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Summary: How to have a healthy relationship - scriptural principles of interaction, with bulletin/sermon notes.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Marriage: How to Have a Relationship That Works

Ephesians 4:25-32

Also see Colossians 3:12-13; Phil 4:8; Prov 17:9; Prov 25:12; 18:13; 23:12

A husband expressed his frustration by saying, “Mary, you’re not the woman I thought I married!” She looked at him with a slight smile and said, “I never was the woman you thought you married!”

Your “…marital happiness depends little on the person you marry. Rather, it’s how you cope with conflict.” “Your success in marriage (and in every relationship) depends on how you handle your differences and similarities. Everyone marries a foreigner to some degree.” 1

So how do you have a relationship that works? What are the necessary steps to a healthy relationship?

1. You stop being deceptive and speak the truth

It was Dr. H. Norman Wright who said, “Many conflicts between couples occur because of any one of the following: Each has a different thinking pattern or process that leads to conflict; Each has a different communication style that leads to conflict; Each has a lack of understanding and connection with the other.” 2

“Dr. John Gottman’s studies revealed the four destructive forces in a marriage – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. He calls them the four horsemen.”

Criticism: Attacks, blames or fault-finds another person’s personality and character. Stems from our thought lives: Accusatory – use of the word “you”; Blame-game - use of the word “Should”

It would be helpful to read a bit by Rudyard Kipling on this particular destructive force (tongue-in-cheek poetry) - “Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say, For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away; But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other’s tale - The female of the species is more deadly than the male.” 3

How our thoughts affect our relationships: Assumptions, Overgeneralizations, Magnifications, Negative interpretations, Suspicions, Resentments due to poor self-image, breakdown of trust and selfishness. Scripture tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ 2 Cor. 10:5

Criticism hides in our humor and jokes. See Proverbs 26:18-19. Criticism leads to invalidation – the breakdown of friendship. Criticism also leads to destructive Guilt and Intimidation

Contempt: The intent to insult or psychologically abuse your spouse. Namecalling, negative nonverbal actions and mocking are all part of the pattern.”

Defensiveness: A natural protective response intended to diffuse attacks coming from the outside. The greater degree of defensiveness between a couple, the less the amount of emotional intimacy exists in the relationship. Those walls keep you apart.

Some wives treat their husbands like the one mother I read about recently in a parenting magazine. This mother took her 4 year old son with her all day long while she tried on dresses, at store after store. Finally, at the last store, she was trying to get her son to go back into the dressing room with her while she tried on one more dress. “No, mom,” he screamed, “I’m tired of seeing you naked!” Now most husbands don’t have that particular problem, but they do resent being treated like little boys. And they usually get defensive when treated as such.

Stonewalling: Feels like talking to a brick wall. Elicits little or no response. The loudest sound is silence and the message it imparts is distance and disapproval. Men, here’s your sign – this technique is used more by husbands than wives. 4

2. You take care of your anger issues immediately

What the scripture implies here is that we absolutely must get resolution before it’s too late.

I see relationships break down all the time at this point – anger and forgiveness – because they subscribe to the 50/50 plan. I mentioned this last Sunday, but let me just talk a bit more about it. “The 50/50 plan says, “you do your part and I’ll do mine.” That sounds logical, but couples who think it works may be surprised to know that this arrangement is based on merit and performance. With the 50/50 plan, the focus is more on what the other person is giving than on what you are giving.”

“A young man saw an older couple sitting down to eat at McDonalds. They had ordered only one meal and an extra cup. They carefully divided the hamburger in half, counted out the fries and poured half of the drink into the extra cup. The old man began to eat and his wife just sat there and watched him with her hands in her lap. The young man decided he’d order another meal for them, so they wouldn’t have to split their meal. “Oh no,” the man said, “we’ve been married for 50 years, and everything has always been 50/50.” When the young man turned to the old woman and asked her if she was going to eat her half.. “Not yet,” she replied, “It’s his turn with the teeth.”

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