When you think of a bad or ugly marriage, what comes to your mind?
We amy think of someone with a lot of irritations or disagreements or conflict. We all have problems and conflicts in marriage. As a young married couple, we may think that we are the only one that has that problem. Or only bad marriages have our problem.
Even couples with great marriages experience problems or irritations in their marriage. In fact, the majority of ALL marriages experience problems. Having a problem or conflict doesn't mean that something is wrong with my marriage. They mean that we are part of the human race.
After many years of marriage and many years of giving marriage counsel to other couples, we chuckle on the inside when we hear the complaints that people have. We have personally experienced most of the common problems and we have certainly heard all of them voiced by others. However, many people carry the burden of that problem alone, not knowing that it is very common.
The Top Ten Problems for Married Couples compiled from research compiled by Prepare-Enrich in 2008 (over 50,000 couples) are listed below. Each quality is followed by the percent of people who identified with the statement.
Top Ten Problems for Married Couples
- My partner is sometimes too stubborn. 84%
- Having children reduced our marital satisfaction. 81%
- My partner is sometimes too negative or critical. 78%
- During an argument, one person ends up feeling responsible for the problem. 77%
- My partner does not have enough time and energy for me. 77%
- I go out of my way to avoid conflict with my partner. 76%
- I wish my partner were more willing to share feelings. 76%
- My partner has some personal habits that bother me. 75%
- I have difficulty dealing with my partner’s moodiness. 73%
- My partner and I have dissimilar recreational interests. 73%
The critical issue between couples who have strong marriages and those who don’t is their commitment to each other and their responses to the issues that bother them. The issues can be obstacles in marriage but they don’t have to be.
A block of granite, which is an obstacle on the path of the weak, becomes a stepping stone on the path of the strong. Thomas Carlyle
Unfortunately, when we read about marriages in the Bible, God doesn't give us a little side commentary with an explanation of what went wrong, what they should have done, and how they should work it out.
What He does give us though are principles of how to relate to others (all of which also apply to the marriage relationship) and specific instructions to husbands and wives. And He gives us the Holy Spirit to show us how and when to apply them to our situation.
One very interesting example of marriage in the Old Testament is that of Nabal and Abigail. Their story is recounted in 1 Samuel 25. We don't pretend to know all of the in's and out's of what was happening between them or in their culture at that time.
The story centers around Nabal who is a very wealthy but foolish man. After David and his men had protected Nabal's workers in the fields, David requested some provisions from Nabal. David was on the run, trying to avoid Saul. They were in the desert and probably out of supplies. Nabal denies David (through his messengers) any food or other provisions.
Nabal doesn't know who David is, doesn't care, and, basically, tells him to get lost. Nabal had plenty but didn't even bother to check out David's account of the situation or who he was. Nabal's men knew that Nabal had offended David and his men. They appealed to Abigail, hoping she could smooth over the situation.
Even if we didn't know any more of the story, it is obvious that Nabal is greedy and brash. It appears that Abigail had smoothed things over more than once. She probably had at least eight out of ten to those "top ten problems." The guys knew who to go to about the situation.
When Abigail heard what had happened, she jumped into action. She went to David with two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep, roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs. She approached David humbly and took responsibility for the whole problem. She knew all about David and offered an apology and praise to him.
David accepted her apology and the provisions. It probably didn't hurt that she was also beautiful and intelligent (1 Samuel 25:3). Abigail did all of this on her own. She didn't talk to Nabal first but she didn't hide it from him. When she got back that night, he was drunk. She waited until the next morning and told him. After hearing the situation, Nabal went into shock or a coma. He died 10 days later.
When David heard about what happened to Nabal, he didn't hestitate to ask Abigail to marry him. He ended up with a beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy woman.
So ..... what do we learn from that marriage story? At least, these three principles:
- First, a wife sometimes has to balance her husband's surliness. Food helps.
- Second, humility smooths over lots of offenses.
- Third, God honors our faithfulness to Him and generosity with others.
Good marriages don’t just happen; they take work. They take commitment. They take humilty.
More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come.
For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer