3. Choose not to condemn. A condemning attitude is another grievous problem I see when couples come to discuss the differences in their marriages. If your heart is resentful and condemning at this moment, this is a sign that you have not followed the previous two points. Why do I say this? Because if you will first examine your own selfishness, an immediate conviction will occur within your heart. This conviction will drive you to cry out to God for His mercy which naturally softens your heart toward your mate.
Notice the context of the teaching Jesus gave in the Sermon on The Mount concerning condemning your brother. He exhorted, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). Then four verses later Jesus revealed that self-examination is the key to not condemning your brother. He continues “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (v 41-42).
What happens when you condemn your spouse instead of examining your own faults? The differences between you become more pronounced and the separation and loss of intimacy grow. Remember, condemning your mate solves nothing. Dealing with your differences in a biblical manner must be seen as your only option. Why not begin walking down the path to a solution instead of heading in the direction of greater alienation?
4. Ask forgiveness. Once you stop condemning and despising your partner for not thinking and acting the way you want, you must now choose to seek forgiveness. This forgiveness must occur in two directions. First, ask God to forgive you for your selfish and condemning attitude toward your mate. Why? Because these attitudes are sinful and displeasing to Him. God is willing to forgive you for anything you’ve done, but you must sincerely ask with a whole-hearted desire to turn from these failures. The apostle John assured us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). With this awesome promise before you, won’t you ask Him to cleanse you right now and renew your desire for a right relationship with your mate? As you do, the hardness of your heart will continue to melt.
Next, you must ask your spouse for his or her forgiveness because your selfishness, resentment, and condemnation have surely offended your mate as well. The best way to handle this is to come to your spouse and begin by first confessing your faults and simply ask for his or her forgiveness. This action will hopefully be the encouragement necessary for your partner to do the same.
5. Look for compromise. The art of compromise is a key to dealing with your differences and to finding true compatibility in any marriage. Love always seeks a compromise because love is always looking for a way to come together and solve problems. But let me make myself absolutely clear on this point. I am not talking about compromising over moral or biblical issues that are clearly revealed in Scripture. These are concerns that cannot be compromised under any circumstance.
The issues that you should find a compromise concerning are those peripheral concerns that really have no spiritual or moral significance. Paul declared that there are things in the Christian life that can be a point of contention but in fact have no spiritual benefit whatsoever. He explained to the Corinthian church that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Cor. 8:8). However, this was a serious point of contention among the believers in this church. Consequently, he encouraged these Christians to find a simple compromise by choosing to lovingly restrain their desires and not take any action that might stumble their brothers and sisters.
Most of the issues that couples disagree over reside within these peripheral areas. These are the issues you need to find a compromise over. Yet, every week I talk with couples who have explosive arguments over such things as: how to spend the household finances, how to discipline the children, or what the family will do on vacation. I am sure that if you unselfishly purpose to love one another you can find a compromise and agreement in such areas.
6. Talk over the differences. The quickest way to find this compromise is to sit down and talk the problem through. Communication is the most important way for you to give and exchange the reasons for your individual positions. God understood the importance of reasoning with us over our differences with Him: “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord” (Is. 1:18). To reason with mankind is why He sent His prophets throughout history and why He ultimately sent His Son. God wanted to communicate and reason with you and me so that the infinite differences we possessed could be resolved.
In addition, communication not only enables us to reason with each other, but it is also the key to ultimately gaining understanding. Couples confess to me regularly that they just don’t understand what their spouses are thinking or why they are upset. This immediately reveals to me that there is a communication problem in the marriage.
Do you want to understand your mate? If so, then get together with your spouse and patiently, lovingly, and honestly communicate your thoughts and feelings about the differences you possess. If the conversation begins to get heated, stop the discussion for a few minutes to enable both of you to calm down, then resume. Don’t give up. Reason with your mate about why you think and feel the way you do. Also, be willing to be “reasoned with” because your spouse has an equally valid viewpoint.
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please visit us on the Internet at www.covenantkeepers.org
Click here to read part I of How To Deal With The Differences In Your Marriage