Grow Up!

1 Corinthians 13:7

April 9, 2006 | Ray Pritchard

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you weren’t married? If somehow you were suddenly single again? No matter how happy your marriage is, every honest person would have to answer yes to those questions. We’ve all thought about it from time to time. We’ve wondered if life wouldn’t be a lot simpler if somehow we woke up tomorrow morning and found the other side of the bed empty.

Most of us have pondered that possibility more than once. Perhaps you have wondered about it this very week. Life would certainly be different if you weren’t married. A lot of things you worry about now you wouldn’t have to worry about any more. All those adjustments you have to make would simply disappear. You’d be free again, on your own again, living by yourself again. Let’s face it. We all think those thoughts from time to time.

So what would it be like? Writer Judith Viorst pondered that question. In fact, she wrote about it in her book How Did I Get to be Forty and Other Atrocities. Her poem is called “Alone.”

Alone I could own both sides of the double bed.

And stay up reading novels half the night.

And no one would be here telling me to turn off the light.

And hogging the blankets.

And no one would be here saying he’s taking the car

And noticing I let the milk turn sour.

Alone I could talk long distance for an hour.

And who would stop me?

Alone a hard-boiled egg would be a meal

And the living room couch would be red, not compromise-green

And no one would be here making me go to Queens

For family brunches.

And no one would be here brushing his teeth with my brush

And pushing the thermostat down to sixty degrees.

Alone I could give Goodwill my boots and my skis

And switch to beaches.

Alone I could give up understanding Brie

Detente, the Super Bowl, and Cousin Rose.

And no one would be here telling me which of my clothes

Make me look chunky.

And no one would be here steaming the bathroom up

And wanting his back massaged and his button sewn

And no one would be here. I would be alone.

And I would hate it.

There are always two sides to the question, aren’t there? Sure, life would be easier, you wouldn’t have so many problems, or at least you wouldn’t have the same problems. And yes, you would have your freedom, your independence, your ticket to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The whole world would wait at your beck and call. But you would be like Adam in the Garden of Eden. Alone in paradise. All that freedom and no one to share it with. Most of us would hate it.

Which is why God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) After all is said and done, and after full allowance is made for crabby husbands and bossy wives, marriage is still one of God’s best gifts to the human race.

Grown-Up Babies

But it isn’t easy. If marriage were easy, people would get married and stay married forever. But they don’t. In increasing numbers they bail out, jettisoning their marriage vows (and their wedding rings) in search of personal fulfillment.

One factor that helps people stay married when they are tempted to chuck it all is Maturity. That’s not an easy word to define. The dictionary uses words like “full development” and “completeness.” Perhaps the easiest way to understand it is to say that maturity means to be grown up. That helps–especially if you have young children around your house.

All babies have at least this much in common–they are oblivious to everything but their own well-being. When they are hungry, they cry. When they are angry, they throw a fit. When they are tired, they go to sleep and nobody can stop them. When they want to be picked up, they fuss until somebody obliges them. They see the world as a huge sphere which revolves around them. And they see Mommy and Daddy as two unpaid, fulltime servants whose only purpose is to come when they are called. That’s how babies come into the world.

Eventually things change. Over time babies discover that the world doesn’t revolve around them. That great discovery is part of what we call growing up. Unfortunately, some people never grow up emotionally. They still see the world as they did when they were babies. Although they may be 30 or even 40 years old, they are oblivious to anything but their own well-being. When things do not go their way, they react in some infantile way, such as crying, pouting, throwing a pity party or a temper tantrum or whatever object is close at hand.

What happens when you put two babies together in a small room in an unsupervised fashion? Well, you’re going to have problems sooner or later. They may play together for awhile, but pretty soon one will grab the rattle away from the other and then you’re heading for World War III.

That’s exactly what happens in many marriages. Two grown-up babies get married. For awhile things are peaceful. But whenever an immature man marries an immature woman the pot soon boils over. Emotional babies don’t make very good marriage partners. They throw temper tantrums whenever they don’t get their way.

The Five Marks of Immaturity

Let me list some of the marks of immaturity. The first is an inability to receive criticism. The second is being slow to forgive and quick to blame. The third is an inability to adapt to difficult circumstances. The fourth is a refusal to accept your own responsibilities. The fifth is a desire to have your own needs met first. Maybe that fifth one sums them all up. The grown-up baby says, “Me first and you second.”

Sound familiar? Maybe you married a grown-up baby. Maybe you are one. Remember, not every baby wears Pampers; some of them dress in three-piece suits and make $60,000 a year.

“How Things Change!”

Sometimes it takes awhile for the immaturity to surface. Several years ago the Saturday Evening Post ran a humorous article called “How Things Change!” It is subtitled “A Husband’s Sequence of Reactions to His Wife’s Common Cold.”

The First Year: “Sugar Dumpling, I’m really worried about my baby girl! You’ve got a bad sniffle and there’s no telling about these things with all the strep going around. I’m putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a checkup. I know the food is lousy there, so I’ll be bringing the food from Toni’s. I’ve already got it arranged with the head nurse.

The Second Year: “Listen, Darling, I don’t like the sound of that cough! I’ve called Dr. Miller to rush over here. Now you go to bed and get some rest.”

The Third Year: “Maybe you better lie down, honey. Nothing like a good rest when you feel bad. I’ll bring you something? Is there any canned soup?”

The Fourth Year: “Now look, dear, be sensible! After you’ve fed the kids, washed the dishes and finished the vacuuming, you had better lie down.”

The Fifth Year: “Why don’t you take a couple of aspirin?”

The Sixth Year: “I wish you’d just gargle or something, instead of sitting around barking like a seal.”

The Seventh Year: “For Pete’s sake, stop sneezing! You’ll give me pneumonia.”

And so it goes. Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. But it doesn’t have to be so. There is a better way.

Growing Through Crisis

So what is maturity in marriage? It is the ability to grow through the predictable crises of married life. Everybody has trouble. If a couple says they never have problems, I assume that means they are living in different houses on different continents. Anytime you put two sinners together, you’re going to have trouble sooner or later. There is no such thing as the perfect husband, the perfect wife or the perfect marriage. No such thing has ever existed. Every marriage is imperfect. The only question is, “How do you react to the difficulties of living with an imperfect person?”

Several years ago I was given access to the correspondence of a young couple who had (at that time) been married for less than five years. They came from different parts of the country and from very different family backgrounds. Before they were married, they exchanged love letters in the usual manner. After the wedding, they continued to write each other occasionally–she more than he. The letters are a revealing record of the ups and downs of marriage.

At one point she was very frustrated with the amount of time he was spending away from home:

Sometimes, like tonight, I wonder why you ever figured you needed or wanted a wife. I suppose it was the fashionable thing to do. It is rather obvious you didn’t count the cost.

You may not spend a lot of nights out by yourself but you do get lots of opportunities to get out and do things on your own. For example, you’ve taken courses at school, you go to the library when you please, you take trips with your buddies, you go to Saturday night rallies. In short, you really get to go a lot. I don’t expect you to stop doing things because of me but I do expect you to realize it’s not unfair for me to enjoy having you at home.

Evidently he paid some attention to the problem because a few months later, she wrote him again:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the last couple of days about how thankful I really am for the way you have loved me, put up with me, taken care of me, and led me.

I guess there are hundreds of things I could list to thank you for but here are a few: 1. Your thoughtful warming gifts! 2. The delicious cake you took extra time out of a hurried schedule to bake. 3. The flower that lets me and everyone who sees it know how much you care for me… . 5. Not being angry with me because I am not always perfect… . 8. Not complaining when your shirts are not ironed and going ahead and ironing them yourself… . 11. Really wanting to have children and loving me even though I don’t produce! … Just a few things I am thankful for! I love you! I only wish I could be as unselfish as you are.

Those happy days would eventually pass and difficult times would come–times demanding new levels of understanding and new levels of honesty:

I feel some real disappointment in our marriage and this leads to deeper frustrations. I wish I felt that you really loved me as the one person in your life you cared the most for. I wish I felt you were truly interested in what I have to say. I wish I thought you thought I was half-way intelligent. I wish you realized the real thought I put into some meals I make only to be shot down by some needless criticism… . I know I’m wrong in most of my attitudes. I try to defend myself and cause more trouble. I make fun of you and complain because I want you to treat me as if I were truly special in your eyes.

You have probably laughed your way through this. I haven’t. I’ve written the whole thing crying because I am very upset about the way things are between us.

