"Stressed Out" part 3:
Reducing Stress Within Your Marriage
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 13, 2007


Main Passage: Proverbs 31:10-31 (NLT)

[Video – Divorce from http://www.seewhocares.com/comm_divorce.shtml]

Just within the past couple of weeks, there was a survey taken of 16-22 year olds. And they were asked what they believed would be the greatest challenge facing their generation. And near the top of the list were the usual suspects… Poverty was at number 3… Violence was at number 2… but it was #1 that caught my attention. The biggest challenge that these 16-22 years old thought they’d be facing was the break-down of the traditional family.
[Source: Family News in Focus, regarding survey by New America Media]

They’re looking for stability in the homes. And the sad fact is, half of them have not had a stable home environment growing up.

Why? What is it that causes so much stress in families? What are the factors that have lead to the break-down of marriages?


Top Four Areas of Conflict in Marriages:

1. Money
2. Kids
(whether to have them, how many, and how to raise them)
3. In-laws
4. Religion
[Source: Money Matters]

Those are the top four areas of conflict that have led more than one marriage to end in divorce. But you know what? ALL marriages have their problems. All families have struggles. But they don’t all end up in divorce.

You know, the thing about divorce is that it doesn’t solve problems. It just creates other problems. And most of the problems that people encounter within marriages are fixable. They don’t have to end in disaster. They can be worked out. Perhaps the only exceptions to that would be habitual infidelity and ongoing abuse. I imagine some of you may argue with me on that. I’m just saying that by working through the problems you can avoid a lot of other problems that in the long run will cost you a lot more. As they say…

“Love is grand, but divorce is 20 grand.”

This is our third week in our message series “Stressed Out.” And this morning, what I want to do is give you some solutions for minimizing the conflict and stress within marriage. And then later on in this series, we’ll talk about some of the issues regarding parenting your children.

Now, I’m not a marriage counselor. I have a little training in that area, but not much. So I’m not an expert on all the dynamics of family life. But there are some things that I’ve learned from experience and from reading the Bible that help Shera and I live in harmony. So I thought I’d share some of those with you this morning.

And for those of you who aren’t married, I think most of these are pretty good principles for everyday relationships. So you can take these and apply them as appropriate to your own situation.


Seven Solutions for Reducing Stress within Marriage:


1. Love and respect each other

One of the most misunderstood and most abused verses in the entire Bible is found in Ephesians 5:22. That’s the verse that tells wives to submit to their husbands. But that’s not all that the passage says. So let’s take a look at that verse with the surrounding verses, too.

Ephesians 5:21-22, 25, 33 (NLT)
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord…
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

So who’s supposed to submit to who? We submit to each other. We give preference to each other. We show consideration for each other. It’s not just wives submitting to their husbands; it’s us submitting to each other. That’s showing love and respect for each other.

In fact, when you look at it, the husband is the one given the greatest challenge… to love his wife like Jesus loved the Church. And how did Jesus show His love for the Church? He died.

So how does this kind of love and respect play out?

Well, you value each other’s opinions.
You’re careful not to insult each other and call each other names.
You treat what’s important to them as being important to you, too. And that includes in-laws.
You show gratitude for sacrifices they make for you and your family. You certainly don’t take them for granted.
You give up some of the things you’d like to do because you know they’d like to do something else.
It means that you show them preference and you treat them with dignity.

You respect each other. And part of respecting each other is communicating with each other.


2. Communicate

Marriage counselors say that half of divorces are caused because of a lack of communication. So you’ve got to learn to talk about things. You’ve got to work together on your problems. You’ve got to support and encourage each other. And to do that, you’ve got to communicate.

And you know what that means? You do some of the talking, and you do some of the listening. You’ve got to do both. In fact, one tip I can give you is this: repeat back what your spouse has said to you. You know, say something like… “So what you’re saying is…” And then reiterate what they’ve said to you just to make sure you understand. That’s a good tip for communicating.

And also really pay attention to them. You don’t just communicate with your mouth and with your ears… you communicate with your entire body.

Albert Moravin is a researcher working at UCLA, and he’s done a lot of work in the area of communication. And this is what he’s concluded…

7% of our true feelings are communicated through words
38% of how we feel is communicated through how we say those words
55% is conveyed through body language… Your facial expressions, your eyes, your posture… all of that non-verbal communication makes up more than half of your communication.

So pay attention. Listen, but also watch to see what’s being communicated to you.

And ladies, nagging is not communicating.
And guys, neither is sarcasm. (Yeah, right.)

This verse from Colossians isn’t specifically about marriage, but I think it’s very appropriate to apply it to marriage…

Colossians 4:6 (MSG)
Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

So you’ve got to communicate with each other. You’ve got to understand where the other person’s coming from. You’ve got to try to get on the same page on issues that affect your marriage. How many kids are you going to have? Where are you going to spend Christmas? What are your career ambitions? How are you going to organize your finances?

You’ve got to talk about those kinds of things. And the best time to do that is before they become a problem. Don’t wait for a crisis to arise before you start communicating. Because a lot of problems can be avoided by making the effort to communicate beforehand.


3. Treasure each other

Jim read a passage for us earlier from Proverbs 31, and the whole section is about a husband treasuring his wife. Let me just read a few of the comments made there…

Proverbs 31:10-11, 28-29 (NLT)
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life…
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Guys, do you treasure your wife?
Ladies, do you treasure your husband?

How do you show that? Is it obvious that you treasure them? Do you let them know that? When you’re out in public, do your words and actions show that you value them? How about when you’re at home? Do you still treasure them there, or do you tend to take them for granted?

And can I tell you how you can best show that you treasure your spouse? Invest time in them. Time is the one thing you have that you can’t get back. If you give time to somebody, you can never take that time back again. So if you give time to your spouse, it’s something you can only give to them. You can never give that time to anyone else.

“When I give you my time, I am giving you my life, for time is life… How much more could I honor you than to give you my time? How much more could you honor me than to give me your time? My time with you is an investment. Your time with me is an investment. Let us care for each other's investment wisely.”
~ from Blue Denim and Lace, “When Time is no Longer” by Jack Hyles


4. Settle disputes proactively

What happens if you have a fight with your spouse and you never actually make amends? What happens if, instead, you just allow your anger to fester? What happens if you start to hold a grudge? You become resentful. You become bitter. And it starts to eat away at your relationship.

And over time, you’ll start to drift apart… you’ll stop communicating… and you’ll start looking around for someone else.

So instead of allowing that to happen, take care of it. Settle any disputes you might have proactively. This is what Paul wrote… again, not specifically for marriage, but very applicable…

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Number 5… when you do have a dispute…


5. Attack the problem, not the person

[Video - “Working Through Conflict in Marriage” from BluefishTV.com]

Now, isn’t that a pleasant relationship? What were they doing wrong? They were pointing fingers and blaming each other, they were denying any personal responsibility, they were getting sarcastic with each other… basically, they were attacking each other. That’s their problem… they attack each other. And while they’re doing that, they’re not solving their real problem at all.

There’s got to be a better way. And there is. You can see yourself as a team, and you can attack any problems you have together.

Colossians 3:19 (NLT)
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

It’s never appropriate to attack the person. Identify the problem, and attack it together.


6. Enjoy intimacy

Yeah, I’m talking about sex. Which within the context of a marriage relationship is a beautiful thing. And it’s meant to bring you closer together.

Ephesians 5:31 (NLT)
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”

The marriage relationship is the only relationship described this way… “the two are united into one.” It’s a unique and wonderful relationship, and sex enhances the intimacy.

Now, we’re talking about reducing stress within marriages. Do you know what really increases stress? When you use sex as a weapon. When you withhold sexual intimacy from your spouse to punish them in some way. Take a look at this…

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NLT)
The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

So withholding sex doesn’t reduce stress or eliminate problems… it just makes them worse!

But I’m not just talking about sex when I talk about intimacy. You can express intimacy in other ways, too. Talk about your fears and your hopes and desires. That’s a form of intimacy.

Plus, there are the non-sexual physical expressions of intimacy… like hugs, and kisses, and massages… Guys, listen. Gary Smalley is an author and Christian psychologist, and he says that women need eight of those non-sexual touches per day.

I heard about one couple that was having some trouble, and so they decided to do something about it… they went to see a marriage counselor. And they went to see him a few different times, and each time the counselor had a lot of questions for them and did a lot of listening. Until finally, on their third trip to see him, the counselor said that he had discovered the main problem in their relationship. So he stood up, went over to the woman, asked her to stand, and gave her a big hug. Then he looked at the man and said, “this is what your wife needs, at least once a day!” Well, the man frowned, thought for a moment, then said, “Ok, what time do you want me to bring her back tomorrow?”

Well, that’s not exactly how it’s done. Your spouse needs you to demonstrate physical and non-physical, sexual and non-sexual intimacy with them.


7. Pray together

I’ve got this listed as number 7, but perhaps I should have listed it at number 1. Praying together builds unity and helps you grow together spiritually. And it invites God to be the foundation for your relationship.

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)
Treat your wife with understanding as you live together… Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

There’s an old Cliff Richard song about marriage that says…

“You and me and Jesus, Jesus me and you. On our own we’d break, with Him we’ll make it through.”
~ Cliff Richard

Ultimately, He’s the One who can help you overcome all the stresses you face in your marriage. You’re working at building a home together. And as the Psalmist said…

Psalm 127:1 (NLT)
Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.

If you want to build a home that is healthy and will last, then pray together.

Now, I understand that for some, your spouse may not be interested in this. Maybe they don’t have any interest in knowing Jesus at all, let alone inviting Him to be part of their marriage. If you find yourself in that situation, then let me encourage you to pray on your own. Pray for your spouse, pray for your relationship with them, pray for your kids…

Understand that God can work in ways we can’t see and can’t even imagine. He can work a miracle without you even knowing it’s happening. So pray.

Now, let me give you an assignment. For those of you who are in a position where you can pray with your spouse, do it. Tonight before you go to bed, spend some time praying together. Pray for each other. Pray for the issues you’re facing right now as a couple. Pray for the health and growth of your relationship. But pray.

And right now, let me take my own advice and pray for you…




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