If you read most articles about the top reasons for marital conflict, the following will often be listed. Problems with communication, money, sex, raising children, Biblical roles and disrespect. We see these same issues in our counseling offices at Grace Life International every week. They are legitimate. However, they fail to get to the underlying problem behind all of these issues. It is like weeds in your lawn. If you only kill what you see on the surface, the weed will eventually come back because you did not kill the root.
In the same way, if we only help people communicate better, manage their money better, have a better sex life, learn better child raising techniques, live in their Biblical roles and try to show more respect to each other, those may help. But counseling hundreds of couples through the years has shown us that these changes only go so far and often don't last very long. When God makes changes in a person's life, they tend to last because these changes are supernatural rather than produced by self effort.
The complete Gospel digs underneath the surface to reveal the real root of our marital problems and God's alternative. Let's see what we can learn from this.
Every one of us has some God-given needs of the heart. At GLI, we use the acronym L.A.W.S. This stands for Love, Acceptance, Worth and Security. God's intent from the beginning of the human race was for Him to be the primary One who meets these needs apart from another human. Then, when our spouse also meets our needs, we can enjoy it even more. Since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, this has been turned upside down. We expect our spouse to meet these deep needs of the heart or we may expect God to meet these needs through our spouse. When this does not happen, frustration and conflict become too familiar.
But let's back up some. Since these deep needs of the heart were there long before we were married, is it possible that deep patterns were developed as we attempted to meet these needs. For example, prior to marriage, a spouse may have learned to yell at people to control them so they would do what they wanted. Or, a spouse may have learned to withdraw and shut down to try to prevent rejection. Other patterns develop over time as well. We call these ways of coping. God calls them "flesh". Some patterns of the flesh are listed in Galatians 5:19-21.
"It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on." The Message
When we bring these "fleshy" patterns into our marriage, we are already headed for trouble from day one. And of course, we can develop new "flesh" patterns after we are married. Do you see why just trying to get people to change their behavior does not get to the underlying source of our marital struggles? Most of us cannot discover these on our own, but need help from someone to disciple and counsel us. Our staff at Grace Life International are highly skilled in God working through them to facilitate a person's understanding of these patterns. Then, they lovingly show each person or couple God's alternative in Christ.
If you know of someone who needs help in their marriage, please have them call us at 704-522-9026. We offer face to face counseling, intensive 3-5 day counseling for those who travel a long distance and Internet counseling through Skype, regardless of where you live geographically.
You are loved! Believe it. Receive it. Live in it.
Mark Maulding, Founder & President
(On Behalf of the GLI Staff)