As bad as that may sound, the marriage would survive and thrive. Sometime later–months perhaps, years probably (the note was undated)–she wrote these words:

I was just thinking sweet thoughts about you and thought I’d write them down. You’re awfully thoughtful–picking up my iron tablets, as unromantic as it may seem, proves you love me and I appreciate it! I’ve enjoyed talking and getting to really know and understand what’s important to you! I learn a lot just by listening. You are a great father too! I really appreciate the way you help with the children even when I could do what you do with them sometimes. It really takes the pressure off me and I’m sure it’s good for them too. Basically, I just want you to know I love you!!

And so it goes. There are other letters, mostly hopeful and positive, a few written with tears in moments of deep frustration. If you read them all, you can trace the growing understanding of a man and a woman as they forge a life together. And “forge” is the operative word for any lasting marriage. It is shaped in the heat of adversity, molded under pressure, sharpened through difficulty, and tempered by trial.

Marriage is the cordial union of two imperfect people. And no amount of cordiality can completely obliterate the imperfections. Good intentions cannot conceal the “bent to sinning” left over from the Fall. When imperfect people attempt to become one flesh, all their weaknesses will be exposed in the harsh light of daily living. Marriage scrapes away the crust of pretense to reveal the real person within. Nothing can be hidden for long. Starry-eyed optimism soon gives way to a deeper understanding. It is upon that deeper understanding that a lifelong marriage is built.

Every couple has problems. Those problems either drive you apart or they pull you together. Maturity is the ability to grow closer together as a result of the trials of life. It is what keeps a couple still in love after traveling across an ocean of heartache.

Love in the Nitty-Gritty

In all the Bible there is no better picture of mature love than the one Paul paints for us in I Corinthians 13. Couples very often request that this chapter be read as part of their wedding ceremony. If you want to know how love is supposed to work, this is the chapter for you. Married couples would do well to memorize it together. They would do even better to put it into practice every day.

For our purposes, we will concentrate on only one verse. Verse 7 contains four phrases which explain how mature love operates in the life of a Christian man or a Christian woman. This is love in the nitty-gritty.

This is how the verse reads in the familiar King James Version: Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The New International Version says it this way: Love “always protects, always believes, always hopes, always perseveres.” Finally, here is a paraphrase from the Living Bible: “If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, always stand your ground in defending him.”

Love Doesn’t Nitpick

The first phrase says that love “bears all things.” This is from a Greek word meaning to cover something. It is related to the word for roof–a covering that offers protection from the hostile elements. I Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins. That is precisely the meaning here.

There are two very relevant applications: First, love doesn’t nitpick. It doesn’t point out every flaw and failing of your mate. Once in a small group, we were discussing this very point and one of the wives present said a very wise thing: “You can’t talk everything out. Some things you just decide not to worry about.” She’s right. If you took time to point out every mistake your husband or wife made, you wouldn’t have time for anything else. Love doesn’t nitpick.

Second, love doesn’t criticize in public. This is perhaps Paul’s primary meaning. Love doesn’t do its dirty laundry for all the world to see. That’s why I cringe whenever I hear a husband humiliating his wife in public or a wife making snide remarks about her husband. I always think, if they do that in public, what do they do in private? As a friend of mine once told me, “There are many times in my life when I’ve been sorry I opened my mouth. But there has never been a time I’ve been sorry I kept silent.” When it comes to public criticism of your husband or wife, that’s excellent advice.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The second phrase tells us that love “believes all things.” That simply means that love believes the best that is possible as long as that can be done. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. It takes people at their highest and best–not at their lowest and worst.

I don’t have to tell you that ours is a cynical age. We are so used to being ripped off that we almost expect it. These days we are never surprised to hear that our leaders have failed us. We have become so jaded that we doubt the real goodness of our fellow man. Let a man do something truly generous for his church, his friends, his company, his community and secretly others will wonder, “What’s in it for him?” Almost without thinking we belittle the noble man and drag him down into the mud.

Please understand, Paul is not calling for naive gullibility. Wisdom and love go together. But love does not doubt when there is no reason to doubt. Our legal system is predicated on the principle that all men are innocent until proven guilty. When an accused man goes on trial, he goes as an innocent man. And in our system, he doesn’t have to prove his innocence. That is assumed. The state has to prove him guilty. If they can’t, he goes free. That’s what we mean by the presumption of innocence. And yet many times our spouses get a better deal in the courtroom than they get at home.

I never tire of repeating this simple truth: People become what you believe them to be. They either live up to or down to your expectations. If you treat a man as trustworthy, he will strive to prove himself worthy of your trust. If you tell a child, “Take a big swing. You can hit that ball,” he’ll go to the plate and get a hit. If you treat your wife as if she is the most beautiful woman in the world, she will be transformed before your very eyes.

