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Marriage Sermons

The Grace-Filled Marriage - Week Four, Growth Principle 3:
Build a "Good Enough" Marriage

Selected Scriptures

Rod MacIlvaine
3/28/2004

Introduction:

Today we continue in our series on marriage, and this morning I want to talk about a "good enough" marriage. Now, when you saw the title for this message, I'll bet it raised some questions. Some of you wondered, "Why should I build a good enough marriage when I could have an excellent one?" And that's a fair question.

Most of us aren't content with being just good enough in other areas of life; why should we settle for good enough in marriage? For instance, would you ever buy a book called, "How to be the good enough employee"? Probably not! You want to be better than that. Would you buy a motivational video for your kids entitled, "How to be a good enough student"? No! You want them to excel.

Since marriage is such an important relationship it seems we should want the best one possible. And it sounds like "good enough" is settling for less than best. But there is a problem with setting excellence as your goal in an intimate relationship.

THE FIRST PROBLEM IS THAT HUSBANDS AND WIVES, TEND TO, DEFINE EXCELLENCE DIFFERENTLY. A wife defines an excellent marriage as one where her husband is deeply sensitive to her needs and extremely flexible when she isn't sure she understands what she needs. She wants her husband to be devoted to her, leading and guiding without complaint.

The husband on the other hand wants his wife to understand all the pressures he faces at work and be highly supportive when he comes home. He wants her to make the home a refuge where he can enjoy the calm because she's organized things so well.

And this difference of opinion about what constitutes excellence becomes extremely frustrating. Each one wants what they deem best and wonders, "Why won't he or she just cooperate." But the problem is they're defining excellence in terms of what they want to receive, rather the service they can give. If you define excellence that way, you'll be frustrated.

BUT THERE'S AN EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM. Our evangelical subculture has so elevated marital expectations, it seems an excellent marriage is our right, and if we don't get it we'll find a different Christian partner who'll give it to us. There are dozens of seminars and books purporting to give wise counsel on how to have a great marriage, and this is truly a blessing to the Christian community.

But some couples have misunderstood the point of all this good information. They say to themselves, "Shouldn't my marriage be able to fill this hole in my soul?" And the answer to that is, "No." Only God can fill the hole in your soul. God designed marriage as a stimulus to worship not a substitute.

This is undoubtedly the reason why the divorce rate among Christians is about two points higher than for the general population. Marital expectations in the Christian community have spun totally out of control.

BUT THERE'S ANOTHER PITFALL. If you get obsessed about having an excellent marriage, you will create a different kind of culture in your marriage. It's a culture - not of grace - but of performance. It's a culture not of safety and shelter…but of accomplishment, achievement and critique.

It's a bit like golf. Every golfer knows that golf is a humbling sport. But let's say you love the game of golf, and you're pretty good, and you've been shaving points off your handicap. So you start daydreaming, "I wonder if I could join the senior tour?" Suddenly, every time you play golf your perspective is different. You're thinking about perfection. You've got to make Tiger Woods-type shots - every time. And you're quickly humbled. What used to be a very fun game has become very burdensome. Just like golf is not a game of perfect, marriage is not a relationship of perfect.

So let me propose a different alternative.

I want to propose that the best marriages are not the so-called excellent ones, but the good enough ones. And here's how I would define a good enough marriage: It's not perfect, but it's moving more and more toward deep friendship.

Friendship isn't about having everything match up to expectations. Friendship is about being warmly connected to in the grind of daily life…even as things are less than ideal.

So what I want to do this morning is this: I want to show you three ways you can move toward a good enough marriage.

Here's the first task:

1. TO BUILD A GOOD ENOUGH MARRIAGE…address your unrealistic expectations. I believe there are five myths regarding an "excellent" marriage.

A. Myth one - "In an excellent marriage, couples resolve most of their problems."

This is not true. John Gottman is professor psychology at the University of Washington. For the past 25 years he has been doing scientific studies on marriages at the Seattle Marital Institute.

