The Grace-Filled Marriage – Week Four
Growth Principle 3:
Build a "Good Enough" Marriage
Today we continue in our series on marriage, and this morning I
want to talk about a "good enough" marriage. Now, when you saw
the title for this message, I’ll bet it raised some questions.
Some of you wondered, "Why should I build a good enough marriage
when I could have an excellent one?" And that’s a fair question.
Most of us aren’t content with being just good enough in other
areas of life; why should we settle for good enough in marriage?
For instance, would you ever buy a book called, "How to be the
good enough employee"? Probably not! You want to be better than
that. Would you buy a motivational video for your kids entitled,
"How to be a good enough student"? No! You want them to excel.
Since marriage is such an important relationship it seems we
should want the best one possible. And it sounds like "good
enough" is settling for less than best. But there is a problem
with setting excellence as your goal in an intimate
THE FIRST PROBLEM IS THAT HUSBANDS AND WIVES, TEND TO, DEFINE
EXCELLENCE DIFFERENTLY. A wife defines an excellent marriage as
one where her husband is deeply sensitive to her needs and
extremely flexible when she isn’t sure she understands what she
needs. She wants her husband to be devoted to her, leading and
guiding without complaint.
The husband on the other hand wants his wife to understand all
the pressures he faces at work and be highly supportive when he
comes home. He wants her to make the home a refuge where he can
enjoy the calm because she’s organized things so well.
And this difference of opinion about what constitutes excellence
becomes extremely frustrating. Each one wants what they deem
best and wonders, "Why won’t he or she just cooperate." But the
problem is they’re defining excellence in terms of what they
want to receive, rather the service they can give. If you define
excellence that way, you’ll be frustrated.
BUT THERE’S AN EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM. Our evangelical subculture
has so elevated marital expectations, it seems an excellent
marriage is our right, and if we don’t get it we’ll find a
different Christian partner who’ll give it to us. There are
dozens of seminars and books purporting to give wise counsel on
how to have a great marriage, and this is truly a blessing to
the Christian community.
But some couples have misunderstood the point of all this good
information. They say to themselves, "Shouldn’t my marriage be
able to fill this hole in my soul?" And the answer to that is,
"No." Only God can fill the hole in your soul. God designed
marriage as a stimulus to worship not a substitute.
This is undoubtedly the reason why the divorce rate among
Christians is about two points higher than for the general
population. Marital expectations in the Christian community have
spun totally out of control.
BUT THERE’S ANOTHER PITFALL. If you get obsessed about having an
excellent marriage, you will create a different kind of culture
in your marriage. It’s a culture – not of grace – but of
performance. It’s a culture not of safety and shelter…but of
accomplishment, achievement and critique.
It’s a bit like golf. Every golfer knows that golf is a humbling
sport. But let’s say you love the game of golf, and you’re
pretty good, and you’ve been shaving points off your handicap.
So you start daydreaming, "I wonder if I could join the senior
tour?" Suddenly, every time you play golf your perspective is
different. You’re thinking about perfection. You’ve got to make
Tiger Woods-type shots – every time. And you’re quickly humbled.
What used to be a very fun game has become very burdensome. Just
like golf is not a game of perfect, marriage is not a
relationship of perfect.
So let me propose a different alternative.
I want to propose that the best marriages are not the so-called
excellent ones, but the good enough ones. And here’s how I would
define a good enough marriage: It’s not perfect, but it’s moving
more and more toward deep friendship.
Friendship isn’t about having everything match up to
expectations. Friendship is about being warmly connected to in
the grind of daily life…even as things are less than ideal.
So what I want to do this morning is this: I want to show you
three ways you can move toward a good enough marriage.
Here’s the first task:
1. TO BUILD A GOOD ENOUGH MARRIAGE…address your unrealistic
expectations. I believe there are five myths regarding an
A. Myth one – "In an excellent marriage, couples resolve most of
This is not true. John Gottman is professor psychology at the
University of Washington. For the past 25 years he has been
doing scientific studies on marriages at the Seattle Marital
Gottman recently published a study in which he said that the
healthiest couples are out of sync with each other two-thirds of
the time. In other words, even if you are doing really well in
your marriage, you’ll still feel disconnected 66% of the time.