That’s what Jesus did. To vacillating Simon, he said, “You are a rock.” To a prostitute, he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” To a woman caught in adultery, he said, “Go and sin no more.” It is the simple power of believing the best and not the worst about people.

What a difference it makes when a husband truly believes in his wife, when he sees her not for what she is but for what she could be. What a difference it makes when a wife says to her husband, when his dream is teetering on the brink of destruction, “Honey, I believe in you and no matter what happens, we’re going to make it through this thing together.”

Free Fall

A few years ago a young man (who worked as a part-time house painter) came to ask my advice about a major decision he needed to make. He was enrolled in a graduate program and wondered whether he should continue. My advice was simple: “Is this what you really want to do with your life? If it is, then stay with the program. If not, get out. It’s really as simple as that.” The young man decided to stay in the program and within a year, earned his degree. That decision led him to make a major career change. For several years he did very well in his new job until he was accused (in very murky circumstances) of violating certain job-related procedures. It was one of those situations where it was his word against someone else’s word. Unfortunately the matter ended up in the newspaper, and the young man (and his wife) were devastated. All they worked for disintegrated before their eyes.

At the very lowest point I talked to his wife. With tears in her eyes, she protested her husband’s innocence. “I know him. He would never do what they are accusing him of.” There was pride there, and deep pain, and the shame that comes from public humiliation. There was something else–a fiery determination not to give up, a dream that would not be set aside. She had the look that said, “I’m going to stand by my man.”

From that low point the young couple began to rebuild their lives. Unbelievably, the young man decided to go back to school to earn an advanced degree in his field, a decision that meant he would be away from home virtually seven days a week. For a long time he held down a fulltime job, a part-time job, and also was a fulltime student. It doesn’t sound possible, but he did it.

As his birthday approached one year, the wife was casting around for a way to surprise her husband. Then she remembered–he had always wanted to go sky-diving. Why not now? So for his birthday, she gave him an afternoon of sky-diving lessons and three hours to jump out of airplanes.

He jumped, and survived. With a smile on his face he went back to his studies. As I write these words, that young man is about to earn a Ph.D. degree from one of the top universities in America. It is the most improbable story I have ever encountered. When that young man finally gets his degree, he will owe it to a three things: thousands of hours of hard work, a refusal to be turned aside by adversity, and most of all, to a wife who never stopped believing in him. She gave him the benefit of the doubt, she sacrificed for him, she laughed when he jumped out of the plane, she held her breath until the parachute opened, and she cheered when he landed safely. She was with him every step of the way and now she shares in his triumph.

Love Looks to the Future

The third phrase in verse 7 is love “hopes all things.” This is simply a step beyond believing. The meaning is something like this. There are times in life when you face situations so difficult that faith is not possible. You would gladly give the benefit of the doubt but there is none to give. You search for the silver lining but the angry clouds overhead have no silver lining.

Some of you may be facing a situation like that right now. In your life there is a difficult circumstance for which there are no easy answers. It may be your marriage. It may be one of your children. It may be your family. It may be an illness. It may be impending financial disaster. It may be your job. Whatever it is, only one word applies: IMPOSSIBLE. You have cried and wept and done everything you know how to do and nothing seems to work.

What does love do in an impossible situation? What do you do when you can’t believe anymore? You hope. That’s a step beyond belief. Belief is finding a tiny grain of evidence to rest on. Hope rests on God alone.

I ran across an amazing fact recently. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, where was Judas? According to John 13, he was right there in the room. Did Jesus know what Judas was about to do? Absolutely. He even told him to go out and do it. Did Jesus wash Judas’ feet? Yes. And he was not play acting. How could he do it? He did it because he loved Judas even though he knew Judas would soon betray him.

That’s how love works. No matter how impossible the situation, no matter if it looks like there is no possibility of change, love always hopes. It looks to the future, not to the past.

Sometimes we get the wrong idea of acceptance in marriage. We think acceptance means, “This is the way you are and no matter what I do you are never going to change.” That’s not acceptance. That’s fatalism. It’s only true if there is no God. Biblical acceptance is based on hope in God. It says, “I accept that this is the way you are right now. But I don’t believe you are going to stay this way. I’m not giving up hope.”