Gottman recently published a study in which he said that the healthiest couples are out of sync with each other two-thirds of the time. In other words, even if you are doing really well in your marriage, you'll still feel disconnected 66% of the time.

When I first heard that statistic it really surprised me. I thought the percentage would be far less…maybe 10-15%. But his study has been confirmed over and over again in his research.

On the other hand, the good news is that one third of the time you are in sync with each other. You're solving problems, enjoying romance and feeling the love. What I conclude from this is that the best marriages are like the best batters in Major League Baseball. If you post a .333 batting average year-in and year-out for twenty years, you're going to reach the hall of fame. Hall of fame marriages are going to experience harmony only about one third of the time.

So the challenge is this: when you're batting .333, don't be frustrated that you're not batting .700. It's not going to happen. Rejoice that you're batting .333, and enjoy the blessings to your relationship. They're a gift from God.

Moreover, if you look at the Bible, you discover that even in the best relationships there were problems. Take Paul and Barnabas, for example; theirs is one of the great friendships of the Bible. Did they do well 100% of the time? No!

After a hugely successful first missionary journey, they faced major conflict over Barnabas' cousin John Mark. Both these guys had the Holy Spirit; both were spiritually mature; but their conflict was so sharp they decided to go separate ways. If problems festered in even the best relationships in the Bible, you will encounter your share in marriage as well. You simply will not resolve all your problems.

That leads to a second myth.

B. Myth two - "In an excellent marriage, couples rarely express anger."

Let me fill you in on another item of research by John Gottman. In his book, The Marriage Clinic, Gottman identifies three types of healthy marriages.

HE SAID SOME MARRIAGES WERE VOLATILE. In these marriages couples are highly expressive. When they disagree, they argue, bicker, and express opinions with passion.

They're not afraid to get angry, and sometimes that anger is sharp. But they also get over it. They don't resort to sarcasm, or name-calling or contempt. Instead, they use humor, affection and teasing to soften some of the sharpness of the anger.

THE SECOND TYPE OF MARRIAGE IS THE VALIDATING COUPLE. This couple also believes in emotional expressiveness, but in moderation. They're slow to express anger, and express it only when big issues come up. The rest of the time they are very nice and affirming.

THE THIRD TYPE OF MARRIAGE IS THE CONFLICT-AVOIDANT COUPLE. This couple rarely enters into conflict. Their goal is acceptance and agreement. When tensions rise they explore each other's emotions, affirm each other's point of view, and they do this in a very calm way. When conflict is severe they agree to disagree.

Now here are three types of healthy couples…with three completely different styles…all reporting high levels of satisfaction. But let me ask you a question: Which couples do you think were most romantically inclined after 35 years of marriage?

It's not the conflict-avoidant couple, and it's not the validating couple. The couples most romantically inclined after their 35th-anniversary were the volatile couples…the couples most apt to express anger openly, fairly, productively, and then be done with it.

So it is simply not true that excellent marriages have little anger. Just the reverse! In good marriages couples are mastering the skills of being angry, yet without sinning against each other.

And that leads us to myth number three.

C. This myth is stated this way. "I might be able to have an excellent marriage if I was married to someone else."

This is the myth of the greener grass. Sometimes another man or woman looks more desirable than your spouse. And you think, "I was married to her, we wouldn't have the problems my wife and I have."

But let me be…like…brutally honest with you. If you were to change partners, you wouldn't eliminate problems, you would merely change the kind of problems you have. For example, let's say that a husband is frustrated by his wife's excessive talking. He would dearly love to be married to a woman who gives him space to read, relax and watch basketball. But no, his wife is always talking, and she's always haggling over the finer points of their relationship.

Then he notices his wife's best friend, and she's gentler than his wife. She's quieter, and what's more she loves to watch basketball. So they form a secret relationship. He eventually decides to divorce his wife and marry his wife's best friend. He's solved his problems, right?

Wrong! All he did was trade problems. See it just so happens that his wife's best friend is prone to lengthy bouts with anxiety and depression. These frequently leave her tearful and bedridden. And during these times she's extremely demanding. Sure, he solved one set of problems, but gained another set in the process.

