If there is one topic that continually seems to be on peoples minds these days, it is the topic of having a joyful marriage. This is why I am grateful for books like Mark Driscoll's, "Real Marriage." In it, he takes a no holds bar approach to examining and uncovering marriage from a Biblical perspective. In chapter 5, Driscoll gives four easy, helpful and practical steps that every couple needs to write down and then implement. Echoing the apocalyptic language of the Bible, he teaches that when conflict arises, there are "four horsemen" who are certain to multiply relational pain and can result in marital death.
Horseman number one is Criticism:
Driscoll says a complaint is simply pointing out something in your spouse that you find annoying or frustrating. Criticism however, goes deeper to attack your spouses character or personality. My thoughts? You need to realize that a complaint attacks the problem whereas a criticism attacks the person. You will do yourself no favors if you decide to be the spouse that continually breaks down your significant other. If you find yourself riding this horse, get off fast before your spouse resents you.
Horseman number two is Contempt:
Simply put, contempt is showing disgust for your spouse with such things as name-calling, mocking, condescending humor, belittling, or demeaning actions. The thing about contempt is that it grows over time if you do not resolve conflict. Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith; nowhere is it more important than in the walls of your own house. If you find yourself riding this horse, don't be surprised if you are sending your spouse off riding in another direction emotionally and relationally.
The third Horseman is Defensiveness:
Defensiveness occurs when the guilty person refuses to apologize or back down from a conflict. Defensiveness will never see wounds healed; it will only divide and it always leads to an unsatisfied marriage. If you are riding on this horse, look left, now look right -you probably just noticed that you are riding alone. And if you are the defensive type, you are probably OK with that. This life is too long to be right all of the time, therefore I am suggesting that you take a dose of humility and two teaspoons of repentance. Remember, you are married; you owe your family the best.
The last horse is Stonewalling:
Stonewalling is what happens when we stubbornly ride the first three horses. At this point you are basically living your own life as two lonely people under one roof. I know many couples, both young and old that settle for this kind of life. Ruth Bell Graham said, "A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."
In conclusion, I would like to ask you a question.
50 years from now, imagine you and your spouse having one last conversation. During that conversation wouldn't it be nice to look at one another in the eye and then lean close to their ear and whisper the following:
"My love. This has been the greatest ride of my life. With you I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We shared everything together.
If I could go back in time I would not change a single thing about us, (except maybe to spend even more time holding hands). I love you; you are the dream of my dreams and the heart within my heart. You are my everything..."