Since the anticipation of and the day of your wedding gave you some of the highest expectations you’ve ever had in your life … like, “Woo hoo … I’m getting married, my life is going to be perfect … this is the moment I’ve been waiting for …”
The expectations we put on that day and the days and years after set us up for the greatest potential of disappointment in our lives. We set the highest and most unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our spouses.
Why do marriages go south? Let’s talk about some habits that tend to lead to divorce. These are unhealthy habits that put you on the road to the big D and I don’t mean Dallas (Mark Chesnutt, 1994). The first key to bringing maximum health to your marriage is to understand what the problem or problems might be.
If you’ve been divorced, this message isn’t meant to guilt you or put you down. I’m not trying to unscramble the egg. Love is grand, divorce is a hundred grand … I get it… I’m talking about where you’re at right now. The marriage you find yourself in today. For those of you who are single, this will help you get some tools that will help you when you do get married. Not only that, these are helpful questions for any relationship.
I want you to answer the following three questions by writing down your response. Then later, I want you to talk to your spouse about it. This can help you diagnose what specific area or areas in your marriage that need attention.
1. What is an unrealistic expectation you’ve had of your spouse?
When you take two very imperfect people and put them in a marriage, you don’t get a perfect marriage. But that doesn’t mean your marriage can’t be great! I don’t know many other areas in life where we have higher unrealistic expectations than we do in marriage. Even the dating process sets us up for disappointment. We say things we wouldn’t normally say, do things you wouldn’t normally do, and go places we wouldn’t normally go! Let’s take the honeymoon for example. You’re eating food you may never eat again, spending money you don’t typically spend, in a place you’ll probably never go back to. Fast forward 9 months and you’re looking at Mr. or Mrs. Bedhead with morning breath and noxious gasses and you’re wondering “What happened?!”
2. What’s one difference you and your spouse have, that you’ve had a difficult time accepting?
We’ve all heard the saying, “opposites attract.” And once you’re married, “opposites attack!” We have to learn to accept our differences. Sure, we can work on them. But we shouldn’t resent one another for our differences. One of God’s main tools for spiritual growth is your marriage relationship. It’s a theological word called sanctification. He brings opposites together, man and woman, and we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to learn how to submit to one another, because of our reverence for Christ.
3. Ask your spouse to name one unresolved issue in your marriage?
It might be finances, how to raise your children, sex … you may already know what they are going to say. But we need to have this conversation! This is the sensitive topic that brings out the claws, that repeatedly goes unresolved. Here’s the reality. Marriage doesn’t create so much problems as it does reveal them. And this is what we have to do … we have to start with ourselves. We need to turn to God and say, “What do I need to change about me?” Whenever a spouse is willing, the other spouse eventually comes around.
You may be reading this and thinking, Jeremy, you don’t know what they’ve done to me. And you’re right, I don’t. But I know what Christ has done for you. And because of what He did on the cross for you and I, despite what we have done, we too can forgive one another. Ephesians 5:21 says it like this … “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is such an important statement. Out of reverence for Christ, your marriage is worth working on! Culture will tell you the grass is greener on the other side. But Christ wants you to know the grass is greener where you water it! On the 67 freeway in San Diego there’s a giant billboard right now that reads “Easy Divorce.” Let me tell you this, it’s really easy to divorce a spouse, it’s really hard to divorce your best friend. When we face these three questions out of reverence for Christ we will soon find our best friend and get off the road that leads to divorce.