by Joe Leavell
He thinks their teen daughter should be allowed to be out until 11, and she is completely against it. She would rather have quiet time together before the kids get up in the morning, and he prefers after the kids are in bed at night. He thinks they should get more exercise and join the gym, and she says that they can’t afford it. He wants it, again? She is too tired, again? She just wants him to be engaged in the family and give her some rest after she’s been dealing with kids all day, and he wants some quiet time to refocus after a long day at work. She wants him to step up, show some real initiative, and lead, but he just wants her to stop nagging him all the time.
These are not unique scenarios. I see these often as I counsel married couples at BCA. Most of the time, counseling begins with two people seeking to convince me in a round-about way that the reason their marriage is falling apart is because their spouse is not doing things their way. Or even more difficult, their conflict is irreconcilable, not because they cannot agree on what should be done, but because one party is unable to legalistically live up to their spouse’s idealistic views.
The Source of Conflict
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1-2)
I am thankful that God tells us in this passage of James the source of all of our marital fights. Yep. Every single fight. Think about it. You want something to be a certain way, your spouse wants something else, and you’re willing to fight to get your way. Now, does it mean that you were wrong to have a desire? Was it sinful, for example, to differ with your spouse on how to handle a budget? Not by itself, no. The reality of it is, anytime you get two fallen human beings into the same room, you will have two different perspectives on how things should be, and what should be done. Now add to the mix that these two people of different genders are from different family backgrounds and cultures, with different places in their spiritual walk, with different perspectives on how faith in God plays out in everyday life. Add in how to parent the children, frequency of intimacy, or even something as simple as where to go out to eat for date-night. It is obvious to anyone who has been married more than, say, three days, that marriage is the perfect storm for endless conflicts in struggling to reconcile the irreconcilable.
Common Ideas to Build Compatibility
In some marriages, compatibility means one of the two dominating the marriage by imposing their lists of desires on their spouse. Some find compatibility by completely shutting down in areas they disagree, and simply live almost separate lives from one another. Others continue on in years of fighting and never reconcile their differences. They begin to wonder if they’re not all that compatible, and their marriage often ends up in divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Other couples are more adept and are able to find a workable solution. They are both good negotiators for their own desires. Maybe, if he is willing to stay up late and talk, she will give him more video game time the next day. Is this reconciling the irreconcilable? For a time. Eventually, however, there will be an issue where it is a top tier desire for both, and neither one is willing to budge. What happens then?
Another Person in This Scenario
The reality to these scenarios of two competing desires is that there is always a third person whose desires are at play. God’s desires. To be blunt and to the point, the only way to reconcile the irreconcilable, to have true intimate unity in our marriages, is to start with considering God’s desires before our own.
Why it Matters
When God brought Adam and Eve together, they were truly one flesh, one in unity, and one in desire as they walked together in unity with God. Yet, Adam and Eve choose to elevate their own desires above God’s. They disobeyed His command, and ate of the fruit that He commanded them not to eat. Shame came as their intimate unity with God and one another came crashing down. In the first recorded conversation after the fall found in Genesis 3, you find marital conflict, as Adam blamed both God and Eve for humanity’s fallen state.
Yet, the good news of the Gospel is that Christ bowed to the Father’s will and when faced with the torture of the cross said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Christ reconciled the irreconcilable between your sin and God only by submitting to God’s desires for our salvation at the cross.
In this way, whenever a husband and a wife start with the premise of, “What does God want?” then the irreconcilable cycle of conflict which started in the Garden is broken and the Gospel comes alive in their marriage.
What Does God Want Anyway?
Does God directly address your laundry, budget, date night, bedtime, etc? Nope. God’s primary desire is not to dictate who is making dinner or what to make. You’re still going to have to have a conversation, and if you need help with what that looks like, we here at BCA would love to help. God’s desire is to see you work through the conflict in a unified and loving manner, which builds intimacy with each other and with Him. Living out the Gospel in your marriage is the only way to reconcile the irreconcilable.
For Further Study:
Read some of these small samplings of Scriptural principles about God’s desires for your relationships and see if it might make a difference when you have different desires:
- Demonstrate God’s love to each other (1 Corinthians 13)
- Listen well (James 1:19)
- Don’t allow bitterness and anger to fester (Ephesians 4:31)
- Be quick to forgive (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)
- Build what brings unity – (Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 3:8)
- Be humble, honorable, and respectful (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3-11)
- Be Patient with each other (1 Corinthians 13:4)
- Be kind (Ephesians 4:32; 1 Corinthians 13:4)
- Think the best of the other (1 Corinthians 13:7)
- Always tell the truth (Ephesians 4:25)
- Bless each other, even when they’re mad at you (Romans 12:14, 18-21)
- Genuinely consider the other’s interests and point of view (Philippians 2:1-11)
- Build each other up in your speech (Ephesians 4:29)