Faith in Marriage: Part II
FAITH IN MARRIAGE, PART TWO
By Larry Daniels | MAMFC, LMFT, LPC, REGISTERED PLAY THERAPIST
For Part Two of our Faith in Marriage mini-series, counselor Larry Daniels points us to a more theological view of how to implement practical ways of healing and wholeness in our marriages.
Consider utilizing the following suggestions for practical ways to implement covenant, grace, empowerment & intimacy in your marriage:
Both spouses loving and being loved, unconditionally
Tommy Smith (retired Pathways Professional Counselor) says couples would do well to practice the 3-T’s:
Time—Spend time together
Talking as friends
Together, do things—sharing the fun, work and responsibilities of life; doing things together!
John Gottman (marital therapist and marital researcher) finds there are 3 components to the foundation of marital friendship for its ability to create levels of positive affect in non-conflict contexts:
Cognitive room (knowing about your spouse; their likes and dislikes; what makes them tick or ticks them off)
Fondness and Admiration System (regularly appreciating your spouse—in word and deed)
Turning toward versus turning away (this is the emotional bank account; sharing one another’s joys, being willing to assertively address needs, issues, conflict and concerns without being dismissive, disengaging and or damaging).
Components of friendship lead to Positive Sentiment Override (PSO) if they are working well; or Negative Sentiment Override (NSO) if they are not. Sentiment override determines success of repair attempts during conflict discussions
Forgiving and being forgiven, which creates an atmosphere of acceptance
Ephesian 4:32 (ESV) says it this way: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
When conflict arises (again, going to Gottman),
Establish dialogue with your spouse with perpetual problems, not gridlock, using “I-statements,” active and reflective listening.
Solve solvable problems with some basic skills (again, using active & reflective listening, negotiation, compromise as needed, and decision-making)
Engage with soft-start-ups (begin with a positive, or give a compliment to your spouse about something you appreciate about them prior to addressing an issue), instead of a harsh start-up (attacking your spouse)
Use repair attempts; this is like the brakes on your car—use them if the conversation gets started on the wrong foot; this is basically saying “Stop!” to the escalation of the conflict. Approaches/examples, of this can be:
Reference your feelings:
“this feels scary/harsh”
“that hurt my feelings”
“please say that more gently”
“I need things to be calmer right now”
“I need your support right now”
“I feel blamed/criticized, can you rephrase that, please?”
“Can we take a break?”
Reference your regret and/or contribution to the problem; seek a re-do:
“My reactions were too extreme; I’m sorry.”
“I really blew that one.”
“Let me try that again.”
“I want to be gentler to you right now, and I don’t know how.”
“I can see my part in all this.”
“How can I make things better?”
Let’s try that over again, this time with more respect for one another.”
“Let me start again in a softer way.”
“What you are saying is…”
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Move towards a mutual “yes” with your spouse:
“You’re starting to convince me.”
“I agree with part of what you’re saying.”
“Let’s compromise here.”
”Let’s find our common ground.”
“I never thought of things that way.”
“This problem is not very serious in the big picture.”
“I think your point of view makes sense.”
“Let's agree to include both our views in a solution.”
“I'm thankful for.”
“One thing I admire about you is.”
“I see what you're talking about.”
Show your appreciation by starting the conversation with something like:
“I know this isn't your fault.”
“My part of the problem is...”
“I see your point. Thank you for it...”
“That's a good point. We are both saying that.”
“I understand. I love you.”
“I am thankful for...”
“One more thing I'd marry about you is...”
“This is not your problem, it's our problem.”
Use physiological soothing (mostly self-soothing): conflict increases one’s stress hormones which induces increased heart rate/pounding, sweating & usually holding one’s breath—which decreases oxygen to the brain which raises anxiety and becomes a self-perpetuating crisis. Allowing yourself to calm down interrupts this vicious cycle. Taking a time-out is good; it is okay. Just make sure you return after you’re calm, to manage/resolve the issue. Consider self-soothing techniques as:
Resting in a comfortable seat or lying down
Focus on controlling your breathing; deep breathing
Meditate on Scripture.
Focus on a fond memory, relaxing place you have been or go to regularly
You are both on the same team; work for a win-win; not just for one person to get their way. Remember that Jesus came to save that which was lost. Work to make sure your marital issues do not require divine intervention later. Jesus taught us how to serve. Serve your spouse. Help to find ways to advance their need. Learn and speak your spouse’s love language. Balswick & Balswick define power as “the ability to influence another person. In such a definition the emphasisis placed upon the ability or potential to influence, and not the actual exercising of the ability” (p. 27–28). They continue, “If covenant is the love commitment, and grace is the underlying atmosphere of acceptance, then empowering is the action of God in people’s lives. It is seen supremely in the work of Jesus Christ. The celebrated message of Jesus was that he had come to empower—“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV). The apostle John says it this way: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12–13, RSV)."
Things you can do to empower one another:
Learn and speak your spouse’s love language
Share the division of labor that makes a house and home run (chores, finances, parenting, etc.)
Addressing and supporting your spouse’s needs/desires as a priority
Assist your spouse to fulfill their dreams
When both spouses are committed, accepted (through grace) and forgiving one another, and empowering one another; the chance for the couple to grow together as one is enhanced. The opportunity for shared meaning of your marriage, and lives, are heightened. Things you can do to assist intimacy is:
Read scripture together
Talk together as friends (working to listen and understand one another)
Spend quality time together
Plan/Live your lives together: outings, vacations, projects, parenting, hobbies, interests, etc.
This model of covenant, grace, empowerment & intimacy offers a biblically-based approach for couples to thrive in their marriage. Once a couple begins working through these areas, this approach can become a concentric circle that has the capacity to continue strengthening the marital relationship.
When engaging in such an approach, a couples covenant forms the solid base for growth, which encourages acceptance and forgiveness of one’s spouse, which can lead to couples empowering one another to be their best and to meet one another’s needs, which increases the intimacy they share in their marriage, leading to an ever strengthening of commitment/covenant between them.
From this approach, selfishness is less likely to be consistently present. After all, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:1–3, NIV)."
Therefore, keep faith alive in your marriage, so that you may fulfill your biblical roles as a husband and wife (cf. Ephesians 5:21–33). Keep faith alive so that you may prosper. Keep faith alive in your marriage to increase the opportunity to have a mutually satisfying and fulfilling marriage. Keep faith alive so you may bring up your child/ren in the way that they should go (Proverbs 6:22). Keep faith alive because God said so. Keep faith alive because it is good for you. Keep faith alive so that the two of you continue to be one.
Larry Daniels is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a Registered Play Therapist. He serves with Pathways Professional Counseling in Southwest Alabama.
Balswick, J. O., and Balswick, J. K. (1999). The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home, (Second Edition) Grand Rapids: Baker books.
Gottman, J.M. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically-Based Marital Therapy, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Prinicples for Making Marriage Work, New York: Three Rivers Press.