When I first heard that statistic it really surprised me. I
thought the percentage would be far less…maybe 10-15%. But his
study has been confirmed over and over again in his research.
On the other hand, the good news is that one third of the time
you are in sync with each other. You’re solving problems,
enjoying romance and feeling the love. What I conclude from this
is that the best marriages are like the best batters in Major
League Baseball. If you post a .333 batting average year-in and
year-out for twenty years, you’re going to reach the hall of
fame. Hall of fame marriages are going to experience harmony
only about one third of the time.
So the challenge is this: when you’re batting .333, don’t be
frustrated that you’re not batting .700. It’s not going to
happen. Rejoice that you’re batting .333, and enjoy the
blessings to your relationship. They’re a gift from God.
Moreover, if you look at the Bible, you discover that even in
the best relationships there were problems. Take Paul and
Barnabas, for example; theirs is one of the great friendships of
the Bible. Did they do well 100% of the time? No!
After a hugely successful first missionary journey, they faced
major conflict over Barnabas’ cousin John Mark. Both these guys
had the Holy Spirit; both were spiritually mature; but their
conflict was so sharp they decided to go separate ways. If
problems festered in even the best relationships in the Bible,
you will encounter your share in marriage as well. You simply
will not resolve all your problems.
That leads to a second myth.
B. Myth two – "In an excellent marriage, couples rarely express
Let me fill you in on another item of research by John Gottman.
In his book, The Marriage Clinic, Gottman identifies three types
of healthy marriages.
HE SAID SOME MARRIAGES WERE VOLATILE. In these marriages couples
are highly expressive. When they disagree, they argue, bicker,
and express opinions with passion.
They’re not afraid to get angry, and sometimes that anger is
sharp. But they also get over it. They don’t resort to sarcasm,
or name-calling or contempt. Instead, they use humor, affection
and teasing to soften some of the sharpness of the anger.
THE SECOND TYPE OF MARRIAGE IS THE VALIDATING COUPLE. This
couple also believes in emotional expressiveness, but in
moderation. They’re slow to express anger, and express it only
when big issues come up. The rest of the time they are very nice
THE THIRD TYPE OF MARRIAGE IS THE CONFLICT-AVOIDANT COUPLE. This
couple rarely enters into conflict. Their goal is acceptance and
agreement. When tensions rise they explore each other’s
emotions, affirm each other’s point of view, and they do this in
a very calm way. When conflict is severe they agree to disagree.
Now here are three types of healthy couples…with three
completely different styles…all reporting high levels of
satisfaction. But let me ask you a question: Which couples do
you think were most romantically inclined after 35 years of
It’s not the conflict-avoidant couple, and it’s not the
validating couple. The couples most romantically inclined after
their 35th-anniversary were the volatile couples…the couples
most apt to express anger openly, fairly, productively, and then
be done with it.
So it is simply not true that excellent marriages have little
anger. Just the reverse! In good marriages couples are mastering
the skills of being angry, yet without sinning against each
And that leads us to myth number three.
C. This myth is stated this way. "I might be able to have an
excellent marriage if I was married to someone else."
This is the myth of the greener grass. Sometimes another man or
woman looks more desirable than your spouse. And you think, "I
was married to her, we wouldn’t have the problems my wife and I
But let me be…like…brutally honest with you. If you were to
change partners, you wouldn’t eliminate problems, you would
merely change the kind of problems you have. For example, let’s
say that a husband is frustrated by his wife’s excessive
talking. He would dearly love to be married to a woman who gives
him space to read, relax and watch basketball. But no, his wife
is always talking, and she’s always haggling over the finer
points of their relationship.
Then he notices his wife’s best friend, and she’s gentler than
his wife. She’s quieter, and what’s more she loves to watch
basketball. So they form a secret relationship. He eventually
decides to divorce his wife and marry his wife’s best friend.