If you're tempted to daydream about the greener grass on the other side of the fence, I have bad news for you. It's a fantasy. Marriage is fraught with problems, and you will never arrive at the problem free marriage or even an almost-problem free marriage.

Here's myth number four.

D. Myth four - "Excellent marriages shouldn't take so much work."

This is the idea that if this marriage is meant to be, excellence should just happen…naturally. No hard work required!

The problem with this is that marriage is a counter-intuitive relationship. You've got to confront your natural inclinations. By this definition, marriage will never be easy. For instance…

• The natural inclination for a husband is to treat his wife the way he wants to be treated. But, of course, that doesn't work because she's a woman, and, what she needs is to be treated like a woman. That's a counter intuitive skill.

• Or, the natural inclination of a wife with the love-language of serving is to render service to her husband. But what if the husband's love language isn't service? What if it's words of affirmation? The wife has to learn to love her husband in a counter-intuitive way. That takes work.

• The natural inclination of a spouse who receives criticism is to give it back. But Peter tells us we shouldn't return evil for evil or insult for insult but give a blessing. That's a counter-intuitive skill.

All I'm saying is this: Being a good lover is a counter-intuitive skill, and therefore all marriages require a lot of work.

Paul put it this way. He said, "Husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church." If Jesus' sacrificial love wasn't hard work, I don't know what is. Just think about Mel Gibson's movie The Passion and you realize how hard he worked to express his love.

And that leads us to myth number five.

E. Myth five - "To build an excellent marriage we'll need lots of therapy."

This myth is a holdover from a trend that seemed quite prevalent in the 80s and early 90s. It was epitomized in bestselling books like the one by Harville Hendrix' book, Getting the Love You Want.

Hendrix "[contended] that most marital conflict stems from childhood wounds resulting from bad parenting." To deal with this he says couples must develop "x-ray" vision to see the wound behind the hostility in marital conflict. How do you get that "x-ray" vision? It's very hard to get it on your own; it really helps if you can go into therapy and get help from a professional.

Now there is some truth to what he says, but the problem is obvious. Most couples can't afford therapy. And even if they could, they might not choose it because therapy is time consuming and emotionally painful. If myth number five were true it would mean that only those with enough money could achieve a really good marriage. God certainly didn't design marriage that way.

So those are five common myths floating around in our culture about the possibility of having an excellent marriage.

F. But here's the reality: All marriages have problems. So the real question is what do you do with the problems?

Couples in a "good enough" marriage think about their problems differently. They realize that marital problems fall into one of two categories: either they are solvable problems or they're unsolvable. And you have to use a different strategy depending on the category the problem falls into.

Now I want to ask you a question: What percentage of problems in marriage do you think will never be solved? I'd like you to write down that percentage on your notes. Write down the percentage of problems in marriage that will never be solved.

After studying thousands of marriages, one marriage researcher concluded that roughly 69% of all the problems in a given marriage will never be solved. And the reason why they can't be solved is that they are due to fundamental differences in personality, temperament, background and values. Try as you might, you probably won't be able to change them.

So when you hit a problem to ask yourself, is this solvable or unsolvable. For example…

• One couple has a philosophical difference about child discipline. The husband feels his wife is way too lenient; the wife feels that her husband is way too harsh. They fight and argue over this at least once a week. What do you think? Solvable or unsolvable?

• Another couple has a disagreement about cleanliness in the house. The husband is comfortable with high levels of clutter. His wife is obsessed with housework. They fight over his messes in the garage, his closet, and in his corner of the bathroom. Solvable or unsolvable?

• Another couple has a problem over frequency of physical intimacy. He hopes for three times a week. She'd prefer once every ten days. They fight over this monthly. Solvable or unsolvable?

Your answer to these kinds of questions will determine how to your adjust your expectations for your marriage. Now for the rest of the message I want to talk about how to work on both solvable and unsolvable problems. Now, in the time I have left I won't be able to say everything about this, but I hope to give you a roadmap.

