What’s gone wrong? The dream seems to have been shattered; the peaceful and comforting harmony is in discord, and it hurts. Can our happiness be recaptured? Almost always, it can.

Unexpected?

Did we really expect perfection? After all, two sinners have become man and wife and that provides  fertile ground for failure in some respects at some time or other. There is no perfect husband or perfect wife: there never has been since Adam and Eve sinned.

We have to come to terms with what we are and progress from that understanding. There is  forgiveness and strength in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is compassionate and fully understanding. If we always trust him and seek to follow him, he will  help us in times of weakness. These are not empty words, they are truly powerful.

Marriage must be based on Christ as its foundation  and model, and be supported every day by  prayer and by reading together the word of God. There is no better recipe for success. Success does not come simply by ‘getting the chemistry right’: it is the fruit of sowing the right seed.

Sources of Trouble

Troubles can come from outside the marriage: third  parties, adverse circumstances, the allurement of the  world for one or both partners, for example; or from inside: illness, self-centredness, disagreement over opinions or over what to do, sensitivity or lack of it, disappointments, for example.

It is obvious that it is better to face troubles from the same side of the table, standing together, side by  side, with common purpose. Confront the problem and not each other. Remember that the marriage is larger and more important than either of you taken  singly or both of you together.

Life’s adverse circumstances will come whether or not we are married, but they sometimes come in  a double dose or with greater intensity when we are married. Problems are best dealt with by getting to  grips with them with God. Examine the problem together, see what it is all about, what steps can be taken to improve the situation and what is likely  to happen if we cannot secure some change. Talk  about it together. Don’t put your heads in the sand  hoping that your problem will go away. It might, but more than likely it will not.

Nevertheless, recognise trivialities for what they are and do not let them take over your happiness. Do not quarrel over mere trifles.

Having words

Sometimes the hurt arises from the use of particular  words. Words are intended to be useful tools but sometimes they become weapons. The old adage,  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, is simply not true. The deepest  hurt and the longest resentment might well  come from words. The ‘angle’ of a word or the tone of voice in which it is said can make it go well  beyond what was intended. Words run away with  the tongue, that untameable beast mentioned by  James in his epistle.

A stable, satisfying Christian marriage needs  Christ at the centre, and the word of God and prayer as its necessary sustenance.

The quickest remedy, the surest  way back is  to say ‘I’m sorry.’  Frequently the immediate answer is  ‘It’s my fault, too.’ If an apology is not accepted, things may really  get out of hand.  We must learn to accept unconditionally, graciously, as we hope the  Lord God will do when we repent. Use the apology as a stepping stone to better understanding. Sit  comfortably together, close and relaxed, and talk back through the situation and start to put it right.

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned  with salt”

Determine in your own heart to work for true  harmony and not simply to get your own way or to take your partner down a peg or two and thereby to demean our precious marriage.

Fear

But the problem may be more than words. A disagreement  has arisen that threatens our harmony.  Remember that in such circumstances you may  become afraid, ‘edgy’, or a little unreasonable, or try to find someone else to blame (maybe your  partner) and neglectful of each other. Learn how to pray at all times: it always helps and it takes our  load to God. Learn to put your arms around each other whilst you are talking over what to do. Look  each other in the eyes. Take all the steps you can as early as possible.

Deliberately making reconciliation difficult by pouting, sinking into silence, slamming doors, shouting, getting into a temper or whatever, will only magnify the problem. However justified we might consider ourselves to be, it is no answer  to a problem to pour oil on the fire. It does no  make sense and it makes a solution all the harder  to obtain. Nor should we ‘blackmail’ each other by  feigned tears or threats to go away or by using physical  means. Violence by either partner is altogether reprehensible.

Write it down

Not all problems have a solution: chronic sickness,  for example. Some problems are complex and need  to be properly understood. You may find it useful  to sit down together with a sheet of paper divided  under two headings: “Things we can change”, and  “Things we cannot change”. You will then be able  to find the best ways of changing the changeable, and of handling the unchangeable. But it must be said that some of the ‘unchangeables’ disappear by  prayer or become less as we learn to cope with them.

It is at such times that your true friends will be  shown. Talk to them and listen to their advice. If  you need to talk to an older couple, choose them  carefully: older people are not always wise. Look for stable, sensible, spiritual and understanding people.  Most problems have already been met and often  solved by others. Their advice can be invaluable.

But Beware of Success!

Blue skies are beguiling. There seems to be less need  for God. Problems are far away while we enjoy the scent of freedom and achievement. Warning signs are ignored because they seem to be unnecessary.

Precisely these conditions were Israel’s downfall  and the road to Solomon’s unhappiness. “Pride, fullness  of bread, and abundance of idleness” brought  them to ruin. The first question we must ask when  success comes our way is: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?” All we have is His, and we are His stewards. Turn success to good spiritual  account, shun indulgence and merely worldly  enjoyment. Learn the path of discipline and, when they come along, set children’s feet on it and protect them from having ‘all they want’.

Praise, thankfulness and godly service should be our response to success.