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Monday, July 20, 2015

Scheming Against Life-Giving Communication in Your Marriage



My husband and I have been married for 2 years and 8 months! The pictures shown above are from our engagement pic session taken by my lovely friend Claire! (We are cute!) Patrick and I had a relatively short dating relationship before we were married. We met in November of 2011, began dating in December, got engaged in July, and were married on November 17, 2012 (and then got pregnant one month later, but that’s another story!). You could say it was love at first sight! During the semester that we met, we had been in a seminary class together. The class began in August, but we didn’t actually speak to each other until November! We’re both pretty introverted, so it took a lot of courage to initiate that first conversation! Anyway, needless to say, we hit it off from the first conversation. Our first “non-date” was to a coffee shop that only accepted cashwell I didn’t bring any cash, so Patrick had to pay for my coffee! I was so embarrassed. He had wanted to pay, so my blunder helped him out a little. After that, we were inseparable! We talked all day and all night and talked about everything under the sun. I think it was the first time in my life I ever stayed up past 12:30am, but of course it was worth it because I couldn’t get enough of Patrick Owen Cochran! The more we talked and spent time together, the more we knew that we had found someone we could see ourselves with in a marriage relationship. Exciting times! So in the quick 11 months, we dated, got engaged, planned a wedding (with lots of help from our families), and were married!
At that time in our relationship, we were members of a church that offered WONDERFUL pre-marital counseling from a pastor and friend whom we respected very much. Counseling was an exciting time, a time for planning and expecting great things in our new marriage. We chose two books to read during our counseling sessions. We would each read the books throughout the week, and then during our counseling sessions, we would come together and discuss questions and the high points of the books. The pastor would also bring certain topics to the table that we would discuss. Before counseling began, he asked us to state our fears about marriage, and we discussed those as well. One of the books we chose was called The Peace Maker by Ken Sande. Patrick had heard about this book from a friend, and so we decided that a book about conflict resolution and communication would probably be a good idea when beginning a marriage! We read, took notes, and discussed. However, reading, discussing, and taking notes on elements of good communication and conflict resolution does not make you an expert on those topics nor does it mean that you will put those skills into practice when you’re in the midst of trying to communicate effectively! We learned that very early on in our marriage
These are some of the topics of our first big disagreements:
-        The appropriate use of a butter knife (Don't ask...)
-        Who was going to drive on the last leg of our trip home from Alabama
-        Whether we should go shopping or go to Christmas in the Oaks

Can anyone else relate to starting an argument over something as trivial as a butter knife??? Looking back, it’s pretty embarrassing and immature!
Very early into our marriage, we realized that we had different ways of doing things. We had different expectations for mundane household tasks. We had different expectations for budgeting and spending. We had different expectations for how time should be spent. We had different expectations for marriage roles. And when our expectations differed, it was honestly easy for me to either have a fearful or critical spirit when Patrick didn’t agree with me. We also had different fears and insecurities about different aspects of ourselves and our marriage. Some of things were discussed prior to embarking on our marriage journey, but a lot of those things just sort of manifested as a result of being married.  
So, based on these either unmet, miscommunicated, or unfair expectations, here’s a good recipe for conflict that we have (unfortunately) discovered and semi-perfected
Miscommunication + Misinformation + Expectations + Fears + Insecurities + Negative Body Language + Critical Spirit = Conflict, Tension, and Disunity (By the way, NOT God’s will for a godly marriage)
Well, it would take entirely too long to dive into each of the negative topics listed above. Just know that they each critically play a role in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of conflict in your marriage (or in any relationship for that matter). We have to actively guard against each of these elements of negative communication if we want to participate in positive, uplifting, and fruitful communication with our spouse. Who wants to live in any part of the formula listed above?? That is not God’s design for our marriage.
It is, however, the adversary’s desire for our marriage. I don’t think we need to constantly dwell on the evil schemes of the devil, but we do need to be aware of them and on our guard against them because he is prowling around like a lion, seeking to destroy anything of God. If he can cause dissention in our marriage, if he can cause us to distrust our spouse, if he can steer our minds to focus on disappointments and unmet expectations, if he can gain a foothold of bitterness and insecurity, then he will do it. He will take every opportunity to destroy what God has put together. He wants us to roll our eyes and slam doors. He wants us to dwell on the ways that our husbands have not met our (unfair, unrealistic, and often poorly communicated) expectations. He wants us to feel critical, hurt, bitter, and alone. Because when we do, then our marriages will slowly crumble. And when our marriages begin to crumble, then we are not working as team to honor the Lord; we’re just barely trying to stay afloat. The adversary doesn’t want us to have thriving, God-centered marriages. If we are not on guard against his tactics, then our marriages will suffer. We cannot let that happen!
So, how can we be on guard so that we don’t fall into the terribly destructive formula for conflict within our marriages? By studying, memorizing, meditating on, and putting into practice the words of Ephesians 6:10-20.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Application:

1.      Know your enemy. We don’t need to dwell on the devil or be anxious about his power in this fallen world, but we do need to be aware and proactive against his schemes, especially his schemes to destroy and prevent godly marriages from thriving. In Matthew 4, he attempted to tempt our Lord, Jesus Christ. In Genesis 3, he successfully deceived Eve. In Job, he was given permission to test Job. He is scheming, plotting, and planning against God’s people. Are you prepared for that? Read Ephesians 6:10-12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, and John 10:10.
2.    Learn and practice God’s plan for guarding against the enemy’s schemes. Study Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:10-20, and James 4:7-8.
3.    Evaluate your own marriage. How has the adversary been plotting against you and your spouse? For us, it was all about expectations. I was expecting Patrick to do and fulfill things in me that only the Lord can fulfill. I was expecting him to know what my desires were without even communicating them to him! (See Does Your Husband Possess This Superpower?) So once you’ve determined how the devil might be working against you, how can you guard against his schemes? He is going to be actively working against the things of God, including godly marriages, SO we have to be actively working to combat his schemes!
4.    Pray, pray, pray! Pray for your husband. Pray for yourself. Pray for fruitful instead of critical communication. Pray for united desires in marriage. Pray for united goals as you seek to serve the Lord together. Pray for each of you to put on the full armor of God each day. Pray, pray, pray! (See Prayer: A Lifeline or an Afterthought?)

I pray that you will hold fast to the Lord as you and your spouse seek to pursue a godly marriage, and especially godly communication and conflict resolution. I pray that you will be a team working together for the Lord and for your marriage and family. I pray that you will be aware of the devil’s schemes, but not fearful of them, because our God is greater than anything that adversary could throw at us. Sister, plead with the Lord on behalf of your marriage! Pray for your husband daily. Don’t follow the formula for conflict; rather put on the FULL armor of God DAILY! Fight for your marriage! It’s worth it!


Always, Jacquelyn

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