Companionship in Marriage
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 (ESV)
I recently taught a lesson on the importance of companionship between a husband and wife in marriage. Companionship is not just an important component in marriage; it is a biblical obligation. One of the aspects of the marital covenant is to agree to be a friend or a companion to one another for life.
When a marriage breaks down, we often find that the couple has mostly been living separate lives in the months or years before entering into biblical counseling. What we learn is even when they are in the same room they spend very little time interacting with each other. The couple has become more like roommates than lovers. They have developed destructive habits of independence that have enabled them to grow apart. Perhaps one develops a tendency to work continuously; their activities and recreation are with friends instead of their spouse, and communication grinds to a halt. Over time, this leaves an enormous gaping hole in the relationship.
Because of the distance between them, seeds of discontent and dissatisfaction will grow in the marriage. Typically, this is when one partner or the other begins to complain about not having their needs met. The spouse who is feeling neglected often turns to self-help or Christianized books. They hope to find an “official” method of showing their husband the legitimacy of their perceived needs, or of their honest desire to have their love cup filled. They read these books hoping it will help them navigate difficult relationship issues.
While these kinds of books can contain some beneficial information, my concern is they aid the reader in a continuing self-focus. They foster a “what you should do for me” attitude, instead of helping the spouse see what sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires they are contributing to the relationship problems.
Our initial focus in the counseling process will be on directing both husband and wife to get the logs out of their own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). Teaching them to examine their own hearts instead of pointing the finger of blame is much more productive than accusing each other. Self-examination is humbling, and frequently this exercise goes a long way toward helping the couple look at their sinful contributions to the problems in the marriage. Once they admit their errors, we show them what the Scriptures have to say about them.
Three Major Sins that Destroy Relationships
Typically, there is sinful anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness in one or both spouses. Our goal is to reveal how these three major sins are slowly eating away at the foundation of their relationship. The couple will be encouraged to understand what brought them to the place of habitual anger with each other. They will have to repent and begin to walk in righteousness by uprooting bitterness and being willing to forgive.
We ask them to recall what things were like before they began having difficulties. We want them to remember when things were good in their marriage, and tell us when they began to change. Each person will be assigned introspective, written homework to help them probe the depths of their heart.
They will also do practical homework that will aid the couple in reestablishing their relationship. We stress the couple needs to spend time together, and we and give them guidelines that will help them to re-engage by expressing thankfulness and appreciation to each other in a variety of ways. They are also to edify one another by their speech. Edifying each other means they will not criticize, disrespect, or be negative toward each other. They will make a plan for a scheduled date night every week, pray together, and learn to listen before speaking.
We also realize there is a distance between the couple concerning physical interaction. Lack of physical intimacy is usually a long-standing situation, so casual touching (hand holding, sitting close, sleeping together, and kissing when arriving and leaving is strongly encouraged. We want them to progress toward resuming other forms of intimate contact.
One other thing we stress in the counseling process is this; the couple must make glorifying God their priority. As they grow in their pursuit of Him, they will become closer to each other. The individual’s spiritual quest will have a direct bearing on the changes taking place in the marriage. The desire to internalize and obey God’s Word in spite of how they feel must become more important than wanting to change for the sake of “being happy.”
One final thing; these problems are not quickly solved because they didn’t develop quickly. Both husband and wife must be committed to the process of biblical change, and to walking in repentance. When they are, we have seen beautiful things happen in marriages that appeared to be broken beyond repair. Where God is, change can happen.