The greatest relationship one can have other than a relationship with Jesus Christ is a marriage relationship. In your relationship with Jesus Christ, the only problems you will ever encounter will come from your side. However, you cannot avoid marital problems because a marital relationship involves two sinful humans. When you get two sinful human beings involved in a relationship, you are bound to have problems. There are many signs that problems are on the horizon, and if you can identify those signs, then you have a better chance of avoiding marital problems.
The amazing thing about marital problems is that stature means nothing. Marital problems happen to all people of every position. There are many preachers throughout history who could have avoided embarrassment if they would have acknowledged their marital problems. I have observed young couples having marital problems as well as couples who have been married for many years. I have watched young Christians have marital problems as well as church leaders and preachers of great stature. If we are honest with ourselves and our spouse, we all face situations in our marriages that need work. I always say that a good marriage is always a work in progress. Avoiding marital problems takes work, honesty and awareness. Let me show you some signs and give you some helps to avoiding marital problems.
1. Have someone on whom you can “unload.”
Everyone needs someone whom they can talk to when they have marital problems. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is that people can’t swallow their pride long enough to get help. I have always said, you can either be embarrassed privately now through counseling, or be publicly embarrassed through divorce. Married couples who will never get help because of their “stature” are in a dangerous area. You are never too big to have someone on whom you can unload. There are times when you need to unload on someone and still keep your dignity. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” You know when you are having problems that you need to get help, so not to get help is nothing less than sin. Be careful about being the loner couple who never gets help. Have someone from whom you can get help when you are having problems.
2. Listen for hints.
Many marital problems could be avoided if you would listen to the hints your spouse drops from time to time. I was talking to an individual years ago who told me their spouse never did anything around the house. They said if others didn’t come and do work at their house that nothing would be done. That was a hint their spouse should have heard. Sadly, they said this to their spouse, but their spouse never listened to the hint and today they are divorced.
A spouse will drop hints that there are problems. Sadly, most people are not listening enough to hear these hints. When you talk to your spouse and they have a stoic face, you have problems. When your spouse starts talking about how alone they feel, then you have problems. Your spouse tells you more than what you realize. If you truly listen to your spouse, you will hear hints about the problems on which you need to work.
3. Don’t get to the point where your spouse feels they can’t talk to you.
Your spouse should always feel that they can talk to you about ANYTHING. One of the most important elements of a successful marriage is communication. When your spouse feels that they can’t talk to you about issues in your marriage, then you have problems. I recall another situation of a person who told me they couldn’t talk to their spouse about their problems. What bothered me was that they could tell me, but they couldn’t tell their spouse.
The father said to the son in Proverbs 23:26, “…give me thine heart…” Giving of ones heart involves communication. When you lose communication in any relationship, you lose the heart. You should never portray to your spouse that you don’t care about what they have to say. Always be interested and willing to work on areas where your spouse feels there is a problem. Don’t ever let your spouse get to the point where they feel they can’t talk to you about a problem.
4. Ask your spouse to be open and honest with you.
2 Corinthians 8:20-21 says, “Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” Honesty in a marriage is essential to its success. Not only do you need to be honest with your spouse, but you also need to be honest with yourself. A problem in a marriage will never be solved if you are not honest with each other. If all you do is lie about everything being fine when it is not, you are hurting your marriage. If, while talking to your spouse about your marriage, they say you are not doing something, then you need to listen. Often a person will think they are doing what their spouse says they are not, but apparently they are not because their spouse wouldn’t have brought it up if they were doing a good job. When your spouse tells you that you are not doing something even though you feel that you are, then you need to be honest with yourself and realize that you apparently are not doing a good enough job for them to recognize it. Be honest enough with your spouse that if they blame you of something, that you realize you have somehow failed in that area.
5. Make sure your spouse knows that they are more important than anything.
When you encounter marital problems, you need to show your spouse that they are more important than anything else. Many marital problems could be solved if both realize they are more important than status, money or titles. You should fight for your marriage more than holding on to what you have. It is better to lose everything else than to lose your marriage. Song of Solomon 1:6 says, “Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” The sad statement about the marriage in this verse is that the spouse fought more for other vineyards than his own. Don’t let that be the case with your marriage. If you must lose your status, titles and reputation among the brethren to keep your marriage, then lose them so that you can keep your marriage. When your spouse sees that you are willing to lose everything for them, you will be surprised how far that will take you in solving your marital disputes because that action alone will instill security in your spouse.
6. Family first, ministry second!
Don’t sacrifice your family for success in the ministry. I have grown up in the ministry, and one of the problems I have seen is that many preachers put their ministry ahead of their marriage and family. This is a grave mistake! Always remember that God instituted the home before the church. If your home is not solid, then your ministry will not be solid. You don’t have to sacrifice your marriage and family for God to bless your ministry. Men, your wife should feel that she is more important than your church, Sunday school class, bus route, etc. Ladies, your husband shouldn’t take second-step to the ministry in which you are involved. Your husband should feel that he always comes before your ministry. My wife has always made it a policy not to participate in a ministry that would pull her away from her first ministry, which is myself because I’m her husband. When your spouse starts giving hints that the ministry is more important than them, then you need to listen to this sign and re-arrange some priorities.
7. Get help when you’re having problems.
Don’t ever become too proud to get help for your marriage. When you are having difficulties that cannot be solved, then you need to humble yourself and get help. In Matthew 7, you have the parable of the wise and foolish who each built a house. One built their house upon a rock and the other on sand. The one on sand was the one who knew they had problems, but they refused to get help. They heard the Word of God, but refused to listen to its advice. A marriage that won’t get help when they are having problems is a marriage that is built on sand. It will soon fall! Ignoring problems that keep coming up will only cause the problems to become bigger. Don’t think you can work your problems out by yourself. Get help from someone who can see the problems from an unselfish viewpoint.
8. The key: TIME
Time is the key to any relationship. It really doesn’t matter how much money you spend on your marriage, money is not a substitute for time. It doesn’t matter what your stature is in society, your stature is no substitute for time. The only thing that will make your marriage successful is for you to invest your time in it.
Your spouse needs time with you. When you are home, be home. Don’t bring your work home, instead, leave it at work. When you come home, your spouse needs to know they have all of you. Though you may have to sporadically work at home, it must not be a constant thing. Your spouse will grow to hate your line of work if they don’t have you when you are home. If you don’t give your spouse time, then they will get someone’s time. Don’t fall for the trap that quality is more important than quantity. Quality only happens inside of the quantity. There is no substitute for time.
Marriage is the best relationship one can have with another human being. If you will see the signs of marital problems, then you can avoid the problems those signs bring. Your marriage is a work in progress, so make sure that you work on improving the areas where there is a weakness.