When it comes to approaching problems as a married couple it would be good to pray:
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Have you ever thought of approaching problems that come up in your marriage by first praying the above prayer? And then ask God to help you approach your spouse in a respectful, non-offensive manner with pure motives. We’ve personally found the results to be amazing —just as our God is!
For this Marriage Message we’re sharing a portion of the “Couple Counsel” that was given by Carrie and Gary Oliver. It was presented in the fall 2003 issue of Marriage Partnership Magazine. (Sadly, this magazine is no longer in publication.) Pay particular attention to the advice given in response to the question:
“My wife’s 92-year-old father moved in with us 3 years ago after his wife died. While it’s a blessing for my father-in-law and my wife, I’m struggling. My selfish side sees me as second place to her father. We have little private time and few dates. We do most everything together —at Dad’s speed. How do I see my way through this circumstance?
“This is a difficult situation. If you say anything you can come across like a needy, selfish, and immature child. Yet because you care for your wife and your marriage you have to say something.
“It’s usually a challenge for at least one partner to leave and cleave at the beginning of a marriage. It’s an entirely different challenge when you’ve become a caretaker for an elderly parent who’s in poor health and in need of constant attention.
“One of the hazards of caring for an elderly parent is that it’s easy to become so focused on his/her needs that over time all family activities are determined by how it will affect the parent. The caretaker can lose perspective on how it’s affecting her life and her marriage.
“We encourage you to follow Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:15 to ‘speak the truth in love.’ After eliciting prayer support by discussing the situation with your pastor and perhaps some of your wife’s friends, prayerfully look for a time when you be alone with her.
“Make sure it’s not at the end of a long day, when she’s tired. Tell her you have something important to say that you’d like her to think and pray about. Make sure she knows you aren’t looking for or needing an immediate response so she won’t feel pressured. She’s already feeling more than enough pressure.
Pray for Spouse
“Then when you get together, hold her hands, open with a short prayer, look in her eyes, and share your version of this statement: ‘Honey, I love you and I want a great marriage and a great family. And right now that includes your dad. I want to support you in caring for your dad just as I’d want you to support me if it were my mom or dad.
“‘However, what we’re doing isn’t working. I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about us, and I’m concerned about our family and how we can more effectively meet everyone’s needs, including yours. I don’t have all the answers but I know we need someone to help us step back and gain a fresh perspective. The better we are for each other, the better we can be for those we love. Would you consider going with me to meet with a counselor who has experience working with couples who’ve had a parent move in with them?’
“Most of the individuals who have approached the situation like this have had a positive response from their spouse. They’ve gone on to discover support and resources they had not been aware of. Another option is that many communities have support groups for couples who are caring for an elderly parent. We’d encourage you to see if one is available in your community.”
Additional Help in Approaching Problems
(Please Note: Another article, on this particular issue of marriage —care taking for a parent or loved one as a married couple, is written by Jenny Means. It can be read on the Journey to Surrender web site in an article titled, A Haven in Your Home.)
While this particular issue isn’t one all of you are dealing with, our intent is more to show this as a healthy way to deal with problems that come up into our marriages. It’s one that embodies respect, humbleness, and honor directed toward the other spouse.
As we’re told in Ecclesiastes 10:12, “the words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious.” Are the words directed at your spouse wise and gracious?
We’re told in the Bible:
• “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)
• “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27)
• “The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:17)
• “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
There is no “condition” put on these directives from scripture. In other words, if he/she treats you in an honoring way, THEN you should do as well. No. We are accountable for our own words. No matter what the other person says or does, we do not have to stoop so low as to speak and act in an ungodly manner.
• “ALL of you, live in harmony with one another. Be sympathetic. Love as brothers. Be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:8-12).
• “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
As you approach your spouse to work through whatever problems you are facing, we are “asking God to fill you with all knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. This is so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ALSO —
For additional ideas to approaching your spouse, please read:
There are additional articles in the following sections of this web site to help you as well:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Messages