|Save Your Marriage: Signs of Marital Problems and Ways to Make Marriage Work|
The principles on this page build on the work of John Gottman
Signs of a serious marital problem
Sign 1: Harsh Start-ups
Harsh Start-ups consist of the husband and wife beginning discussion of problems in a negative way, using accusations, or in an attitude of contempt.
Sign 2: The "Four Horsemen": Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, Stonewalling
Criticism: This is an attack against the person, which is quite different from discussing problems. In criticism, a problem is seen as a defect in the other person. A problem may be related to the way a person does something, but the way a person does something is not the same as the being of that person. Also, if we are discerning the Christ in each other, we may also see the weakness of the Christ but we don't know the person after the flesh.
Sign 3: Flooding
The spouse who is being attacked is able to bear up under the emotional pounding to a certain point. They feel like they are doing fine and taking it in stride. Then, suddenly, the emotional abuse takes its toll and emotions overflow violently and surprisingly. The flooding happens very quickly once it starts and it is very ugly. There is very little lead warning to the person who had been bearing the burden of criticism and contempt quite bravely (even if ineffectively). Once flooding occurs, people who are flooded don’t feel safe, so de-escalation is more difficult. After the flooding occurs, the criticized spouse feels defeated, ashamed, and destroyed. They are in shell shock. Often, the critical spouse begins to inwardly or outwardly gloat. Men are more prone to flooding that women and have a harder time recovering.
Sign 4: Body Reactions
During the flooding experience, heart rate and blood pressure increase and adrenalin and cortisol are released. The ability to make decisions or to maintain a discussion vanishes. The body was designed by God to only release small amounts of adrenalin and cortisol for very short periods of time. However, extended release of these powerful chemicals does permanent harm. Repeated flooding will eventually cause permanent emotional damage.
Repeated flooding causes a kind of muscle memory. The person becomes skilled at flooding. The triggers become more sensitive and the reactions more intense.
The damage done can be healed by Jesus Christ, but there can be scars that may take a long time of peace in the marriage to heal. Also, there is the problem that the criticized person begins to also have a confirmation bias against the abusing spouse. They no longer see Christ in their critical spouse. The criticized spouse eventually will come to hate the criticizing spouse and will not be able to see any good in the spouse who has shown contempt for so long. A sense of hopelessness sets in.
Keep in mind that the fall in the Garden of Eden turned human beings inside out and backwards in a sense. We were designed to have our spirits joined to the Holy Spirit. Then, our spirits are designed to rule over our minds and our minds are designed to rule over our bodies. The fall reversed all of that. Our entire beings were torn away from God and joined to Satan. Satan rules through the body. The body rules over the mind. The mind rules over the spirit. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit is once again joined to the human spirit. The Holy Spirit and the human spirit then join to rule over that part of the mind that has been conformed to Jesus. That part of the mind that is still in subjection to the body is known as the flesh. This is what causes the flooding.
Sign 5: Failed De-escalation Attempts
A de-escalation attempt is whatever couples use to ease the tension. This could be humor, affection, sitting and talking it out, or any other method that works. When these attempts fail, flooding occurs.
Sign 6: Bad Memories
Bad memories create confirmation bias. Memories are blurred and distorted by highly negative emotions repeated so often. It has been said that it takes seven positive experiences to overcome one negative experience. That is probably true, but keep in mind that there are differences in the intensity of experiences.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Principle 1: Enhance Your Love Maps
You have detailed knowledge of your spouse. Study your spouse. Understand your spouse. This understanding is a love map. You cannot have a real love map until you fully discern Christ in your spouse. Your spouse has a flesh, and so do you. Your flesh is not the real you. The real you is that part of yourself that has conformed to the image of Christ. This is true of your spouse. It is important that you see this reality. Reality is truth. It is the truth that sets you free. If you look at your spouse and see flesh, then you have become a judge with an evil heart. You are like the person who has a log in your own eye but you are trying to remove a speck from your spouses eye. The log is your inability to see Christ in your spouse. You are failing to discern Christ in His Body. You are failing to discern Christ in your spouse. How could you possibly heal your spouse's blindness when you are more blind than your spouse, since you are not discerning Christ in your spouse. How can you tell whether you are discerning Christ? Do you have any sense of irritation, anger, resentment, or any other negative emotion toward your spouse? If so, you are not discerning Christ in your spouse and you are unable to help your spouse since you are worse off than your spouse spiritually.
Friendship: Friendship is a way of describing a married couple when they aren't fighting. They respect each other. They love each other. They enjoy each other's company.
Discerning Christ in Each Other: The family is a unit within the Church. We are to discern the Body of Christ. Mutual love and respect happens when two people discern the Body of Christ, that is, they discern Christ in each other. If a couple can do this, there is a flow of the healing Anointing of the Holy Spirit through their spirits, minds, and bodies. This flow of the Anointing flows between them and through them drawing them together. The fleshy negative thoughts about each other and about their marriage die out. Those negatives are crucified. This is part of what it means to die to self and live to Christ.
Principle 2: Nurture Your Fondness & Admiration
It is important that you believe in your spouse. Both the husband and the wife need this. Both need respect. However, men generally need respect much more than women. Women generally need love more than men do, though both men and women need love. For this reason, it is very important that a woman honors her husband. When she fails to honor her husband, she begins to tear down her home with her bare hands.
Thankfulness is key. First, be thankful to God. Thank Him for your spouse. Count the blessings that come from your spouse. If you have fallen down into the pit of bitterness and confirmation bias, this will be difficult to see, because you have blinded your own eyes to goodness, but you can get out of the pit. Begin to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the blessings of your spouse. Then, begin to think about these things more and more. Express your thankfulness to your spouse.
Principle 3: Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
Turn to your spouse in little ways every day. This will just happen if you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead you and give you the power to do this. One way to do this is through works of service. When you have been apart, take a little time to regain rapport. It helps if you begin with a hug. Look into the eyes of your spouse. Take time to be romantic. Talk. Listen. Take interest in your spouse. There is no other place where God has given you more responsibility. Bring a surprise gift to your spouse. A husband may give his wife a flower. A wife may give her husband something related to his hobby. Look to God for leading in this, and you will be surprised at how well He guides you.
Principle 4: Let Your Spouse Influence You
Avoid autonomous decision-making. The husband is set with a governing authority from God, but that governing authority is not for lording it over the wife. The husband cannot make a good decision without input from the wife. God has called you together. You are incomplete without each other. Failure to take input from each other is failure to discern the Body of Christ.
Principle 5: Solve Your Solvable Problems--De-escalation Relationships
Steps to problem resolution:
Principle 6: Overcoming Gridlock
When one is following his or her own dreams, this will lead to gridlock. If neither spouse in being led by God, then this will cause even more powerful gridlock. Listen to your spouse. Love and respect your spouse enough to hear the entire story. Pray together for the answer. A spiritually immature person has trouble doing this. The spiritually immature person wants his or her own way and assumes that he or she is right and assumes that his or her spouse is wrong. Get off the position and reexamine the problem. It is likely that both spouses have solved the problem without even understanding what the problem is. Pride only enters when a person is not following the Holy Spirit. Only when there is pride will there be contention. A person who is not puffed up can even avoid being upset when a spouse is stubborn and wrong.
Principle 7: Shared Meaning
It is very important to have daily devotions. It is also important that you discuss spiritual things together. Attend weekly services. Take part in prayer meetings, and Bible studies. Attend at least one yearly camp meeting or retreat. Spend time in the Word so that you both agree. Spend time in the presence of Jesus so that you both are building on the same foundation.
Last updated: Jan, 2014
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