that too much meat is not good for you; the husband, that dinner without meat is not a real dinner. …states, “That’s how two people get in trouble… each person’s learning when they were little is just a little different and each person feels he/she has the RIGHT WAY” (ibid, p. 107).
8. Religiously: What one believes religiously affects most things. Our morals, how we handle money, our view of child-rearing, our view of the husband and wife roles in the home and so many other things are tied to our religious beliefs. A wise one will consider this before marriage. Statistics are clear, divorce is higher (about three times) in marriages of mixed religious backgrounds than it is in marriages of the same religious background (Marrying Only in the Lord, p. 1 cf. p. 103-104). Mixed marriages are also detrimental many times to one’s own spiritual growth. Out of every 100 Christians marrying one out of the church: 20 convert their mate; 24 live in divided homes; and 56 quit the Lord” (ibid, p. 103). Wayne Jackson has written, “a recent article in Redbook magazine stressed the so-called, ‘interfaith’ marriages soaring… Authoress Ellen Sullivan says ‘It appears that the less a person cares about his or her religion, the more apt he or she is to marry outside of it” (ibid, second forward). If one is in such a marriage of mixed background: (1) Don’t divorce over those differences, so long as your spouse is willing to live with you (1 Corinthians 7:13, 15); (2) Never compromise on truth for the sake of harmony in the home (Acts 5:29; Luke 14:26; Matthews 10:37); (3) Live a good example and let your mate see the beauty of Christ in you (1 Peter 3:1-6).