Chuck and Debbie

Years ago I befriended a man who became a stock broker on the East Coast. Chuck knows all about hope. For a long time his wife has struggled with alcohol and cocaine abuse. Debbie has been in and out of treatment programs, support groups, 12-step programs, group confrontation, prayer therapy meetings, in-patient treatment, psychiatric counseling, pastoral counseling, and virtually every other treatment known to modern man. Debbie knows she has a problem and desperately wants to get better. As Chuck said to me, “When she’s not high, she’s a great mother and a wonderful wife.” I know for a fact that statement is true. I also know that Debbie sometimes leaves their four children at home in the middle of the night and doesn’t come back for 36 hours. More that once, Chuck has found her passed out on the couch. When she awakens, she can’t remember where she’s been.

Is it hopeless? It all depends on how you define the word. My friend Chuck defines hope as believing that God can change Debbie’s life. Like most executives, he is used to making cold-blooded business decisions. He handles huge amounts of money every day. He can look at a balance sheet and make a million dollar decision without blinking an eye. He can cut his losses faster than any man I’ve ever known. But he hasn’t cut Debbie out of his life. He’s hanging in there hoping against hope that somehow, someway, Debbie will find the key that will led out of the darkness of substance abuse and into the bright light of sobriety.

I should add that there has been some improvement, but it has been slow in coming. Debbie takes two steps forward and then three steps back, and then three steps forward and one step back. I have seen Chuck weep over his wife, smile as he reported her progress and slam his fist on the table in utter despair. The battle is fully joined, the war rages, but perhaps hope will win out in the end.

Has he thought about divorce? More times than he can remember. But so far he has said no. He not only sees what is, he sees what could be. And that hope keeps him going.

Love hopes all things. It looks to the future, and refuses to take the easy way out.

Love Never Gives Up

Paul uses one final phrase in verse 7: Love “endures all things.” This is a military term for standing your ground in the heat of a fierce battle. It is used in the New Testament for enduring suffering and persecution. With this phrase, verse 7 comes to a logical climax. First, love covers the sins of the one it loves. Second, love believes the best as long as that is possible. Third, love hopes when it cannot believe. Fourth, love endures when even hope is gone.

Love does not commit suicide. It doesn’t give up and walk away. I once knew a woman whose husband left her for another woman. The situation was complicated by the fact that he was a pastor and a graduate of one of America’s best known Christian colleges. That meant that he knew before he did it that what he was doing was wrong. It meant that he already knew what the Bible had to say about adultery. To make matters worse, he slowly began to give up his evangelical faith in favor of a vague, undefined liberalism. Finally, he engaged his wife in an acrimonious custody battle.

At one point the couple entered marriage counseling, and for a brief moment there seemed to be hope. Then he walked out of counseling and back to the other woman. The situation drug on for months without resolution. Divorce proceedings began and continued with much wrangling over anything related to child custody.

One day I saw the woman and she told me an unusual story. She said, “I asked him for my wedding ring.” “Why would you do a thing like that?” I wondered. “When he moved out, I gave him my wedding ring as a sign that he had broken his wedding vows. But recently I began to think about what that ring symbolized. I realized that even though he has been unfaithful, we are still married. When I asked for the ring back, he was surprised. He was even more surprised when I put it back on my finger. By wearing the ring, I want to remind him of what he has done. I also want him to remember that he still has a wife.”

Is that a hopeless gesture by a woman who refuses to accept reality? No, because this woman is quite willing to practice tough love by refusing to spend thousands of dollars to contest a divorce that her husband seems to want. But it is a supreme gesture of love by a woman who, though deeply hurt, wishes to remind her husband that, although he has been unfaithful, he still has a wife.

Will the divorce go through? Unless God intervenes and changes hearts on both sides, divorce is a certainty. But that’s not really the point. The point is that love endures what can’t be endured. Love means wearing the wedding ring as a final reminder of what has been lost.

That little story also reveals a crucial point. Love is not passive in the face of unjust treatment. Love looks beyond the present to the hope of what might be in the future. Love finds a way to make a statement about ultimate values even when the marriage itself has collapsed.

Risky Love

True love doesn’t mean that everything will always work out the way you like. That only happens in cheap dimestore novels. In real life, love is often crushed, bruised and rejected. Loving someone else is risky business. What if they abuse the love you freely give? For the Christian, there is only one possible answer: It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. The real losers in life are not those whose love is rejected. They (and they alone) know the deep pain of loving in a fallen world. The real losers are those who refuse to love at all.

