How to Get Upstream of Your Marriage Problems

 In Marriage
 You know how sometimes you hear a song and it gets stuck in your head? I just learned they call this an earworm. Urban dictionary defines an earworm as “a song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try.” I don’t like the word, but I know the concept. Even typing the word makes my skin crawl!

Sometimes an idea gets stuck in my head, and I can’t seem to shake it. I had one of those moments a few days ago, and the concept remains stuck in my head. Let me explain.

In 2015, Watermark hosted a marriage ministry conference to help raise the value of marriage ministry in the local church. We taught on topics such as cohabitation, marital infidelity, and pornography. Men and women from our staff and guest speakers such as Ted Cunningham, Scott Stanley, Shannon Ethridge, and Gary Thomas spoke from the main stage and in breakout sessions.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was a Q&A session we did with Francis & Lisa Chan for marriage ministry leaders at Watermark. The Chans shared candidly about their marriage, ministry, and problems they often see in the church. I recently re-listened to the Q&A, and one of their points has “earwormed” its way into my brain.

Lisa shared about the importance of premarital and newly married ministry. As you know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. She talked about how premarried and newly married couples don’t need to be “reprogrammed.” In other words, the longer a couple has been married, the more patterns they’ve established. Some of them might be good patterns, while others are bad habits. The less time you’ve been married, the less established patterns you have in your marriage. This means there are fewer bad habits to undo when things get tough, and there’s more opportunity to establish good habits from day one of marriage.

At Watermark, we call this getting upstream of your problems. While God can certainly restore any marriage and situation, the less painful and more effective path is to cut off problems before they become marital issues. This might mean a couple breaks up in our premarital class or a couple builds their marriage on the foundation of Christ as newlyweds.

For you newlyweds out there: What can you do to set yourselves up for total freedom to serve God? He requires your entire life, so give him your life. Set up your life in such a way that you can serve and follow God without distractions. Buy a much smaller home, buy a used, older car, and do not set yourselves up to live with a ridiculously high standard of living. Start off this way, and it will set you up for success down the road.

But, whether you got married last week or 50 years ago, you can still make changes in your marriage. You can get upstream of your challenges, and no marriage is beyond repair or hope. What can you do right now in your marriage to prevent a problem or stop one from getting worse?

  • What conversation do you need to have with your spouse? Is there anything you need to confess?
  • How can you involve your community to help you grow your marriage?
  • When’s the last time you spent intentional time together as a couple?
  • Do you have any unhealthy relationships in your life with someone of the opposite sex?
  • Maybe you’re in a season of marital health. What can you do to help others prevent marital problems down the road?

Trust me – it’s much better to get upstream of your marriage problems than downwind of them!

Your Turn:

  • Discuss this post with your spouse. Look at the questions above and discuss what you can do as a couple to get upstream of your problems.
  • If you feel like it’s too late and you’re drowning way downstream, invite others in to help pull you out of the water.

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