Solutions to Common Complaints
THE Bible does not claim that marriage is easy. The apostle Paul was inspired by God to write that married couples would have to deal with “everyday troubles.” (1 Corinthians 7:28, Today’s English Version) But a married couple can do much to lessen the troubles they experience and increase the joy they bring to each other. Consider the following six common complaints made by husbands and wives, and see how applying Bible principles can help.
“My mate and I are growing apart.”
“Make sure of the more important things.”—PHILIPPIANS 1:10.
Your marriage is one of the most important things in your life. It deserves priority. So check whether your schedules contribute to this complaint. Do not let the necessary business of life cause you and your spouse to live separate lives. Of course, secular work and other unavoidable situations may temporarily force you out of each other’s company. But you can and should put a limit on anything over which you have control—like time spent on hobbies or with friends.
Some spouses, however, may take on extra work or hobbies just so they do not have to spend time with their mate. Such individuals are not “growing apart” from their spouse. They are running away from problems. If you or your mate fall into that category, you need to identify the underlying issues and deal with them. Only by sharing your life with your mate can the two of you grow together and “become one flesh” in the fullest sense.—Genesis 2:24.
How some have applied this advice: Andrew * and Tanji, an Australian couple, have been married for ten years. Andrew says: “I’ve learned that working too much and taking on too many social obligations can be dangerous to a marriage. So my wife and I make time to talk and share our feelings with each other.”
Dave and Jane, who live in the United States and have been married for 22 years, devote the first half hour of every evening to sharing their experiences and thoughts. Jane says: “This is such an important time that we let nothing interfere with it.”
“I am no longer getting what I want out of this relationship.”
“Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 CORINTHIANS 10:24.
A person who is primarily concerned with what he or she is getting from the marriage will never be truly happy, even if that individual remarries many times. Marriage works when each mate focuses more on giving than on receiving. Jesus states the reason: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
How some have applied this advice: Maria and Martin, who live in Mexico, have been married for 39 years. But the road has not always been smooth. They remember one rough patch in particular. “In the midst of a heated confrontation,” recalls Maria, “I said something particularly disrespectful to Martin. He became very angry. I tried to explain that I didn’t really mean what I said, that I was just upset. But he wouldn’t listen.” Martin says, “During that argument, I began thinking that we could no longer live together, that I should just quit trying to make the marriage work.”
Martin needed respect. Maria desired understanding. Neither was getting what he or she wanted.
How were they able to solve the problem? “I gave myself time to cool down,” says Martin, “and we both decided to apply the Bible’s wise counsel to be respectful and kind. Over the years, we have learned that no matter how many times problems come up, we can overcome them if we pray for God’s help and apply the advice found in the Bible.”—Isaiah 48:17, 18; Ephesians 4:31, 32.
“My mate does not live up to his (or her) obligations.”
“Each of us will render an account for himself to God.”—ROMANS 14:12.
Without a doubt, a marriage will not function at its best if only one mate contributes to its success. But the situation will be worse if both mates are negligent, each blaming the other.
If you dwell primarily on what your mate should be doing, you doom yourself to a life of misery. Especially will that be so if you use your mate’s shortcomings as an excuse to abdicate your own responsibilities. On the other hand, if you strive to be a good husband or a good wife, your marriage will likely improve. (1 Peter 3:1-3) More important, you prove to God that you honor his arrangement of marriage, and your actions will bring him great pleasure.—1 Peter 2:19.
How some have applied this advice: Kim and her husband, who live in Korea, have been married for 38 years. Kim says: “Sometimes my husband gets annoyed with me and stops talking to me, and I don’t even know why. That makes me feel that his love for me has cooled. I’ve sometimes found myself thinking, ‘Why does he want me to understand him when he does not try to understand me?’”
Kim could focus on the injustice of the situation and on what her mate is not doing. Instead, she chooses a different course. “Rather than remain upset,” says Kim, “I’ve learned that it is best to take the initiative in trying to make peace. In the end, we are both able to calm down and talk things over peacefully.”—James 3:18.
“My wife is not submissive.”
“The head of every man is the Christ.”—1 CORINTHIANS 11:3.
A husband who feels that his wife is not submissive should first examine whether he is willing to show submission to his Head, Jesus Christ. A husband can show his submission by following Jesus’ example.
“Husbands,” wrote the apostle Paul, “continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) Jesus did not “lord it over” his disciples. (Mark 10:42-44) He gave his followers clear direction and corrected them when necessary. But he was never harsh. He was kind to them and made allowances for their limitations. (Matthew 11:29, 30; Mark 6:30, 31; 14:37, 38) He always put their interests ahead of his own.—Matthew 20:25-28.
