Ask Dr. David: How Can We Make Our Marriage a Priority?
- 2006 16 Dec
Dear Dr. David,
My husband and I have strived to make our marriage a priority. He is working at our church and many times he has to choose between time spent on our marriage or time spent ministering to others. It's been a hard balance for both of us, and I have continually reminded him that our marriage is a priority (We both know God is our number one priority). After an interesting talk with our pastor, we started studying if marriage really is a huge priority. Talk about confusion. We know that some of marriage's purposes are companionship, support and offspring. What really confused us was I Corinthians 7, especially the part talking about a single man's purpose being God and a married man's purpose being his wife. The part seems to finish with our undivided attention needing to be on God. I don't know how to reconcile this in my mind. Is marriage really a priority or is it just there to help the other minister? Should my husband focus a lot more on his ministries than on our marriage? ~ Confused
I think the Apostle Paul is recognizing the tendency to have divided interests. He never considers marriage a sin, and doesn’t even elevate it above being single. He is simply reminding us that God comes first, above the wonderful pleasures that are ours to enjoy on this Earth.
Christians should enter marriage because they feel they are united together for life and believe they can serve God more fully than they could singly. But, in many other scriptures we are admonished to be helpmates to one another, serve each other and provide protection for one another. These obligations of marriage can’t be dismissed in favor of serving the church, or fulfilling any other obligation.
Keep in mind that your marriage has value in it of itself. As a couple you are a model to the world, and to each other, of Christ's love for the Church. Your marriage is not just a practical union, but one of a spiritual nature that brings glory to God.
While the tension between your marriage and outside responsibilities is often a "hard balance" for many couples, I think Christian marriage can be a joy. It doesn’t need to be divisive. At one time he may need to give more to the church, at another time he may need to attend more to you, his marriage and family. You can affirm your husband and encourage him to fulfill his church responsibilities, assuming he feels that to be God’s calling on his life, and he can honor and love you so that you feel cherished. (See I Corinthians 13) Together you can practice "deferring to one another in love," modeling Christ’s love in your marriage.
Dear Dr. David,
My husband and I are both in recovery from substance abuse. I have a significant amount of clean time and he had two years. We were having issues with my teenage son recently, which included gang activity and drug experimentation. I did not believe my husband was so overwhelmed by everything that he was considering leaving. He left for work one morning a month ago and has never come home. To make matters worse he never went to work and ended up living out there in the streets doing drugs again. We have a five year old who is struggling and I am seven months pregnant. I saw him five days ago and approached him and he promised he was coming home and that he loves us all. He is scared to come back and face the family. He never did keep his promise and come home. I am devastated. I am facing increased financial problems, am concerned about our home, and wonder what will happen. I cry a lot and then I get angry. I have lost weight and my doctor is concerned about my stability. I pray continually and read the Word but I feel scared and hopeless. How do I work past this? ~ Abandoned
You are right to feel abandoned, because that is what has happened to you. I counsel with so many men and women who have had a spouse simply walk out of their lives. There are not words to describe how devastating it can be to put your trust in someone, care for them and love them, and have them turn around and squander that affection and trust.
Now that it has happened, your task is to pick up the pieces and move on with your life. Let’s consider some of your challenges.
First, you have practical problems to face. You must make sure that you have physical stability—for yourself and your family. Since he is no longer providing for you, you will need to make sure you and your family are safe. This may involve going to the State and seeking assistance. There are often State monies to help families in crisis.
Second, you must find support for yourself so you can face your many challenges. You are understandably frightened, with financial concerns, and feeling abandoned. Are there opportunities for support in your church? Talk to your pastor, and ask if there are opportunities for support there. There might be a lay counseling program, and talking to someone will certainly help. There may be a support group for people who are going through separation/ divorce.
Third, you mention that you are in recovery. Good for you! You must know that this is a critical time for you, and relapse potential is higher than at other times. Lean into your recovery program and seek support there. Celebrate Recovery is a wonderful, Bible-based recovery program.
Fourth, you still have responsibilities to your children. The scriptures encourage you to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6) This is very encouraging news—you still have time to train your children correctly, about right and wrong, and this will help them for years to come.
Finally, set firm boundaries on your husband. He will undoubtedly make contact with you again, and it will be tempting to invite him back into your life, without any personal changes. Such a move could be disastrous. While his immediate presence might temporarily assuage some of your pain, unless he deals with his addiction, and gets into treatment, you will face the same rejection again in the future.
Crises are never enjoyable, but they are often very fruitful times spiritually. Use this crisis as an opportunity to trust the Lord for your needs. He won’t disappoint you.
Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.