The number one problem of every marriage is the husband and the wife. If your marriage isn’t what you want it to be, let me encourage you with this–it is probably your fault. Certainly marriage problems are more complex than I am making them, but transformation inside of marriage doesn’t come from compromise but rather spiritual transformation. What your marriage needs is not more compromises but a common and worthy goal. God-glorifying marriages are made of a wife and a husband who are moving in the same direction together. Successful marriages pursue Christ together. Let me explain:
No Dr. Phil cannot fix your marriage. In fact I find a good bit of his marriage advice suspect. Certainly much of what good ole Phil has to say is worth hearing, but I think most of his advice is rooted in a false assumption that the differences between men and women are irreconcilable and thus the lesson that needs learning inside of marriage is the art of compromise.
Learning to compromise in areas of conflict won’t fix your marriage and could in fact ruin it. Compromise is handy when it comes to what movie to rent, where to grab lunch, and how to spend your free time as a couple. Compromise can be deadly when applied to more essential matters. To put this clearly, there are certain areas of marriage that we must not compromise on.
For instance, let’s say my wife is very close to her family (which she is) and we live much closer to them than we do to my family (which we do), so my wife suggests that we spend every other weekend with her parents (which my wife would never do, though she loves them very much!). What should I do there? Should I compromise and say once a month? What is the right course of action there? Compromise in this instance would neglect to prioritize my relationship with my wife and would contradict the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage. The Bible tells me that “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). In other words if my wife is not leaving and cleaving–I am not helping her by compromising. Whether we live like it or not, we are “one flesh” and that means that we must prioritize this new one flesh relationship. So in this instance, compromise would get us in trouble. In this instance I need to lovingly show my wife that we are now a family that takes priority over our individual families. Certainly we will want to spend time with our families, but what needs to happen is that my wife and I need to understand that our relationship is unique–we are “one flesh.”
What does it mean to be “one flesh?” We see this word “flesh” in Genesis 6:12, “And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” So flesh here doesn’t mean our physical bodies nor does it carry the New Testament understanding of “flesh” as our sinful nature. The clearest definition of “flesh” here in Genesis is person. Being “one flesh” means that a husband and wife are no longer autonomous individuals. They are now essentially “one person.”
The implications behind God’s creative design for the husband and wife to be one are vast. Adam and Eve were one flesh to such an extent that they were “naked and unashamed.” Nakedness in Scripture is tied to intimacy (more than just sexual) and vulnerability. When one is truly “naked” nothing is hidden. Before the fall this meant that Adam and Eve knew each other intimately, neither of them were self-seeking but rather they knew, loved, and appreciated each other.
What happened immediately after the Fall when God confronts Adam and Eve in the garden? They immediately become consumed with self and they blameshift. Adam says its Eve’s fault, Eve says it is the serpent’s fault (Gen. 3:12-16). Neither will admit their failure and they hide not only from God but from each other–true intimacy is broken.
So how can such intimacy be restored? Through the gospel, by which Christ is reconciling all things to Himself (Col. 1:20). The gospel tells me how my sin which is crippling my marriage can be cleansed. The gospel frees me from slavery to sin (Rom. 6) and transforms me such that the intimacy with God I was created for and the intimacy I am to have with my wife can be restored. This doesn’t happen over night, but God delights to heal his people and he heals them through the power of the cross.
So instead defaulting to compromise any time there is conflict, how about asking whether your marriage is focused on the gospel? Ask this question instead–do we share a common goal in this marriage? Is our goal to become more like Christ? Are we moving toward greater intimacy with Christ? Are we pursuing Christ together?
Marriage exists to display the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). The marriage that glorifies Christ is the one that is being conformed into his image.