2. To work on solvable problems you need to learn four skills.

A. The first skill is to begin problem-solving discussions gently.

Let me give you several observations about problem-solving discussions.

The first is that women are more likely to initiate these discussions than men. That's because wives tend to see problems sooner and feel the pain deeper. That's not to say husbands don't bring up issues too…they do. It's just that wives tend to do it more.

Another observation is that the most natural way to begin problem-solving discussions is with a harsh start-up. When I say harsh I mean this: you adopt a hardened facial expression. You use a condescending tone of voice. You use inflammatory words. And you're on the attack from the very beginning. Here are some examples of a harsh start-up.

• A wife opens the Visa bill and says, "I hate it that you're always racking up debts on our credit cards. Do you realize you're destroying our finances? What were you thinking when you put all this fishing gear on the Visa card? No, you weren't thinking, were you? In fact, you never think when it comes to money."

• Or a husband comes home after he's been out of town for a week. The house is a mess; the TV is blaring; and he explodes. "You know, if you really cared about me and our marriage, you'd at least have the courtesy of picking up the house and making things calm before I come home. But you never think about that do you? You take my hard work for granted, and then prevent me from having a nice homecoming with the kids."

Why is it so easy to begin this way? It's because you don't feel heard. And when you don't feel heard as a way of life in your marriage, you start using harsh startup all the time to get your point across. Harsh startup is a symptom that couples aren't listening.

And here's the problem with harsh startup: it will absolutely doom your conversations to failure. Conversations that begin poorly always end poorly. If most of your problem-solving discussions begin with harsh startup, you will resolve nothing.

So what's the answer?

The antidote to a harsh startup is a gentle startup. Now I want you to listen to three Proverbs that talk about the value of a gentle startup.

• Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

• Proverbs 12:18: "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health."

• Proverbs 29:20: "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Now let me make some observations about gentle startups.

When you are learning how to do gentle startups, don't worry about perfectly choosing your words or carefully managing emotions. You won't be able to do that at first. The important thing is that you don't express sharp criticism or contempt. You can feel passionate, and you can express emotion. But stick to the issue. Make "I feel" statements rather than "you always" statements. Describe your point of view without blaming or attacking.

Here's a good gentle startup: "Honey, it really bothers me when you come home and immediately turn on the TV, without stopping to say hi or giving me a kiss. We have talked about this before and I feel hurt. Can't we please work on this?"

Another observation about gentle startups…if you've been doing harsh startups for years, don't expect your spouse to immediately soften when you switch gears and use a gentle one. It's going to take some time to rebuild trust. It may take months before she believes you're really changing course, but this new habit will pay huge dividends in your marriage. I believe this one skill can make or break levels of intimacy in your relationship.

But I've talked to couples who've said, "I just can't do this! I get too worked up. I feel too carried away with my emotions." That's where the Holy Spirit comes in. The ninth fruit of the Spirit is self-control. You can master the skill of gentle startups if you will rely on the Spirit's power.

Now here's a second skill for dealing with your solvable problems.

B. Skill # 2 - Deal with the issue of flooding.

The idea of flooding comes from Proverbs 17:14. "The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts."

Flooding takes place first on the emotional level. You become so overwhelmed by your spouses' negativity, or criticism, or contempt that you feel shell-shocked. It's like your whole emotional world has experienced a massive code-red, and you are traumatized with the unfairness of what you've heard.

Flooding then turns into a physiological response. Your heart rate speeds up. Your blood pressure rises. You secrete adrenaline. Blood flow shuts down to the extremities, and your brain doesn't process information the same way any more. It becomes as difficult to have a productive conversation as if you were drunk.

That's the physiology and psychology of it. What about the results?

People generally have two responses. Some people respond to flooding by freezing up and going silent. They couldn't speak if they tried. So they stonewall their mate: they don't look them in the eye; they don't hear a word they say; they register no response whatsoever. They just sit there like a stone wall.

