Friction in Marriage:

Justin recently had the opportunity to teach a message on the subject of “Friction in Marriage” in our home church.  Below is a transcript of the message for all who may be interested.

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If you would happen to be a guest of this morning my name is Justin and I’m one of the pastors here at the church.  And we are currently three weeks into a message series on the subject of “Friction”…and when we talk about Friction, we talk about friction in different kinds of relationships.  You know that feeling when somebody just rubs you the wrong way, that’s what we’re talking about throughout this series.

In the first week of this series we started off with the point that your friend is not your enemy because your enemy is not of this world.  Let me say that again just to be certain everybody got that.  Your friend is not your enemy, because your enemy is not of this world.  For example, if somebody offends you it doesn’t automatically make them your enemy.  Your real enemy is the Devil.  This is what the Bible says and we would be amiss if we didn’t consider this every time we experience some relational friction.

And then last week we talked about Friction in relationships – specifically, our friendships – and how each of us has a responsibility to go to the person who has offended us.  If somebody has offended you in any way, it is your responsibility to seek reconciliation with that individual.   Oftentimes we kick into fight or flight mode, and for many of us, “flight” is the avenue we choose to take.  But the scriptures indicate that the best way to overcome conflict is to go to the person and hash things out.  It’s not always easy…but it is the best way to overcome conflict.

Now today, we’re going to talk about Friction in the Marriage relationship.  For those of you who are married, you KNOW that you’ve experienced friction in your marriage.  In fact, I think we should start off this morning in this way…if you’re married, hold your spouse’s hand or put your arm around them for the rest of the message here today.  If you’re the husband, you can probably turn to your wife and just say the words, “I’m sorry.”  If she asks what for, just reply by saying, “everything.”  🙂 Just cover everything.  But seriously, we are talking about friction today, and I want everybody here to think about the types of friction they have experienced (or may currently be experiencing) in your marriage, and use this time today as an opportunity to lay aside those things, and instead focus on the oneness of your marriage.

Now, I’d like to start off this morning by admitting something that I hope doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody here…Megan and I experience friction in our marriage.  There I said it.  Through the years there have been some big issues (or some big areas of friction) and there have been some are little areas of friction as well, and we know – Megan and I KNOW – that we’re not the only ones.  All you married couples out there have experienced friction as well.  Sometimes these things happen on a daily (or at least near-daily) basis.  Here are a few examples for you:

Example #1: She thinks, “I’d really love to go out to dinner and talk.”  He thinks, “I’ve worked really hard all week long, I’d love to veg-out and play some Call of Duty with my friends.”  (I know this won’t ring true for some of you, but it will ring true for many others.)

Example #2: He thinks, “We really need to save our money.”  She thinks, “These shoes (or this purse – or this hand bag) is ‘on-sale’ for a really amazing price.  I’m sure he won’t mind.”

Example #3: She thinks, “Can’t you put your phone/ipad/etc. down for one night.”  He thinks, “I provide well for my family, why can’t I get a little me-time?

Example #4: He thinks, “Maybe tonight we can go to bed early and roll around in the sheets.”  She thinks, “Oooh, look at all these new recipe’s are that posted on Pinterest.”

Example #5: She thinks, “I’m not quite sure about this outfit.  Maybe I should ask my husband what he thinks.”  He thinks, “She’s standing in front of the mirror for a long time.  Please, please, please don’t ask me my thoughts.  That didn’t work out so well for me last time.”

Example #6: He thinks, “We get to see your family all the time.  I think we should give all/most of our Holidays to my family.” She thinks, “We chose to live here and we can travel to see your family during some holidays, but we’re not traveling for all of them.”

Example #7: She thinks, “I really wish he would be the spiritual leader of this family.”  He thinks, “I don’t really know how to lead, so I’m going to spend my time and energy doing the things I’m good at.”

…and just like that, if anybody here thought, “we don’t really experience any friction in our marriage” are brought back to reality.