He’s solved his problems, right?
Wrong! All he did was trade problems. See it just so happens
that his wife’s best friend is prone to lengthy bouts with
anxiety and depression. These frequently leave her tearful and
bedridden. And during these times she’s extremely demanding.
Sure, he solved one set of problems, but gained another set in
If you’re tempted to daydream about the greener grass on the
other side of the fence, I have bad news for you. It’s a
fantasy. Marriage is fraught with problems, and you will never
arrive at the problem free marriage or even an almost-problem
Here’s myth number four.
D. Myth four – "Excellent marriages shouldn’t take so much
This is the idea that if this marriage is meant to be,
excellence should just happen…naturally. No hard work required!
The problem with this is that marriage is a counter-intuitive
relationship. You’ve got to confront your natural inclinations.
By this definition, marriage will never be easy. For instance…
• The natural inclination for a husband is to treat his wife the
way he wants to be treated. But, of course, that doesn’t work
because she’s a woman, and, what she needs is to be treated like
a woman. That’s a counter intuitive skill.
• Or, the natural inclination of a wife with the love-language
of serving is to render service to her husband. But what if the
husband’s love language isn’t service? What if it’s words of
affirmation? The wife has to learn to love her husband in a
counter-intuitive way. That takes work.
• The natural inclination of a spouse who receives criticism is
to give it back. But Peter tells us we shouldn’t return evil for
evil or insult for insult but give a blessing. That’s a
All I’m saying is this: Being a good lover is a
counter-intuitive skill, and therefore all marriages require a
lot of work.
Paul put it this way. He said, "Husbands love your wives like
Christ loved the church." If Jesus’ sacrificial love wasn’t hard
work, I don’t know what is. Just think about Mel Gibson’s movie
The Passion and you realize how hard he worked to express his
And that leads us to myth number five.
E. Myth five – "To build an excellent marriage we’ll need lots
This myth is a holdover from a trend that seemed quite prevalent
in the 80s and early 90s. It was epitomized in bestselling books
like the one by Harville Hendrix’ book, Getting the Love You
Hendrix "[contended] that most marital conflict stems from
childhood wounds resulting from bad parenting." To deal with
this he says couples must develop "x-ray" vision to see the
wound behind the hostility in marital conflict. How do you get
that "x-ray" vision? It’s very hard to get it on your own; it
really helps if you can go into therapy and get help from a
Now there is some truth to what he says, but the problem is
obvious. Most couples can’t afford therapy. And even if they
could, they might not choose it because therapy is time
consuming and emotionally painful. If myth number five were true
it would mean that only those with enough money could achieve a
really good marriage. God certainly didn’t design marriage that
So those are five common myths floating around in our culture
about the possibility of having an excellent marriage.
F. But here’s the reality: All marriages have problems. So the
real question is what do you do with the problems?
Couples in a "good enough" marriage think about their problems
differently. They realize that marital problems fall into one of
two categories: either they are solvable problems or they’re
unsolvable. And you have to use a different strategy depending
on the category the problem falls into.
Now I want to ask you a question: What percentage of problems in
marriage do you think will never be solved? I’d like you to
write down that percentage on your notes. Write down the
percentage of problems in marriage that will never be solved.
After studying thousands of marriages, one marriage researcher
concluded that roughly 69% of all the problems in a given
marriage will never be solved. And the reason why they can’t be
solved is that they are due to fundamental differences in
personality, temperament, background and values. Try as you
might, you probably won’t be able to change them.
So when you hit a problem to ask yourself, is this solvable or
unsolvable. For example…
• One couple has a philosophical difference about child
discipline. The husband feels his wife is way too lenient; the
wife feels that her husband is way too harsh. They fight and
argue over this at least once a week. What do you think?
Solvable or unsolvable?
• Another couple has a disagreement about cleanliness in the
house. The husband is comfortable with high levels of clutter.
