This seminar is specifically targeted at marital concerns. Areas of coverage shall include reasons for this God ordained institution; Communication in marriage; How problems develop; ‘Ingredients’ of a happy home; Handling the ‘enemies’ to marital bliss, and lots more. Also interspersed with relevant case studies to help drive the messages home.
MARRIAGE COUNSELLING - TURNING YOUR HOUSE TO A HAPPY HOME
The Word of God puts it thus, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14)
WHY THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE?
1. For Companionship
“And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Gen.2:18)
2. For Completeness
And the Lord God commanded that the man should leave his parents and be joined to his wife, ‘and they shall become one flesh.’ (Gen. 2:24). God in His sovereignty brought a man and a woman together as one flesh, (not a man and another man.)
3. For Procreation
Sex was provided within the ‘family context’ from the very beginning:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it … (Gen. 1: 27-28 NKJV).
In marriage three personalities are involved:
God Husband Wife In the diagram, all communication lines are opened. But if one party has a communication breakdown between him/her and God, it will affect his/her communication with the spouse.
INTIMACY WITH GOD
Every Christian that wants to live a meaningful life must be very close to God. It is important to spend time with God in the place of prayer, Bible study, and meditating on God’s word.
Build a Christ-Centred home. Direct the attention of the entire family to the supremacy of Christ in your lives and personal endeavours. When the lines of communication are open between God and the couple, things will work out better.
In an article titled “Challenges of Equipping Nigerian missionaries for the Final Harvest” Segun Adekoya reiterates the fact that “There is a steady decline in the personal spiritual discipline of an average Nigerian Christian of today ……Most of the churches in Nigeria have lost focus of discipling converts.” (Adekoya 2007, 1-2). Attention of people should be directed to the need to draw nearer to God. And as people of God let us handle discipleship training with all seriousness. We should stop assuming for instance that every born-again child of God knows what is right or wrong, particularly when it comes to issues that are not directly referred to in the Bible. For example, what should a married man do if he finds out after two years of marriage that his wife had a child before their wedding? Discipleship training for instance should address such issues as ‘Transparency in relationships; Money matters etc.’
COMMUNICATION: KEY TO YOUR MARRIAGE
All too often conflicts erupt among friends, spouses, peers, relations and others in their interraction with one another, basically due to communication problems. Communication is said to be the bedrock of all forms of relationships, and a good understanding is the hallmark of communication. Positive form of communication would attract good and successful relationship, while negative communication would result into a disintegration of relationship. Let me refresh our minds on few tips about communication. In the words of Norman Wright, “Communication is a process (either verbal or non-verbal) of sharing information with another person in such a way that he understands what you are saying.”(Wright 1974,52), and according to Appleby, it is “the interchange of ideas, facts and emotions by two or more persons by the use of words, letters and symbols.” At times human beings draw their conclusions by whatever interpretations are attached to words that are spoken or actions that are displayed. Unfortunately some of the interpretations are sometimes wrong because they are based on false premises.
I am reiterating in essence the fact that “communication is often hard work.” When two or more people are engaged in any discussion, each party expects the other party to listen to the points being raised and respond appropriately. But often we get disappointed when the feedback that is received is not in consonance with the message that was sent. From daily interraction with others, many of us will agree with the fact that misunderstanding do result when all the facts on the ground are sometimes not clear enough for people to make the right decision. In a standard communication model when the sender encodes a message, it passes through a medium or channel, and the receiver at the other end decodes the message. The feedback will depend largely on the listening ability of the receiver.
The key to effective communication is effective Listening. More often than not, when two people are engaged in communication, each person is more interested in airing his or her views and opinions rather than taking the pains to hear and understand what the partner is saying, and while this unspoken competition is going on a lot of salient points get missing or distorted in the discussion. In the words of Norman, ‘sensitive listening is reaching out to the other person, actively caring about what he says and what he is not saying. (Wright 1974, 56). Intimate relationship is built upon mutual trust. One partner believing that the other partner will not betray him or her. Taking cognizance of this fact, it is possible to build a healthy relationship. Every concerned party must work at it to make it a success.
Communication is HARD WORK. It is a process that involves Talking, Listening and Understanding.
*Communication is more than talking
*Listening is very essential in building strong lines of communication in a marriage. And it takes effort.
Whenever one partner is talking the other partner should exercise patience to listen to all that he/she wants to say. One knotty issue in communication is making yourself understood. More often than not, ‘one partner tries to second guess the other.’ It is an assumption most of the times to think that you know the end of what the other fellow is saying, unfortunately by the time he/she is interrupted a lot of facts get muddled up. “But when husband and wife start to listen to one another an amazing thing happens: they start to feel understood by each other.’ (Wright 1974, 61)
*Make conscious effort to improve your communication skills.
Efforts must be put into actually understanding your partner. There is an adage that says, ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say.’ The secret to success is BE OPEN TO EACH OTHER. Do not have a hidden agenda when you are discussing, say it the right way.
HOW DO PROBLEMS DEVELOP?
Many issues do constitute crises in the lives of individuals and families. We shall attempt to discuss a number of them in this seminar. But note that the list is not exhaustive.
*Personal needs : What do people need to live effectively?
- Personal worth
- Security (unconditional acceptance)
- Significance (self-importance)
*Motivation: Why do people do what they do? It is important
to probe into our reasons for taking certain actions.
* Personality structure: How do our thoughts, feelings and chosen behaviours interact? What we think about an event determines our response to that event. It is important to renew our minds by changing the way events are evaluated.
(Rom.12: 2) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Also some psychological problems develop as a result of hitting an obstacle on the road to meeting one’s desired goal, thus frustration is experienced.
There are different categories of obstacles:
CATEGORY OF OBSTACLE FORMS OF FRUSTRATION Unattainable Goal Guilt-Neurosis-Psychosis External circumstances Resentment Fear of failure Anxiety
UNATTAINABLE GOAL: Setting a goal that is beyond one’s ability to attain. It is certain that such a person cannot reach his/her goal and this will result into guilty feelings, a feeling of worthlessness and that can lead to serious mental disorder if care is not taken.
EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCE: The goal is attainable but a particular situation or another person stands as hindrance, as a result the goal becomes evasive.
FEAR OF FAILURE: A goal is set; no external hindrance; all external circumstances are favourable but there is the fear of ‘I cannot make it.’
Other sources of problems include:
• World system
• Societal pressure
• Significant others e.g. pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, etc.
• Peer pressure
• Siblings (Crabb 1997,113-136)
YOUR TONGUE: YOUR SAVIOUR, YOUR DESTROYER
Your words can BUILD UP as well as PULL DOWN. Therefore watch what you say at all times. If your statement would cause emotional pain to your partner, as much as it lies in your power, please avoid it. God’s Declarations are as follows:
Prov. 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
James 3: 2-10 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, and also able to bridle the whole body……the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity… ”
“Words can, and do hurt a person.”
There was the story of a husband and his wife who were always quarrelling in their house. It was never a home due to the insults they were hauling at each other, not minding the presence of their children. Considering the strength of the man he was always beating her up as she used what she knew best, that is abusing the man. ‘The tongue is a fire.’ (James 3:6). One day she got tired of the war in her matrimonial home and she approached a friend to come to her aid. ‘That is a simple matter.’ The friend advised.
THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOR A HAPPY HOME
*INTIMACY WITH GOD
*FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is:
*WALK IN WISDOM
*BE A GOOD STEWARD - TIME, MONEY, RESOURCES
*COURTING IN MARRIAGE
*DISCIPLINE OF CHILDREN:
3 F’s To Child Discipline
- Be Firm
- Be Fair
- Be Friendly
*BE A HOME MAKER (For Women)
- Have family devotion
- Cook good food and present it in a decent manner
- Keep the house clean, tidy and beautiful
- Keep proper records. Don’t be wasteful.
- Be Hospitable (Be friendly and accommodating)
- Be a friend to your kids (Play with them by coming to their level; discuss issues with the young adults)
- Have regular family conference.
- Eat together whenever it is convenient for the whole family.
- Do not deprive your spouse of sexual satisfaction. Watch against getting too tired before nightfall. Etc.
- Be a good listener.
*BE A ‘LEADER’ IN YOUR HOME (For Men)
- Lead the family by heart (love and provide for them)
- Be considerate in all your dealings
- Be a friend to your children
- Be faithful to your spouse
- Express your feelings in love
- Avoid getting too tired before nightfall
- Appreciate and Admire your wife
- Spend meaningful time with your family (make the time qualitative and memorable)
- Assure your spouse always of your love. Women like it.
- Buy gifts for HER from time to time (not necessarily expensive)
- Express loving emotions (e.g. hugging, kissing, chatting etc.
- Be a good listener (listen to your wife and children patiently)
HANDLING THE ‘ENEMIES’ TO MARITAL BLISS
There are a number of problems that can ruin a marriage relationship. These are the ones I describe as ‘enemies.’ Some of them are : Pride, Hypocrisy, Moral failure or Infidelity, Bitterness, Sexual Abuse, Rebellion, Anger, Infertility problems, Anxiety etc.
What are we saying in effect? Is it wrong for a woman to embark on a successful business so as to improve the lot of the family? Definitely No. But as a child of God, do not overstep your bounds as a wife. Humility pays. Be wise and be humble. Jessica ought to have utilized the blessings that God brought her way to bless the entire family, but pride made her lose her honourable estate as a happy wife and mother in the home.
Remember the warning in 1 Tim.6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
PRAYER: May the God of multiplication establish you in your home in Jesus’ name. Amen.
THE ‘ENEMY’ CALLED INFIDELITY
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb. 13:4)
“You shall not commit adultery.”(Ex.20: 14)
“Flee also youthful lusts…” (2 Tim. 2:22)
You have heard that it was said to those of old,
‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for
her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:27-28)
God’s design for marriage is for a husband and his wife to enjoy conjugal mating. He ordains that a man should be joined to his wife. Unfortunately some couples miss it along the way. It is either that the man will take a ‘mistress’ outside the home, I mean a concubine as it is commonly called in our context, or the woman will take to a ‘sugar daddy’- i.e. keeping a relationship with another man other than her husband. It is s moral failure. Whenever a marriage relationship suffers moral bankruptcy, the home is destroyed already. Trust and loyalty get eroded and we can safely describe it as ‘things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,’ borrowing from the wise saying of Chinua Achebe.
The word of God condemns harlotry and every man is warned against getting hooked by a seductress. Any man that stoops so low is even likened to ‘a crust of bread.’ Without gainsaying there are certain groups of people, men and women alike who take delight in loose ways of life. They get involved with sexual partners. Without mincing words, it is SIN. And every godly man and woman must flee all lustful desires. The lake of fire is their final abode if they do not desist from such immoral life. (Rev.21:8)
Micah and Eno had been married close to a decade, and they were blessed with two boys and two girls. The marriage relationship was based on love and trust, and all seemed to be going on well. Micah was a student in a higher institution of learning while Eno was a school teacher. Due to her busy schedules the family agreed to employ the service of a househelp, so Mary was brought into the family…
The college authority was alerted on this act of moral failure on the part of Micah. An investigation panel was constituted. The members listened to all the parties involved and when all the facts were laid on the table, the panel came down very hard on Micah. He was expelled from the college, and his certificate was rendered useless. SIN brings shame and destruction. Flee from all appearances of evil.
THE ‘ENEMY’ CALLED BITTERNESS
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. ( Col.3:19)
God is love. And what binds a husband to his wife is love, but usually when sin enters a relationship, it destroys a happy home.
Examples abound in the Bible of people who permitted the root of bitterness in their hearts. Cain and Abel were siblings. The story is narrated in the book of Genesis, chapter four. Root of bitterness also developed between Esau and Jacob because the latter craftily received the blessings that belonged to the first born child through deception that was master-minded by Rebecca, the mother. Favoritism can sometimes be deadly. Watch against it in your homes.
The case of Mordecai and Haman poses another clear example of bitterness. Mordecai, being a Jew refused to pay homage to Haman and that infuriated him so much so that he was bent on exterminating Mordecai and his people, the Jews. But God intervened, and Haman paid for his bitterness with his own life. (Es. 3-7) Every child of God is enjoined to love (I Jn. 3: 10b-11)
There was the story of a woman who was wrongfully treated by her husband. It was so bad that the family of the woman went to her matrimonial home and forcefully took her away from her husband. After that incident, discussions were going on between both families and eventually the wife’s parents released her to go back to her husband. Life continued as usual, but deep within her, she was very bitter against her husband. She was not releasing herself to him as she should in the area of sexual relationship. She was using the ‘silent weapon’ as it is described by some people. The couple knew that some important ingredient was missing in their relationship. It was love and trust. During a Bible study discussion one day, the spirit of the Lord opened the spiritual mind of the lady, and she agreed with herself, “I realise I am still bitter against my husband. I find it difficult to forgive him.” How many women had been so wounded? And vice-versa. She was helped through the scriptures to reach a point of forgiving her husband.
THE ‘ENEMY’ CALLED PORNOGRAPHY
Pornography! A subtle enemy indeed! Many of us are exposed to its evils and yet unaware. For instance, lot of families are addicted to home videos. As entertaining as they are, our minds get polluted a lot of times. Can you remember the last time you saw a naked fellow? Not necessarily a mad man or woman. Cast your mind back to those shamelessly dressed actresses on your television movies. What good had these done to your morals and particularly to your children who happen to be the most vulnerable ones? Some of them cannot decipher between what is good and what is bad. Yet we expose them to untold dangers.
