By Julie Ganschow
Much of the counseling we do at our center has to do with marital problems. In one respect or another it comprises 50-75% of our counseling.
I doubt you will be surprised to learn that Christian marriages have just as many problems as non-Christian ones which is a shame. The good news for us is that we have the answers in God’s Word that unbelievers do not have, we have the resources for change that they don’t have and the ability to change they don’t have.
It is great news for us that the Bible addresses the specific causes of marriage problems. God’s Word also has much to say about marriage and how it is to be conducted. Because sin or a sinful response is the root of all problems in marriage we can find the causes and the solutions in the spiritual realm rather than in psychological methodology.
There are some really obvious reasons we get marital counseling cases, and there are other reasons people tend not to think of until we bring them to the forefront. For instance, could the problems stem from the reality that you really don’t know what is expected of you in marriage?
If a young couple doesn’t get good premarital counseling they are not going to know or understand the roles of the husband and wife in marriage. If they got saved after marriage they also won’t know what is expected of a godly husband or wife. By getting some good teaching and discipleship they will not only learn some new expectations but unlearn some old ones. If one or both people have not had good modeling at home they may not have a clue as to what is expected in a Christ-centered marriage. It is entirely possible in our culture that their only references for relationships are soap operas, MTV and bad movies. So the reasons may vary, but the end result is that husband and or wife may not know what is expected in marriage.
Do you know what is expected but don’t know how to do it? I have heard this many times in counseling. There is a breakdown in the transfer from understanding to action.
Because our country has emasculated our men, many of them have no idea how to be leaders of their families. Many young boys today are being raised by women so their only strong role models are women. They don’t know how to be men because no one ever taught them!
Another negative influence on our boys and men is that rap gangster culture so objectifying women and abusing them often also needs to be undone.
Overall, men are fearful of taking the headship role because they fear being accused by the feminists of holding women down. Sometimes it is because the man is just too lazy to learn how to lead.
A wife may have heard about submission and have no idea how to submit to her husband, even if he is a good leader. She may know about the external behaviors but not understand that it is a heart issue before it is a behavior.
Is the cause that you do know what is expected but you are refusing to do what is right?
I wish that the usual reason for marital trouble was not knowing what is expected or how to do it, but unfortunately that is not the usual scenario. Often the cause of trouble in marriage is that one or the other knows what is expected of them but is refusing to do what is right. Willful disobedience to God and His commands for husbands and wives is a major problem in marriage.
Is the cause that you are struggling to overcome a sinful habit and you are not being successful?
Sometimes instruction in doing what is right is not enough and a person needs more intensive discipleship. It is very important to this process of change to understand that some people just need more time and attention than others. They may have the understanding of what to do, but not truly understand how to make it come to life.
In my counseling and discipleship ministry I usually get the marriages that are in trouble. People don’t come when things are good. Typically, things have disintegrated to a point where one person may even be contemplating divorce. There are a plethora of reasons for marital discontent and I am trying to address a few of the common ones here.
In this “me” generation everyone is concerned with themselves. How can my needs be met? How can you please me? How can you serve me? Too many women go into marriage with the wrong believe that he is going to make them happy. When she realizes he is only human and a sinner just as she is and oh my word he is truly NOT concerned about meeting her needs all the time (because he is concerned about his needs being met) trouble brews quickly!
If this describes you, the first thing to understand right now is this: you are not obligated to receive but to provide for him. You are expected to be the giver of affection, grace, mercy, kindness, love, service, and everything else. The good news is that God requires the same thing of your husband toward you.
Your obligation in marriage is to provide for your spouse. A common complaint in difficult marriages is that he or she is not meeting my needs. What they are saying in part is he/she doesn’t spend time with me! Ladies, as gently as I know how I want to tell you that this is not a choice. Marriage is an act of live where you vow to meet each other’s legitimate needs for life.
We all have legitimate needs. We expect that when we marry that our spouse will love us and care for us and provide for us. We expect they will be our life-long mate and will be there when things are going wrong or we need help.
When you agree to marry someone, you are committing yourself to do these things for the rest of your life. This is not something to enter into for the supremely selfish. The problem for the marrieds we see is that maybe no one ever told them that! Each person goes into the marriage with an “it’s all about me” attitude and is unwilling to be the initiator in giving.
Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. It is a 100/100 relationship. Each of you has to be willing to give it all away. You have to give it all away and expect nothing in return. You do it because you agreed to in the beginning, and because doing it glorifies God.
Fundamental question: How can I glorify God and please Him?
You will glorify God by rightly pleasing your spouse. Sacrificial living for your spouse glorifies God. I have told women I counsel that to serve their husband (no matter how ungrateful and selfish he is) brings God glory. Both husband and wife are to look at serving each other as though they are serving Christ.
Julie Ganschow is the founder and Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center (ACBC, IABC, AABC Certified Training Center) and Biblical Counseling for Women.