His wife is obsessed with housework. They fight over his messes
in the garage, his closet, and in his corner of the bathroom.
Solvable or unsolvable?
• Another couple has a problem over frequency of physical
intimacy. He hopes for three times a week. She’d prefer once
every ten days. They fight over this monthly. Solvable or
Your answer to these kinds of questions will determine how to
your adjust your expectations for your marriage. Now for the
rest of the message I want to talk about how to work on both
solvable and unsolvable problems. Now, in the time I have left I
won’t be able to say everything about this, but I hope to give
you a roadmap.
2. To work on solvable problems you need to learn four skills.
A. The first skill is to begin problem-solving discussions
Let me give you several observations about problem-solving
The first is that women are more likely to initiate these
discussions than men. That’s because wives tend to see problems
sooner and feel the pain deeper. That’s not to say husbands
don’t bring up issues too…they do. It’s just that wives tend to
do it more.
Another observation is that the most natural way to begin
problem-solving discussions is with a harsh start-up. When I say
harsh I mean this: you adopt a hardened facial expression. You
use a condescending tone of voice. You use inflammatory words.
And you’re on the attack from the very beginning. Here are some
examples of a harsh start-up.
• A wife opens the Visa bill and says, "I hate it that you’re
always racking up debts on our credit cards. Do you realize
you’re destroying our finances? What were you thinking when you
put all this fishing gear on the Visa card? No, you weren’t
thinking, were you? In fact, you never think when it comes to
• Or a husband comes home after he’s been out of town for a
week. The house is a mess; the TV is blaring; and he explodes.
"You know, if you really cared about me and our marriage, you’d
at least have the courtesy of picking up the house and making
things calm before I come home. But you never think about that
do you? You take my hard work for granted, and then prevent me
from having a nice homecoming with the kids."
Why is it so easy to begin this way? It’s because you don’t feel
heard. And when you don’t feel heard as a way of life in your
marriage, you start using harsh startup all the time to get your
point across. Harsh startup is a symptom that couples aren’t
And here’s the problem with harsh startup: it will absolutely
doom your conversations to failure. Conversations that begin
poorly always end poorly. If most of your problem-solving
discussions begin with harsh startup, you will resolve nothing.
So what’s the answer?
The antidote to a harsh startup is a gentle startup. Now I want
you to listen to three Proverbs that talk about the value of a
• Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh
word stirs up anger."
• Proverbs 12:18: "There is one who speaks like the piercings of
a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health."
• Proverbs 29:20: "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is
more hope for a fool than for him."
Now let me make some observations about gentle startups.
When you are learning how to do gentle startups, don’t worry
about perfectly choosing your words or carefully managing
emotions. You won’t be able to do that at first. The important
thing is that you don’t express sharp criticism or contempt. You
can feel passionate, and you can express emotion. But stick to
the issue. Make "I feel" statements rather than "you always"
statements. Describe your point of view without blaming or
Here’s a good gentle startup: "Honey, it really bothers me when
you come home and immediately turn on the TV, without stopping
to say hi or giving me a kiss. We have talked about this before
and I feel hurt. Can’t we please work on this?"
Another observation about gentle startups…if you’ve been doing
harsh startups for years, don’t expect your spouse to
immediately soften when you switch gears and use a gentle one.
It’s going to take some time to rebuild trust. It may take
months before she believes you’re really changing course, but
this new habit will pay huge dividends in your marriage. I
believe this one skill can make or break levels of intimacy in
But I’ve talked to couples who’ve said, "I just can’t do this! I
get too worked up. I feel too carried away with my emotions."
That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The ninth fruit of the
Spirit is self-control. You can master the skill of gentle
startups if you will rely on the Spirit’s power.
Now here’s a second skill for dealing with your solvable
B. Skill # 2 – Deal with the issue of flooding.
The idea of flooding comes from Proverbs 17:14. "The beginning
of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention
before a quarrel starts."