A husband needs to ask himself this question, ‘Is my view of headship and of women in general influenced more by local custom than by the counsel and examples found in the Bible?’ For instance, what would you think of a woman who disagreed with her husband’s viewpoint and firmly but respectfully expressed her dissenting view? In the Bible, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is held up as an example of a submissive wife. (1 Peter 3:1, 6) However, she spoke her mind when necessary, such as when Abraham failed to see certain dangers that threatened the family.—Genesis 16:5; 21:9-12.
Obviously, Abraham did not terrorize Sarah into silence. He was not a tyrant. Likewise, a husband who follows Bible counsel will not browbeat his wife, demanding that she be subject to his every whim. He will earn his wife’s respect by exercising his headship in a compassionate manner.
How some have applied this advice: James, who lives in England and has been married for eight years, says: “I am learning not to make important decisions without consulting my wife. I try not to think only of myself. Instead, I aim to put her needs ahead of my own.”
George lives in the United States and has been married for 59 years. He says: “I have tried to treat my wife, not as a second-class citizen, but as an intelligent and capable partner.”—Proverbs 31:10.
“My husband does not show initiative.”
“The truly wise woman has built up her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”—PROVERBS 14:1.
If your husband is reluctant to make decisions or to take the lead in managing the household, you have at least three options. (1) You could constantly point out his failings or (2) you could usurp his role as head of the family or (3) you could sincerely commend him for any efforts he does make. If you choose either of the first two options, you will tear down your house with your own hands. Choosing the third option will help you build up, or strengthen, your marriage.
Many men value respect even more than love. So if you make your husband feel respected—make him feel that his efforts to take the lead in the family are effective and appreciated—he will likely improve in his role. Of course, you will at times disagree with your husband on a matter. The two of you need to discuss those issues. (Proverbs 18:13) But the words you choose and the tone you use will help either to tear down or to build up your marriage. (Proverbs 21:9; 27:15) Express yourself respectfully, and you will be more likely to achieve the outcome you want—a husband who does not hesitate to take the lead.
How some have applied this advice: Michele, who lives in the United States and has been married for 30 years, says: “Because my mother raised me and my sisters without the support of a husband, she was a very strong, independent woman. I tend to imitate those traits. So I constantly have to work on showing proper subjection. For example, I have learned to consult my husband instead of just making my own decisions.”
Rachel, who lives in Australia and has been married to Mark for 21 years, was also influenced by her background. “My mother was never submissive to my father,” she recalls. “Arguments and disrespect were the norm. In the early years of my marriage, I imitated my mother. Over the years, though, I have learned the value of applying the Bible’s advice about showing respect. Now Mark and I enjoy a much happier marriage.”
“I can no longer stand my mate’s annoying habits.”
“Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.”—COLOSSIANS 3:13.
When you were first dating, you were likely so focused on your prospective mate’s fine qualities that you barely noticed his or her flaws. Can you do the same now? No doubt, your mate gives you legitimate cause for complaint. However, ask yourself, ‘On which of my mate’s qualities will I choose to focus—the good or the bad?’
Jesus used a powerful illustration that shows the need for us to overlook the flaws we see in others. “Why . . . do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye,” he asked, “but do not consider the rafter in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) A straw could be a small piece of grass. A rafter, on the other hand, is a bulky length of timber used to hold up the roof of a house. His point? “First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:5.
Jesus introduced this illustration with a sobering warning. “Stop judging,” he said, “that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, 2) If you would like God to overlook your faults—the rafter in your eye—it is in your best interests to overlook flaws in your mate.—Matthew 6:14, 15.
How some have applied this advice: Jenny, who lives in England and has been married to Simon for nine years now, says: “I find that my most frequent cause for irritation with my husband is his tendency not to plan ahead, to handle things at the last minute. That’s ironic, because when we were dating, I used to love that he was so spontaneous. However, I now recognize that I too have faults, like being too controlling. Simon and I are learning to overlook each other’s little imperfections.”
Curt, who is married to Michele, quoted earlier, states: “If you focus on your mate’s annoying traits, those faults will seem to get bigger and bigger. I prefer to focus on the qualities that made me fall in love with Michele to start with.”
The Secret to Success
These few examples illustrate that challenges in a marriage are inevitable but not insurmountable. What is the secret to success? Develop a love for God and a willingness to apply the counsel contained in his Word, the Bible.
Alex and Itohan, who live in Nigeria and have been married for more than 20 years, have learned that secret. Alex says: “I’ve discovered that nearly any marital difficulty can be resolved if a couple applies Bible principles.” His wife says: “We have learned the importance of praying together regularly and of applying the Bible’s advice to be sincerely loving and patient with each other. We now have fewer problems than when we first got married.”
Would you like to learn more about how the practical counsel found in God’s Word can benefit your family? If so, ask Jehovah’s Witnesses to discuss with you chapter 14 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? *
^ par. 4 Some names have been changed.
^ par. 31 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Do we make time for each other?
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Do I try to give more than I get?
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Do I take the initiative to settle disputes?
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Do I consider my wife’s opinion before making a decision?
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Do I focus on my mate’s good qualities?
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION