Do we tend to go into marriage wearing rose-coloured glasses? More than 90 per cent of voters in our Facebook poll said yes. So why is married life harder than it looks, and what makes it worth all the effort?
Tim Freyer is the National Director of Strategy for Families at Power to Change. One of the biggest ministry organisations in the world, Power to Change operates on more than 7000 campuses globally. But Tim’s job is helping people approach the next step after uni. “How can we use marriage as a tool to share the Gospel? How can we help use that horizontal relationship to help people look at the vertical relationship with God?”
Tim agrees with our listeners that people often don’t understand what marriage really involves. “I think we go in expecting the marriage relationship to be just like when we’re dating, except that we live together. And there’s just a lot more complications that come out as you’re married, and as you do life together, and as God starts to refine your character.”
When he appeared recently on Vision’s 20Twenty, Tim and Matt Prater spoke to some callers about their best and worst marriage experiences. Phil, from WA, had been through a separation with his wife, but now they were back together, and working to heal one another.
Phil felt the problems in their marriage came from non-Christian ideas and “wrong thoughts” they’d brought with them into the relationship. “What we’ve noticed is that we really need to be more compassionate to each other,” he said.
When we get married, Tim says we’re often intensely selfish. “I’m really excited about marriage, we think, because it’ll be a place where I can get my needs met.” And having our needs met is one of the joys of marriage. “But if that’s the focus, it’ll never work.”
Instead, we should challenge ourselves to meet our partner’s needs. “How can I love as Jesus has loved? And how can I do that unconditionally? And as I meet my partner’s needs, there’s a response that tends to happen, that all of a sudden they turn around and they start meeting your needs a lot more.”
Tim agrees with Phil that grace and compassion are keys to making it work. “We live in stressful times. And it’s so easy for that stress to be put off onto our partner, especially when things aren’t going perfectly, and it just feels like you’re not going in the same direction.”
When Tim is counselling couples, the first thing he reminds them is that they’re a team. “Any problem that comes, the only way you win is you win together. If one of you wins, and the other loses, then ultimately you’re going to bed with a loser. And nobody wants to go to bed with a loser. And so the idea is how can we say it’s not me vs you, but it’s rather the two of us vs the problem.”
What did Tim learn about marriage from his missionary work in North Africa? Listen to the podcast of his conversation with Matt Prater and Vision listeners for that, and much more insight into the obstacles that face married couples, and the incredible rewards that can come when you choose to face them together.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.