Common Stages of a Marriage
Most marriage relationships develop along a certain pattern of progression. First comes the romance; then comes the disillusionment; then comes the misery, frustration and rebellion; then, if they stay together, comes the resignation and acceptance; and finally if they continue to work at progressing, comes the deep satisfying love and joy and each other.
When a couple first meet there is a romantic, sentimental flow of attraction that can be quick or slow to develop. A self orientated love begins to develop and a woman thinks and says to herself, “he looks like a good prospect to meet my needs” or “he is good looking, he should be a good provider, I enjoy being with him, etc.” A man is thinking and says to himself, “she is attractive, fun to be with, will be a good mother to our children, etc.”
After the couple marries and the honeymoon is over, they begin to experience the stresses of daily living together in closeness and intimacy. It is not long before “intimacy shock” (somewhat similar to culture shock) sets in. The novelty wears off, and the irritation and aggravation of the other’s selfish attitudes and habits sets in. They begin to see things about their spouse they never noticed before and begin to make comments and criticize each other.
He or she does not appear as attractive as before and even begins to annoy and repulse in small and/or big ways. Differences of opinion over dealing with common problems begin to arise. Arguments start but do not get resolved as each one refuses to give in. A power struggle then begins to develop. Who is going to get their way? Or maybe one gives in to the other by getting quiet and pouting but holding unresolved anger inside that turns into resentment and bitterness that will erupt when they argue again. They become more and more disillusioned with their mate. Their marriage does not appear to be what they thought it was going to be.
Misery then begins to set in. They are not happy over the tension that begins to develop in the home. Escapes and distractions begin to be looked for to get their mind off the developing problems. One or both begin to retreat into a shell or go into attack mode when differences arise. Growing resentment and unforgiveness set in. Every effort to resolve differences seem to be frustrated. The wife and/or the husband often become rebellious toward the situation and each other. This can occur quickly in a marriage or only after a long drawn out process. The beginning self-orientated romantic love dies, and attraction feelings disappear. At this point, they often consider divorce as a means of escaping the misery and frustration and lack of love. Breaking their vows then becomes a small issue compared with the unhappiness they are in. Friends and even counselors will often advise them to seek someone else who will meet their needs as ‘God does not want anyone to be unhappy,’ a common misconception.
If outside pressures are strong enough, the couple will settle into quiet endurance of each other. Resigning themselves to a life of misery, they will accept what appears to be the inevitable, each locked into their own self orientated pattern of compromise. Deep rooted conflicts and bitterness will remain below the surface of a superficial relationship centering in getting on in life. Each will put on a front of a normal marriage to those outside the home. If they are in a church, they will often think others live the same way and no one is to talk about it, as this is thought to be the normal Christian marriage.
The Biblical view of a Christian marriage is quite different. The self centered love people are born with (2 Timothy 3:2-4) is difficult to deal with in the give and take of a marriage that requires much unselfish giving. Many sinners do not want to learn to sacrifice enough to make their marriage work. Many professing Christians often do not want to either, and they follow the above pattern. God then intervenes by allowing their self-centered love for each other to wither and die so that His self-sacrificing love (as typified in sending His Son to die on a cruel cross for sinners—John 3:16) has an opportunity to develop.
Christians do not often understand this process and desperately try to hang on to their sentimental love they courted and married on, thinking that is what God wants them to do. God instead wants them to repent of their resentment and unforgiveness and let go of their self-centered superficial love and let His self-sacrificing love flow through them to their mate. As a Christian spouse begins to deal with the “big log” in their own eye and not the “little splinter” in the other (Luke 6:41-42), they begin to see things the way God does. As a husband begins to lead and lay down his life in self-sacrificing love for his wife as Christ did for His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), and the wife begins to respect and obey her husband’s position as the head of the house, then their marriage begins to heal. If only one spouse surrenders to God’s will and begins to walk in self-sacrificing love, then the Holy Spirit will begin to convict the other of their sin and need to change.
As God works in their marriage, tension and convictions grow until repentance and change come and peace and joy fill the hearts of the obedient ones. Then differences become opportunities for spiritual growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, patience, and humility (Galatians 5:22-26). Their walk with the Lord and each other becomes daily richer and more satisfying. On the other hand, God may heal a marriage by one spouse hardening under conviction and breaking their vows and receiving God’s judgment (Mark 10:6-9). The faithful spouse, on the other hand, at the end of this process enjoys a deepening self-sacrificing love for Christ and others (James 1:2-4).
-----------------------------------Joe Sturz www.sturzchristiancounseling.com Brother Joe "a spiritual son of Abraham" Sturz
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Sharing what the Lord has taught me through: His Word, 45+ years as a Biblical counselor, my mistakes, failures & successes. Remember the Gospel: Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin & rose again from the dead to secure a place in heaven for His people (I Corinthians 15:1- 4).