Flooding takes place first on the emotional level. You become so
overwhelmed by your spouses’ negativity, or criticism, or
contempt that you feel shell-shocked. It’s like your whole
emotional world has experienced a massive code-red, and you are
traumatized with the unfairness of what you’ve heard.
Flooding then turns into a physiological response. Your heart
rate speeds up. Your blood pressure rises. You secrete
adrenaline. Blood flow shuts down to the extremities, and your
brain doesn’t process information the same way any more. It
becomes as difficult to have a productive conversation as if you
That’s the physiology and psychology of it. What about the
People generally have two responses. Some people respond to
flooding by freezing up and going silent. They couldn’t speak if
they tried. So they stonewall their mate: they don’t look them
in the eye; they don’t hear a word they say; they register no
response whatsoever. They just sit there like a stone wall.
Other people erupt like a volcano. They unleash a torrent of
angry words with threatening gestures. Some take it further than
that. Their flooding turns physical. A spouse will hit walls,
throw things, sometimes even push and shove…in extreme cases
It’s important to know that men and women experience flooding
differently. Flooding is much more damaging for men than women.
For some reason women intuitively know how to calm themselves
down. They slow their heart rate down. Adrenaline tapers off.
And they replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to continue
rehearsing negative thoughts. They’ll alternately beat
themselves up for not winning the battle, or they’ll be
self-righteously indignant over unjust things said to them. Most
men don’t allow themselves to feel better unless they win the
fight; but this puts them in a dilemma because winning the fight
might do damage to the relationship. This is why men have got to
engage tremendous levels of self-leadership when they get into
fights with their mate.
So how do you respond to the problem of flooding?
FIRST OF ALL, YOU CALL A TIME OUT. Now this is not an easy thing
to do. But it’s crucially important that one of you call a time
out and the other honors it.
Think about it this way: Imagine that you’re an NFL quarterback.
It’s fourth quarter in the Super Bowl. The game is tied…60
seconds left. You’re marching down the field, and you’ve just
crossed the 50-yard line. But it’s 3rd and 8, and as you come to
the line you see a defensive formation that’s going to ruin your
play. You don’t have time to call an audible, so what do you do?
You call a time out. Is anyone going to criticize you for
calling a time out? No! The goal is to win the ball game, not
make the play.
In the same way taking the time out is the most courageous thing
you can do when one or both of you are flooded. The goal is
problem-resolution not winning the fight. If the time out will
better facilitate resolution, go for it!
But what do you do during the time out? Here’s what you don’t
do: you don’t mentally assassinate your partner. You don’t gorge
yourself with food. You don’t drink. Nor do you take it out on
the dog. These are not healthy ways of calming yourself down.
But here’s what you can do: pray, journal, work out, walk, read
the word, listen to music…things like that.
But the most important thing to do during the time out is
practice the discipline of self-soothing. Self-soothing is the
ability to talk to yourself under pressure so that you edge
toward calmness. The discipline of self-soothing is constantly
used by the Psalmists in the Old Testament. Under the influence
of the Holy Spirit, they talked to themselves, encouraging
themselves to trust in God in the face of great pain.
One of the best ways soothe yourself is to rehearse Scriptures
you’ve memorized. This is why I think Scripture memory is so
important to marriage.
For instance if you’re flooded and you can call to mind
Philippians 2:3-4 it’s a huge help. "Do nothing from selfishness
or empty conceit. But with humility of mind let each of you
regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not
merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for
the interests of others."
But self-soothing, like taking a time out, requires diligent
self-leadership. It is much easier to lock onto negativity, feel
the hurt, and nurse thoughts of getting even. But we have a
moral and ethical obligation both to God, and to our spouse, to
soothe ourselves so that we can resolve issues in our marriage.
That leads us to skill three in resolving solvable problems.
C. Skill # 3 – We need to make repair attempts and recognize
when repair attempts have been given.
Let me define a repair attempt. A repair attempt is something
you do to soften the pain of a confrontation or to reduce
negativity in a conversation. Repair attempts usually include
things like affirmation, apology, humor, non-verbal expressions
of kindness, and verbal expressions of love. The key is to do
this even in the heat of the argument.
In good enough marriages, couples develop repair attempts that
are unique to their relationship. They have looks they give each
other. They have little code words…little gestures. An outsider
looking in would never dream some of these things are repair
attempts. But it works for them.
The wonderful thing about a repair attempt is this: You
indirectly affirm your mate. You’re saying, "Even though I don’t
agree, and even though we’re miles apart, I value our
relationship and I value you."
Here are some examples of repair attempts.
• I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.
• I can see my part in this.
• Let’s find some common ground.
• Your point of view makes sense.
• I might be wrong here.
• I don’t think I said that right.
• Let’s start this conversation all over again.
Cindy did a great job with a repair attempt several weeks ago.
We went to Tulsa to see a rather artsy movie about the life of
the famous Dutch painted Jan Vermeer. And when the movie was
over I was primed to talk about it. I love discussing movies and
books we’ve read.
But Cindy wasn’t ready to talk yet; parts of the movie were
distressing, and she wanted to sort things out before discussing
it. So I pressured her to talk. (That wasn’t a good idea.) She
So we took a time out at Barnes and Noble. And half an hour
later Cindy said, "Can we start that conversation all over
again. What’d you think about the movie?" It was a great repair
Not only is it important to make repair attempts. It’s also
important to recognize when they are given. In some marriages
the wife is quite skilled at making repair attempts, but her
husband doesn’t catch them. He’s too caught up in his anger.
If he continues to complain and criticize without being softened
by the repair attempt, it’s deadly for communication. It won’t
take long before his wife says, "This doesn’t work. I’m not
doing this any more." And the relationship is in trouble.
So learn to recognize when your spouse is making a repair
attempt, and if your spouse isn’t catching on, be blunt. "Honey,
this is a repair attempt. Repair attempts soften negativity.
Please hear this for what it is: an expression of respect and
love, even though we are miles apart."
That leads us to skill number four.
D. Remember the vision. The vision is friendship not perfection.
Perfection says, "This relationship isn’t satisfying, and won’t
be until things change." And many Christian couples live with
these destructive thoughts. They say to themselves, "If I’m a
growing Christian, I should be able to have a marriage that
meets pretty much all my needs." So they demand much of their
spouses, and the marriage takes on a form of legalism rather
It’s no wonder they find themselves unhappy.
The goal of a Christian marriage is friendship.
We see friendship-goal in Proverbs 12:4. "An excellent wife is
the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like
rottenness in his bones." This is a beautiful picture of
friendship. A crown is a symbol of dignity, honor and value. An
excellent wife works hard to convey this to her husband, even
when she’s angry.
But this verse makes it clear that it’s not always easy for a
wife to convey honor in marriage. The phrase translated
excellent means valiant warrior. Sometimes warm friendship in
marriage is a battle against our own sinful bent.
We also see this friendship-goal in 1 Peter 3:7. Peter says,
"You husbands, likewise, live with your wives in an
understanding way." The words live with mean to settle down with
your wife…dwell with her in an attitude of friendship. The word
understanding way means that you’re getting to know her both as
a woman and as a unique individual.
The friendship-goal generates a whole different outlook on
problems. When problems come up rather than becoming overly
frustrated and discouraged, you keep thinking, "Hey, muster up,
buckle down…marriage is a marathon. Let’s keep on working. We’ll
get through this."
In your marriage some problems will be solvable problems. If you
want to resolve solvable problems you need four skills: gentle
startup; self-soothing; repair attempts; and the friendship
But some of your problems will be unsolvable problems. You will
have them for the rest of your marriage. So…
3. TO BUILD A GOOD ENOUGH MARRIAGE…you’ve got to also work at
accepting those problems that cannot be solved.
A. Now, I’m going to spend the entire message next week talking
about how to deal with unsolvable problems, so all I want to do
this week is remind you that there are unsolvable problems in
It’s not that you won’t make any progress in these problems –
you may make great progress – but the problem will never be
resolved to your complete satisfaction.
