Finding Stability Amidst Marriage Stressors

By Harold L. Arnold
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Focus on the Family
Couples lose their orientation towards God and each other when buffeted by cultural ideology, family history and personal choices that are contrary to God's plan.

Have you ever seen a gyroscope? In terms of physics, its purpose is to maintain orientation, by providing stability. You don’t need to understand this in depth to be fascinated by watching a gyro at work – frantic, multi-directional rotation, spinning on three axes, with a fixed center. This center, using the force of inertia, creates a stable force along a single axis.

We can use this metaphor to help us understand one purpose for which God designed marriage – to maintain orientation in three ways: husband and wife toward Him, husband and wife toward one another and, by example, others toward God. Without God’s stability, our marriages risk spinning frantically out of control.

Couples struggle to maintain this godly orientation and can feel disoriented by the magnitude of marital destabilizers. Let’s briefly review five stressors that many couples struggle with, so that you may equip and prepare. These stressors, all consequences of our broken world, distort the orientation of the marriage from God to ourselves.

Compromised “Truth”

Western culture gravitates towards truth that is relative to human desires – what philosophers call humanism. Humanism is a commitment to find truth in human rationale rather than the absolute Word of God. Humanism seeks to replace God’s divinity with human ingenuity.

Increasingly, our culture relies on media moguls, political pundits and erudite educators to define the structure and purpose of marriage. This secularization of marriage has led to the promotion of self-gratifying behaviors that weaken the pursuit of shared identity, the acceptance of divorce as a solution for marital unhappiness and the legitimization of same-sex unions as a civil right. However, God-oriented marriages refuse these distortions, relying instead on God as the ultimate bearer of truth.

Cultural Values

Fueled by humanism, much of Western culture compromises marriage by promoting values that weaken reliance on God. These values are most evident in the decision-making processes that reek of consumerism and convenience. Western culture values decision-making that is individualistic (what works best for me?); fear-based (how can I protect myself?); and short-term (how soon can I have what I want?).

But, the ultimate difficulty that this value system imposes on marriage is that it places individual interests as the focal point rather than a mutual sense of God’s direction for the marriage. Contrarily, a God-oriented marriage prioritizes decisions based upon mutuality over individualism, faith over fear and long-term over short-term thinking.

Family Interpersonal Patterns

Your interactions with your caregivers in your youth are arguably the most influential factors in the self you bring to marriage. Your sense of appropriate behavior, communication style, conflict resolution and relational boundaries are impacted by what you learned from your caregivers. Consequently, your attitude, expectations and commitment towards marriage are developed well before you met your spouse.

If you had a positive model of marriage in your life, you may have transferred positive qualities into your own marriage. Unfortunately, many marriages have at least one partner who grew up in an abusive, neglected or conflicted marriage. Couples in a God-oriented marriage seek to extend grace to one another, allowing the marriage to serve as divine healing to these conscious and unconscious emotional wounds.

Indebtedness

Marriages are struggling under the weight of financial obligations and indebtedness. With record home foreclosures, excessive credit card debt and dwindling portfolios, marriages are reeling with fear and uncertainty.

Couples in a God-oriented marriage prioritize modesty over extravagance, saving over spending and giving over getting. Regardless of the current state of your finances, it is important to make financial stewardship a shared goal around which you and your spouse rally.

Time Sinks

Spending time together is the key to marital intimacy. Few couples, however, communicate well – that is, going beyond what’s necessary for day-to-day functioning to the deep sharing of emotional worlds.

One reason that couples interact so infrequently is their endless activities. After days and weeks of busyness, couples are surprised and disappointed that intimate encounters don’t just happen.

Couples in a God-oriented marriage learn to draw boundaries that preserve their time together by looking for reasons to come together rather than excuses to remain apart.

The Gyroscope Revisited

Marriage stressors wreak havoc on your commitment to God and to one another. Marital discord tears at your very identity as a couple. In the mist of these stressors, however, God provides a way of escape from every temptation.

Your marriage’s purpose is to orient others to the Lord as the liberator from these stressors. Like the center of the gyroscope, your God-oriented marriage offers stability in the midst of storms. You know your marriage is in the center of God’s will when you and your spouse feel nearer to God through the union, when your partnership shapes you into God’s image and when your union draws people into relationship with God.

Copyright © 2008, Dr. Harold L. Arnold, Jr. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Harold L. Arnold

Dr. Harold L. Arnold, Jr. is the president and founder of Discovering Family International (DFI), an organization which promotes the virtues and values of family life through education, consulting and counseling. Dr. Arnold is also the creator of the biblically-centered Marriage ROCKS‚Ñ¢ program, a marriage ministry that teaches couples the tenets of discovering authentic meaning in marriage. Dr. Arnold earned …

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