Some of the magazines and daily Newspapers we purchase with God-given resources are not better of. What lesson is there to learn from a magazine picture where a lady is in a very transparent sleeveless blouse with a G-string? We are surrounded with horrible sights! I guess we can be adequately described as “the generation on whom the end of the world has come.” How can a young man make his way pure? The psalmist proffers a solution in God’s word, “by taking heed to God’s word.”
The Internet has its clouts. Have you ever been tempted to check that unholy site? Even when you least expect, such pictures pop up on your monitor. What do you do? We all need the grace of God to carry us through this present age. It seems to me that the womenfolk are subjected to a lot of abuses. Those hidden beautifully shaped contours are being thrown to the ‘streets’ anyhow and I am tempted to think that some men got tired of seeing nude women and they no longer get attracted to that masterpiece of God’s creation named ‘woman’ so they switched over to the male folks. Mind you, this is just a hypothetical case I am toying with. Men are attracted to fellow men and the gay movement is gaining ground. Unfortunately some of them are present in the church. What an abomination! There had been cases of married men who abandoned their lawfully married wives in order to practise homosexuality. The word of God does not compromise the truth. It says: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination”. Also another law states that: “if a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Lev.20: 13)
Likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Rom. 1: 24-27).
At a Sunday school meeting, a woman asked a question that many would not naturally ask in the open, “Is it right to watch ‘blue films’? She has been made to believe that watching such films do enhance sexual satisfaction because one learns from other people. Waoh! Do you have to watch other men and women in the sexual act before you can enjoy your partner? That’s absurd. If one of the spouses is not enjoying the sexual relationship, he or she should open up to the partner and suggest ways of improvement. Every man and woman knows what tickles him or her. Feel free to discuss with your spouse. Remember that what you are doing is lawful and God-approved, so there should be no cause for shame.
OTHER ‘ENEMIES’ ARE:
* SEXUAL ABUSE
DEALING WITH CONFLICTS IN MARRIAGE
-Confess in Love
-Care for those ‘weaknesses’
CALM DOWN –Anger is a deadly weapon. Flee from it. Lie down on your bed and begin to talk to your father in heaven.
COME LOW –Stoop low. Be humble.
CONFESS IN LOVE – First to God, then secondly to your partner. Talk to each other in love. Forgive and say to your spouse, “I love you”
CARE FOR THOSE ‘WEAKNESSES’ – This has to do with accepting each other’s weak points in love. Not that you approve of them, but you should love enough to forgive and correct each other as friends.
COMMUNICATION- Spouses should always communicate. Feelings must be expressed.
Don’t save “Emotional Trading Stamps” (i.e. cataloguing all his/her mistakes in your imagination. Express yourself.
COMMITMENT- Hold on tightly to your vows. Do not shake in your decisions.
There was the story of a couple who had a misunderstanding at a point. Both of them were summoned by an elder who gave them an unusual instruction. They were asked to make two boxes and each of them was expected to be dropping on daily basis a piece of paper indicating whatever hurts are caused by the other fellow. That was a good strategy, so the wife thought. That would help people to identify the troublemaker in their home. Interestingly the husband kept dropping the same message, “I love you” while the wife kept on complaining and condemning her husband. When the two boxes were emptied, it was a big surprise to the woman to find out that her husband never complained about her. What a lesson for all couples?
Avoid the use of ‘silent treatment’ in your marriage. Do not save up hostility in your marriage. Talk about your pains with your spouse and let him/her know that you are hurting. Another form of ‘silent treatment’ is denial of sexual relationship.
Marriage is Divine. Be faithful to your wedding vows. Love your partner
If you give love, you will receive love. Love your children. Love everybody.
HYMN FOR THE FAMILY
GOD GIVE US CHRISTIAN HOMES! (B. B. Mckinney 1886-1952)
Questions for Discussion:
1) If a partner is not satisfied with his/her spouse’s appearance or dressing , what should he/she do?
2) If any of the partners falls victim of lusting after an opposite sex, is it ideal to share his/her struggles with the spouse?
3) Should we allow our parents to know all our plans as a family at all times?
4) If my mother-in-law is quarrelsome and very unfriendly, should I ask my husband to ask her to return to her home?
5a) On what grounds should Christian couples consider divorce as an option?
5b) What legacy am I leaving for my children if I opt for a divorce?
6) Why do women nag generally?
7a) Is a marriage bedevilled by childlessness a successful one?
7b) My children are very stubborn and disobedient. What can I do?
8) How do you feel when you are talking with your husband and his eyes are glued to a Television programme or reading a newspaper, yet he tells you,
“Dear, I am listening to you.”
9a) Do men feel ignored by their wives when too much attention is paid on the kids? If yes, How can this problem be resolved?
9b) How can parents become best friends to their children?
10) If a woman feels that the husband is not as loving as he used to be, what should she do?
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