Now, what I’d really like to do today is to break down the message into two different parts.  To be honest, I’m probably trying to cover too much information in just one message.  But we’re going for it…we’re going for it.  So, the first thing I’d like to cover this morning is – what causes conflict in marriage?  What causes conflict in marriage?  And the second part is – how can we handle conflict in our marriage?  For those of you not married, it’s my belief that these same principles can work in other relationships you have as well.  With your parents, children, friends at school, and so on.

So, we’re going to begin today with probably the most well-known text in scripture on the subject of marriage, beginning with Ephesians 5:21.  If you’ve never read or studied out this passage, take the opportunity to do so soon.  If you have a good study Bible, read the notes it has on this passage.  If you want to learn how to be a godly husband or godly wife, study this passage thoroughly. It’s just really great stuff when it comes to the subject of marriage and why we experience conflict in marriage.  Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

What causes friction in marriage?

  1. Self-centeredness.

For those of you who maybe didn’t know, outside of my ministry here at SRC, my wife Megan and I write a blog on marriage and intimacy.  And a couple of years ago we read through the book, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller and decided to write a study guide for the book that we made available on our blog.  And here at the church, we ended up having a “Meaning of Marriage” small group study that a number of our groups went through.  And I’ll be honest, it was a tough series.  Not only because there was a lot of material for people to go through, but because the first two chapters of the book aren’t necessarily everyone’s favorite.  In Chapter 2 Tim Keller goes on and on and on and on about how self-centered you (the reader) are.  You read it and you think, “Well, I guess maybe he’s at least a little bit right,” but then he continues giving reasons as to why you’re self-centered.  We had one guy in our group who came in for that week’s discussion who said, “Man, I’d rather hit my head with a sledgehammer than to have to read that chapter over again.”

It’s difficult for us – each one of us, myself included – to think about how self-centered we are.  And do you know what the #1 cause of self-centeredness is?  It’s the lack of submission to one another.  It’s the mindset of saying, “I don’t care what you need in this moment.  I want what I want and I want to do what it is I want to do.”  And when a marriage relationship has two people with this mindset, two people who don’t desire to submit to their spouse, it causes a tremendous amount of friction in the relationship.  But there’s something else we can learn from this passage as well.  Something else that causes friction in a marriage relationship.  Ephesians 5:22-30 (NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

So, the first cause of friction in marriage is self-centeredness.  There’s no real way around that.  A second cause of friction comes from:

2. A lack of fulfilling your God-given role.

I readily acknowledge that this is a passage that is not at all popular in today’s society.  Men and women are (and rightly so) to be treated as equal, but this subject of “equality” has been translated in our society as men and women are the same.  Our culture treats equality as sameness.  But men and women aren’t the same.  Men and women are equal – fully equal.  But we’re not the same.  God made men and women different and he gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.  And when the husband and/or wife are not fulfilling their God-given role, friction is going to happen within the marriage.

First, we see here Ephesians 5 that the role of the wife is to submit to her husband.  While this may cause tension for many here in the room I’d like to point out that this comes directly after v.21 which states “submit to one another”.  Regarding the wife submitting to her husband, this doesn’t mean she is to do everything he wants her to do.  It doesn’t mean she is to be at his beck and call.  It doesn’t mean she’s supposed to put up with him if he’s abusive.  It doesn’t mean any of that.  It means that she is to recognize her husband as the leader of the family.  It means that if there is ever an impasse in a difficult decision, somebody needs to break the tie.  According to the scriptures, that person is the husband.  Again, this isn’t a very popular notion in today’s society.  However, I’m not sure that the role of the husband is a very popular notion in today’s society either.  Ephesians 5:25-30 (NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

This passage indicates that the husband is to love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. – He died for her!).  Jesus did everything he could for us, His church, and husbands are to do the same for their spouses.  And in the dozens and dozens of conversations I’ve had with husbands and wives about this passage, I’ve never once met a woman who said, “I won’t submit to him even if he fulfills his role as it’s presented here.  I won’t submit to someone who treats me, loves me, honors me, sacrifices for me in the same way Jesus did for His people.”  I’ve never heard those words.

Men – if I can talk to just the men for a second – your role in marriage is the single most challenging yet rewarding role you will ever have in your entire life.  It’s more challenging than any promotion you can think of.  It’s more challenging than any difficult decision that will be brought your way.  It’s more challenging than any parenting decision you will ever make.  It’s more challenging than anything you will ever experience in your entire life.  And it’s not easy.  But if you fulfill your role, if you love your wife the same way Christ loved the church, if you agree to – as the passage says — submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, the conflict in your marriage will be much more minimal than perhaps it is right now.

As a matter of fact, I’m aware of seven – yes SEVEN – marriages right now that are either just divorced, on their way to divorce, or who have at the very least began a conversation about separation or divorce.  And I’m aware of many, many more couples who have already taken that step and experienced divorce.  And many of them (I want to be careful here and not say it’s all of them) but many of them are a result of men not fulfilling their role, not loving their spouse in the same way Christ loved the church.  If men would do this, the divorce rate would plummet.  If men would study out this passage, and study out what the Bible has to say about marriage, and about being a godly husband, friction in marriage would be much easier to deal with.

So, these are the two primary causes of friction in marriage.  1) Self-Centeredness (i.e. not submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ) and 2) not accepting/fulfilling your God-given role.

With that aside, there is still going to be some friction in marriage.  Even couples who follow-through on this passage and who live out their God-given role really, really well experience friction.  There’s friction about putting the dishes away or picking up dirty socks off the floor.  There’s friction in fulfilling (or not fulfilling) household chores.   There’s friction in how the toilet paper gets hung, and where the tube of toothpaste gets squeezed.  And sometimes there’s friction in areas such as continuing education and whether or not it’s worth it or not.  Small things and large, every single aspect of marriage and living life together has the potential for friction.  So what I’d like to talk through, through the remainder of the message today is how to handle conflict in marriage.

If you happened to have missed it, in the first week of this series, we asked a question which was, “Do you believe that conflict is good in the marriage relationship?”  Maybe a handful of you have changed your minds on that question over the past couple of weeks, I’m not sure.  Some of you said, “Sure, conflict can be good for the marriage.”  Others thought, “No, conflict is always, always, always a bad thing.”  But I wholeheartedly believe that conflict can be very good for relationships.  I believe conflict can be good for the marriage relationship, when it’s done right.  I believe that in the case of couples who don’t experience conflict in their marriage, one or maybe both are holding some things in…and if they hold those in long enough, their marriage is going to end in disaster.  How can we handle conflict in marriage?

  1. Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship better, not bitter.

I’m stealing this point directly from Mark Driscoll who in his book/message series titled “Real Marriage” indicates this very point.  Conflict should make the relationship better, not bitter.   What happens far too often is that we use conflict to either A) Make a point, B) Get what we want or C) Both.  But conflict shouldn’t be used to make a point.  Conflict shouldn’t be used to get what we want.  Conflict should be used with the mindset of making the overall health of the relationship better.  It isn’t to point fingers.  It isn’t to blame or accuse or blackmail.  It is to be used with the goal of making the relationship better.

Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  Let me say that again just to make sure it sinks in.  Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  You can use conflict as a way to maintain and hold onto bitterness if you want.  But if you do, you’re going to continue on the path of marital bitterness.  But you can also use conflict to make the relationship better.

There was a time in our marriage that Megan and I experienced conflict over something that when you really take the opportunity to think about it, was quite miniscule.  It was a situation that, I confess, for days, maybe even weeks and into months made me a little bit bitter.  It was a time when I didn’t love my wife in the same way Christ loved the church.  (Can any men in the room relate with me on this one?)  I tried to use this conflict in order to get what I wanted, not with the goal of making our marriage better.  And for a season in our marriage, I was miserable for it.  – Whether you’re the husband or the wife, you can use conflict with the goal of making the overall health of your marriage relationship better.  Use it in this way.  Bring up difficult topics/conversations with the goal of helping your relationship grow.  And do this always remembering to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

2.  Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship one.

31 For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh.

32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Remember that conflict is caused from 1) self-centeredness and 2) a lack of fulfilling our God-given role.  When we are not fulfilling our role…when we are being self-centered, we are thinking only of ourselves and not our marriage.  But the scriptures state over and over and over again that in regards to marriage, two become one flesh.  It’s so hard to comprehend that Paul even declares it as a profound mystery.  But there’s something inside every husband, and something inside every wife that acknowledges the truthfulness of this.   I recently performed a wedding where the to-be bride had been married in the past and divorced, but the to-be husband had never been married.  And she acknowledged in one of our meetings together, “There’s something different about being married.  Something changes when two people are married…something that I can’t really even explain.”  She was right.  Something does change.  Two people become one.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.  Something changes.

And when tension occurs, it occurs because something (or someone) isn’t recognizing the oneness of the relationship.  But that tension can be brought forward.  Instead of hiding from conflict, the conflict can be used to make the relationship whole.  It simply takes two people who are willing to lay aside their own wants and desires and be willing to sacrifice for the overall health of the marriage.

Finally, I just want to make one additional note:

3.  Have conflict while keeping your focus on Christ.

Like I said before, this passage is a challenging passage for both women and men.  Women read this passage and see the term “submit” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  Men see phrases such as “love your wife just as Christ loved the church” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  But if you read and study through this passage you’ll discover that the sole character of this passage isn’t a wife…nor is the sole character a husband.  The person most often mentioned is Jesus.  The words Lord, Christ, Savior, are the central aspect of this passage.

So, when friction comes into your marriage, take the opportunity to think about it.  Ask yourselves questions such as:

  1. Are we submitting to one another in light of this conflict?
  2. Are we fulfilling the role God gave us?
  3. Are we using this conflict with the goal of making our relationship better (or one)?
  4. Are we focusing on Christ?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the message, I again acknowledge that I’m trying to cover a whole lot of information in a very short period of time today.  But I want to conclude by sharing something that Tim Keller stated in one his messages on the subject of marriage.  He said, “If everything around you is a mess and in weakness but your marriage is strong, then nothing else matters, you move out into the world in strength.  But if everything around you is strong yet your marriage is a wreck, you move out into the world in weakness.”

The strength of your marriage has a way to influence every other aspect of your life.  This is because the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.

I don’t know what kind of friction you may be experiencing in your marriages right now.  But it’s my sincere desire that you move out into the world in strength.  For those of you who may want to better understand passages such as the one we looked at today, again, I can’t recommend the book “The Meaning of Marriage” enough.  Let’s close out here this morning in prayer.

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Additional Questions for Discussion:

Questions:

  1.  What are some specific situations that cause conflict in marriages?
  2. Do you think conflict is good in marriage relationships? Why or why not?
  3. Ephesians 5:21 reads, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  What do you think this verse means?
  4. Pastor Justin mentioned that “God made men and women different and He gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.”
  • What do you understand those roles to be?
  • If husbands and wives are fulfilling their roles, what would be their individual responsibility in resolving conflict?
  • How should one respond when their spouse refuses to fulfill their specific role?

Digging Deeper: Study 1 Peter 3:1-7

  1. How could this passage be helpful in handling conflict with a difficult spouse?
  2. What are some of the concepts in these verses that are counter-cultural? List as many as you can. (also see Ephesians 5:21-33)
  3. What parts of this passage do you find difficult or uncomfortable?
  4. What is one selfless thing you could do this week that would make your marriage relationship better?

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