In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis spoke to this very point:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable … The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers … of love is Hell. (p. 169)

Love stands its ground in the face of curses, slander, hatred, ill-treatment and the worst that man can dish out. I have never forgotten the words of Corrie Ten Boom in the The Hiding Place. When asked how she could endure a Nazi concentration camp without bitterness, she replied, “There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.”

That one phrase is the key to this principle. It is the love of God, not the love of man. Romans 5:5 says that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to pour out God’s love into your heart. When the Holy Spirit has done His work, you are able to pour out the love of God that the Holy Spirit has poured into your heart.

It is not simply difficult to live this way; it is impossible. But what God demands of us, the Holy Spirit supplies within us. Our deepest needs are not intellectual or emotional; our deepest needs are spiritual. It is an old story, repeated over and over again. You struggle in your marriage because you have quenched the Holy Spirit within. You have lived in your own strength and then wondered why your love falls so short. That’s why you may have wondered this week what life would be like if you weren’t married. That’s why you have wondered if you wouldn’t be better off to be single again.

The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. Let each husband yield himself to the Holy Spirit. Let each wife pray to be filled with the Spirit. Let each one of us ask God for the love which only He can supply.

In short, I offer you no miracle cure for the problems of life. If it is true that into each life some rain must fall, then some of you are getting a thunderstorm right now. I don’t know when the rain will end. But it doesn’t have to destroy your marriage. When the love of God is the foundation of your marriage, the rains can come, the winds can blow, the river can rise to the threshold, but your house will stand firm because it is build on the rock which cannot be shaken.

Questions for Thought and Discussion</font color=blue></font size=2>

1. Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you weren’t married? Unless you were married in the last 24 hours, the answer is probably yes. No one should feel bad for thinking about that. It’s normal and natural. Why not think about it right now? Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label the left column “Things that would definitely change.” Label the right column “Things that probably wouldn’t change.” See how long it takes you to fill up both columns.

2. Then take another sheet of paper and write the answer to this question: “What makes me stay married right now?” List as many reasons as you can think of. The answers may be biblical or legal or financial or personal or any combination thereof. Number your reasons in order of importance. If you are in a small group, share your results (as much as you feel comfortable) with the other members of your group. As you hear other answers that also apply to your marriage, write them down on your paper.

3. Discuss the Five Marks of Immaturity. Give examples of how these Five Marks might be seen in the marriage relationship.

4. Everyone has problems. Make a list of the major crises (e.g., personal or job-related or family-related) that you have encountered in the last five years. As you reflect on those crises, how did they impact your marriage? Did they strengthen your marrriage? Why or why not?

5. Why is public criticism of your mate so damaging? How do you feel when your husband/wife criticizes you in public?

6. T ? F Many times, our mates get a better deal in the courtroom than they get at home.

7. Read carefully the quote from C.S. Lewis. What does he mean when he says, “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possible be broken”? Is this an argument for loving less, loving more carefully, or what? Why are some people too frightened to love someone else? Has that ever happened to you? Do you agree that the real losers in life are the people who never love at all?

8. Consider this scenario. A wife suspects her husband has been having an affair. She confronts him, he denies it, but she something inside her makes her believe he isn’t telling the whole truth. What does she do? What steps should she take? Should she talk to someone else? If so, who? How does she apply the saying that “Love believes all things?”

How Do You Handle Conflict?</font color=blue></font size=2>

What do you do when the going gets rough in your marriage? This simple survey helps answer that question. Just take the survey and apply the answers to yourself. Then ask your spouse to take it and apply the answers to you. Compare your answers. One note: Be prepared for a few more surprises!

Answer key:

1 = Never (or hardly ever)

2 = Not very often

3 = Sometimes

4 = Often

5 = Always (or very often)

In dealing with conflict in my marriage, I … .

1. Pout to make my point. 1 2 3 4 5

2. Clam up and refuse to talk about it. 1 2 3 4 5

3. Make jokes to lower the tension. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Argue as long as necessary to prove I’m right. 1 2 3 4 5

5. Blame my mate for everything. 1 2 3 4 5

6. Yell louder than necessary. 1 2 3 4 5

7. Often say things I regret later. 1 2 3 4 5

8. Break down and start crying. 1 2 3 4 5

9. Rarely admit I’m wrong about anything. 1 2 3 4 5

10. Make a very big scene. 1 2 3 4 5

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?