Monica Chan Yip
In Part 1 of “Husband and Wife – Lover? Enemy?”, we discussed how different family origins, cultural backgrounds, and value systems can have a tremendous influence on a person. If a couple can try to understand, accommodate, and be empathetic with each other, a lot of problems can be prevented. Even though we know the basic principles, the real question is how do we live them out?
In the seminar “Couple Relationships – Lover? Enemy?”, Dr. Agnes Ip pointed out that since the Fall, sin has entered the world. Mankind tends to manipulate each other and lose their empathy. This kind of sinful nature causes a lot of conflicts, suspicion, mistrust, and hurts in a relationship. Sometimes a couple may not seize the opportunity to reconcile, but instead may ruin it because of their personal bias. For example, when a husband gives his wife flowers, she may misinterpret it as a kind of reparation; or a husband’s casual comment about a dish can cause his wife to not want to cook anymore, as she feels dejected. Instead of letting negative thoughts affect their feelings and conversations, a couple should learn to trust each other and believe in the good intention of a spouse’s actions to promote positive communication and relationship.
A lot of things in life are more about preference than just right or wrong, like how some people prefer to be clean and neat while others prefer to do things however they want. A couple should allow each other to be themselves and respect the uniqueness of the other. If one keeps persuading their spouse to change, or keeps seeing a certain amount of unwillingness to change as equal to not loving them anymore, it will just destroy the trust and love between them. Communication goes both ways, and the one that conceded may get mad if their goodwill is not appreciated. Also, one needs to pick the right time to communicate, as their spouse may not be in the right mood to listen all the time. For example, if a wife is totally exhausted after a long and busy day and has no extra energy to listen to her husband, it may be time for the husband just to be a good listener, without making any comments. When one can pour out whatever preoccupies their heart, they can then have space for others’ opinions. Once spouses stop being controlling, they can have a closer relationship with their spouse.
When we talk about “controlling”, many people may be wondering who the head is in a marriage. How do we understand the teaching in the Bible that says, “wives, submit yourselves to your husbands” (Colossians 3:18)? Does it mean the husband is in charge of everything? In this Bible verse, Paul also added, “as is fitting in the Lord”. In this chapter, Paul used “the Lord” eight times, which means “Christ”, not man; it means that in all relationships, Christ is the head — “the Lord”, the one in charge. When Christ is the head of a marriage, everything “pleases the Lord” (v.20); there is “reverence for the Lord” (v.22), and they are “working for the Lord” (v.23). Every life is special and created by the Lord, so it’s important to stop being controlling, and instead submit that control to God and cast all our worries onto Him.
If someone is hurt in a marriage, is divorce the only way out? Dr. Ip pointed out that divorce may not resolve the problem, but will cause more pain instead. When one is in pain, it is more important to deal with the needs of the soul than to dwell on whose fault it is. To deal with the pain, one can try to share with pastors or trustworthy brothers and sisters to be lifted up in prayer and allow God to heal the heartache; or one can seek professional counselling. The bottom line is to find hope in the current situation because one’s soul needs to be healed before saving a marriage.
What happens in a marriage is too complicated to be understood by outsiders. Each marriage is unique because two people with different cultures, beliefs, value systems, and family backgrounds are trying to maintain an intimate relationship with each other, so their problems will not be the same as others. It’s important that a couple learn to respect their differences, build up trust and understanding, let Christ be the head in everything, and be willing to seek professional help when facing unresolvable issues. The Lord’s power is bigger than any marital problems and He will give you a way out.
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