Marriage for Dummies I

If there was a book with this title, Barb and I would qualify for the cover photo. Here is a sample shot if any publisher is interested. Aren’t we cute?

But we are not always cute. On Saturday, our greatly different personalities led to a train wreck. Under pressure for a number of reasons, our different ways of attacking problems created a tension that I set off by saying some things I should not have said.

When such things happen, they lead either to raised voices (surprisingly rare for us) or silence and isolation (our preferred response). It struck me in reflection upon this that such responses do not arise out of an inherent meanness. Barb and I love each other desperately and have no desire to hurt each other in the least. Such responses arise from a lack of alternatives. They arise from frustration and a simple ignorance of any other way of dealing with the problem.

IF I had the way of saying what I wanted to say without hurting Barb, that would be the path I would follow. IF she had the way of expressing her frustration with me with clarity and not irritation, she would do so. I saw in that moment Saturday the awful potential for the destruction of marriage. I glimpsed in our responses to one another the kinds of behaviors that if tolerated and left unaddressed harden emotions and drive a couple apart.

After nearly 29 years (are we really THAT old?) we have not mastered the communication tools which diffuse conflict. We still blow it. But it seems to me whether a couple are young together or old, such flare ups should be seen as something akin to pain. Pain in the body alerts us to a problem needing to be addressed. Conflict in a relationship alerts the couple to a point to which they should address their attention. It can reveal a communication weakness or even some suppressed anger which must not be ignored.

We encourage you in the deepest way possible, when there is conflict, find a way to talk it through and seek out alternatives to dealing with that conflict. Learn how to ‘fight’, to disagree without resort to the strategies of desperation.

One thing which Satan would want to make us forget, but which we cannot allow to be forgotten is the Scripture’s admonition to not let the sun go down on one’s anger. Or, as another has put it, to never go to bed angry. To confess our faults and seek the forgiveness of the other is essential for unity and peace.

At the end of an old movie, What’s Up Doc?, Barbra Streisand looks at Ryan O’Neal and says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” O’Neal (of Love Story fame) replies, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” Yup.

3 thoughts on “Marriage for Dummies I

  1. Staci Thomas

    Randy-Thanks so much for your marriage advice and for being real. I’ve been watching Piper’s latest sermon series on marriage and he stresses that marriage is not about being in love, but instead is about convenant keeping. This is all helpful stuff when what the world offers is fleeting fluff.Thanks again-Staci

  2. Gus

    Agree with Randy and Stacy that love alone is not enough to stay married. Emerson Eggerichs titles his introduction to _Love and respect_ “Love alone is not enough”. The book’s subtitle is: the love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs. The book is about obeying Ephesians 5.33.

  3. Gail and Keith

    Gail here. You and Barb are cute as as a button–or, is it buttons? Thanks for those thoughts on marriage which was a timely reminder for me of the line we tacked on to the end of our wedding vows nearly 34 years ago, “with Jesus Christ continuing to be the foundation of our lives together.” G

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