Now unsolvable problems come from a variety of different
SOME PROBLEMS ARE UNSOLVABLE BECAUSE A SPOUSE REFUSES TO GROW
UP. There are some men who acted like frat boys in college. Now
it’s twenty-five years later and they’re still acting like frat
boys. These guys are narcissistic and immature. They haven’t
matured in twenty-five years, and they’re probably not going to.
Now that seems like an unsolvable problem to a faithful wife who
longs for a mature relationship with a man. But what can she do?
You can’t force maturity on fifty-year old unwilling to change.
At some level she has to make peace with the fact that this may
be an unsolvable problem.
OTHER PROBLEMS ARE UNSOLVABLE BECAUSE YOU HAVE HUGE DIFFERENCES
IN PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT. Some of the funniest TV shows
have depicted couples with huge variations in their personality:
I Love Lucy, The Bill Cosby Show, and Everybody Loves Raymond,
just to name a few. Every married couple can identify with the
misunderstandings that arise when opposite personalities clash.
But in real life personality differences don’t seem so funny.
Imagine the wife who comes from a proper southern family where
the goal was gracious communication. Mom and Dad always chose
their words carefully, and their words were always intended to
convey kindness. They never raised their voices and then rarely
let an unkind word pass their lips.
But she marries a man whose parents emigrated from Italy. In his
growing up years conversations were volatile and full of energy.
They argued and haggled, and when they weren’t being heard, they
simply increased their volume. More often than not they said the
first thing that crossed their mind and didn’t care what people
These unsuspecting lovers get married, and they can’t believe
how different they are. The wife is perpetually embarrassed by
her husband’s spontaneity. She perceives he’s always putting his
foot in his mouth. The husband is dumbfounded over why his wife
is so bottled up in her emotions. Why can’t she just cut loose
and say what she thinks?
This couple is likely going to have communication issues for the
rest of their marriage. It doesn’t mean they can’t make some
progress. And it doesn’t mean they won’t be deeply in love, but
their radically different orientation toward communication is
going to be a lifelong struggle.
AND SOME PROBLEMS COME BECAUSE MARRIED PARTNERS HAVE DIFFERENT
DREAMS. Imagine the man who was raised the son of an Army
officer. He moved seventeen times when he was growing up, and
hated every minute of it. When he goes into college he chooses a
profession where he can be in one city for his entire career.
His dream is to settle down in one place and never leave. If he
never traveled again for the rest of his life then that would
suit him just fine.
But he falls in love with a woman who grew up in the same town
her whole life. She dreams of traveling, and experiencing new
cultures, and she thinks, "If I have to stay in this same town
my whole life I’ll be bored out of my mind." They have two
totally different dreams. And this is going to be a problem for
them for the rest of their lives.
B. Now I hate to say it, but well over half of the problems you
face in your marriage will be unsolvable.
And the challenge is this: you have to learn to recognize which
problems are solvable and which are not. And then you have to
learn to accept those problems that you will never solve.
And here’s the things that characterizes every good enough
marriage: they’re really good at telling the difference. They’re
highly skilled at tackling those problems that can be solved and
working on them in God’s strength. But they also have this sense
of serenity about those problems that will never get solved, and
they can live in the tension just fine.
I’ll talk about accepting unsolvable problems next week.
The bottom line is that there are two ways you can think about
marriage: You can aspire for a so-called excellent marriage. But
there is a downside. Couples striving for an excellent marriage,
usually end up highly conscious that needs aren’t getting met.
But couples aspire to a "good enough" marriage have a completely
different mindset. They’re focused on friendship. As time goes
one they’re gradually conscious that many important needs are
getting met. But they’re getting met – not because they force
them – they get met as the by-product of the friendship.
Amazingly, they have what the so-called excellent couples want,
but they’ve obtained it indirectly. And when they get it,
they’re humble about it and say, "You know, whatever we have is
solely by the grace of God."