How to Find Joy in Marriage Problems

Every marriage has conflicts.  Most of these are perpetual problems.  That means they will last the duration of our marriage.    These are core beliefs each spouse has that are different from each other, not likely to change.  These differences are not deal breakers.  The key to a happy marriage is learning how to cope with them.  According to Dr. Gottman of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 69% of the conflicts faced in marriage are perpetual. (138) 

"When choosing a long-term will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you'll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years." (Gottman 139)

"The most common conflicts couples face are money, sex, housework, kids, and work stress." (Gottman 194)

 A person may be asking themselves, "Why even get married (or stay married)?  If there is going to be unsolvable problems, why go through the trouble?" 
The answer: 
Marriage is of God.  It is His divine plan to help His children have the best learning environment for growth while on this earth.

Michael Novak says, "Marriage is an assault upon the lonely, atomic ego.  Marriage is a threat to the solitary individual.  Marriage does impose grueling, humbling, baffling, and frustrating responsibilities. Yet, marriage is not the enemy of moral development in adults.  Quite the opposite." (Goddard 110) 

Marriage gives us the opportunity to become like Christ. We will learn to serve and love our spouse and children in ways we did not know we had inside us.  

Marriage is the path to consecration.  

Consecration is the path back to God.

"Consecration moves us from gospel hobbyists to career disciples.  
It is the mark of true followers [of Christ]." (Goddard 99)

Elder Maxwell underscores this irony: "Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory.  It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride." (Goddard 99)

The first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith Jr., understood the Law of Consecration in a very personal way.  He was ridiculed, lost his good name, lost children, lost homes, and eventually lost his life as he became a consecrated disciple of God. He states: "...enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.  It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life." (Goddard 100)

It is good to keep an eternal perspective of marriage in mind. It will make the perpetual problems less toxic.  It will make our hearts more willing to compromise.  It will make our marriage life more rich and sweetly blessed. 

Kent Brooks of BYU faculty of Church History and Doctrine points out, "Our capacity to love a spouse deeply and our ability to experience great joy in marriage are commensurate with the degree to which we are willing to suffer and hurt, labor and toil..." (Goddard 106)

Your marriage can feel like this

No one will have a conflict-free marriage in this life.  That is not God's plan.  We are meant to learn to love and communicate with our spouses in respectful ways and show the same love and service our Savior showed others when he walked this earth.  There are things we can start doing right now to help us become more Christlike in solving our perpetual problems in marriage.

Dr. Gottman has a number of tips to manage marriage conflict.  I have compiled some of his key ideas below: (Gottman 156-159)

1. Negative emotions are important.  They hold important information about how to love each other better.  It helps if you live by the motto, "When you are in pain, the world stops and I listen." Learning how to listen to your spouse's negative emotions will be hard, but if you each try to express it in a gentle manner it will be a rewarding practice.  It will help keep negative emotions from becoming a festering gridlock in your marriage. (157)

2. No one is right.  There is no absolute reality in marital conflict, only two subjective ones. Compromising will be a necessary act on both partners. (157)

The positive side of No One is Right, each view is important.  Treat it as such.

3.  Acceptance is crucial. It is virtually impossible for people to heed advice unless they believe the other person understands, respects,and accepts them for who they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, or unappreciated, they are unable to change. (157)

4. Focus on fondness and admiration. Learn how to be mellow with your spouses faults, find humor and amusement in the odd way they do things. Forgive often and easily.  You will both benefit from this practice.  Bitterness is a heavy burden.(158)

5. Complain but don't blame.  Simply complain about a particular situation, not your partner's personality or character. (167)

6. Make statements that start with "I" instead of "You".  If your words focus on how you feel rather than on accusing your spouse, your discussion will be far more successful. (168)

7. Describe what is happening.  Don't evaluate or judge.  Instead of accusing or blaming, just communicate what you see. (168) This makes me think of the amazing movie War Room I saw recently. This lady is judging her husband and evaluating his actions to be less than honorable. Then she learns how she can change this by changing her action from judgment to prayer.  It is a powerful "must see" for all couples.  A great reminder of how to help our marriages work. Below is an interview from the main actress Priscilla Shirer, who is a minister in real life.

8. Be clear about your positive need.  Your partner is not a mind reader, tell them what you need. Focus on the positive action they can take instead of what you don't want them doing. (168)

9.  Be Polite.  Show good manners to your spouse, the same manners you would show a respected boss or colleague. (168)

10. Be Appreciative.  A glad heart is a good motivator. (168)

11. Don't store things up.  It's hard to be gentle when you're ready to burst with recriminations.  So don't wait to long before bringing up an issue - otherwise it will just escalate in your mind.  (168)

"Your future together can be bright even if your disagreements tend to be very negative.  The secret is learning the right kind of damage control" (Gottman 175)

I hope this list to manage perpetual martial problems will be helpful to you and your spouse. Remember this is a daily process.  God asks us to endure to the end.  It is through our efforts, in our relationships, whether it is a joyful endurance or not.  God bless you & yours! ~ Holly Jo

"Those who consecrate themselves to their marriage by bringing their whole souls as an offering to the everyday events of a relationship are building a storehouse of sweet memories.  They are building an eternal relationship one brick at a time" (Goddard 109) 

Work Cited

Goddard, H. Wallace. Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage. Joymap Publishing. Utah. 2009. Print. 

Gottman, John M. Silver, Nan. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  Harmony Books. New York. 2015 version. Print. 

All photos are found on the enet.  Photo credit is given when found. 


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