Other people erupt like a volcano. They unleash a torrent of angry words with threatening gestures. Some take it further than that. Their flooding turns physical. A spouse will hit walls, throw things, sometimes even push and shove…in extreme cases hit.

It's important to know that men and women experience flooding differently. Flooding is much more damaging for men than women. For some reason women intuitively know how to calm themselves down. They slow their heart rate down. Adrenaline tapers off. And they replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to continue rehearsing negative thoughts. They'll alternately beat themselves up for not winning the battle, or they'll be self-righteously indignant over unjust things said to them. Most men don't allow themselves to feel better unless they win the fight; but this puts them in a dilemma because winning the fight might do damage to the relationship. This is why men have got to engage tremendous levels of self-leadership when they get into fights with their mate.

So how do you respond to the problem of flooding?

FIRST OF ALL, YOU CALL A TIME OUT. Now this is not an easy thing to do. But it's crucially important that one of you call a time out and the other honors it.

Think about it this way: Imagine that you're an NFL quarterback. It's fourth quarter in the Super Bowl. The game is tied…60 seconds left. You're marching down the field, and you've just crossed the 50-yard line. But it's 3rd and 8, and as you come to the line you see a defensive formation that's going to ruin your play. You don't have time to call an audible, so what do you do? You call a time out. Is anyone going to criticize you for calling a time out? No! The goal is to win the ball game, not make the play.

In the same way taking the time out is the most courageous thing you can do when one or both of you are flooded. The goal is problem-resolution not winning the fight. If the time out will better facilitate resolution, go for it!

But what do you do during the time out? Here's what you don't do: you don't mentally assassinate your partner. You don't gorge yourself with food. You don't drink. Nor do you take it out on the dog. These are not healthy ways of calming yourself down. But here's what you can do: pray, journal, work out, walk, read the word, listen to music…things like that.

But the most important thing to do during the time out is practice the discipline of self-soothing. Self-soothing is the ability to talk to yourself under pressure so that you edge toward calmness. The discipline of self-soothing is constantly used by the Psalmists in the Old Testament. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they talked to themselves, encouraging themselves to trust in God in the face of great pain.

One of the best ways soothe yourself is to rehearse Scriptures you've memorized. This is why I think Scripture memory is so important to marriage.

For instance if you're flooded and you can call to mind Philippians 2:3-4 it's a huge help. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. But with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

But self-soothing, like taking a time out, requires diligent self-leadership. It is much easier to lock onto negativity, feel the hurt, and nurse thoughts of getting even. But we have a moral and ethical obligation both to God, and to our spouse, to soothe ourselves so that we can resolve issues in our marriage.

That leads us to skill three in resolving solvable problems.

C. Skill # 3 - We need to make repair attempts and recognize when repair attempts have been given.

Let me define a repair attempt. A repair attempt is something you do to soften the pain of a confrontation or to reduce negativity in a conversation. Repair attempts usually include things like affirmation, apology, humor, non-verbal expressions of kindness, and verbal expressions of love. The key is to do this even in the heat of the argument.

In good enough marriages, couples develop repair attempts that are unique to their relationship. They have looks they give each other. They have little code words…little gestures. An outsider looking in would never dream some of these things are repair attempts. But it works for them.

The wonderful thing about a repair attempt is this: You indirectly affirm your mate. You're saying, "Even though I don't agree, and even though we're miles apart, I value our relationship and I value you."

Here are some examples of repair attempts.

• I'm sorry. I didn't mean that.
• I can see my part in this.
• Let's find some common ground.
• Your point of view makes sense.
• I might be wrong here.
• I don't think I said that right.
• Let's start this conversation all over again.

Cindy did a great job with a repair attempt several weeks ago. We went to Tulsa to see a rather artsy movie about the life of the famous Dutch painted Jan Vermeer. And when the movie was over I was primed to talk about it. I love discussing movies and books we've read.

But Cindy wasn't ready to talk yet; parts of the movie were distressing, and she wanted to sort things out before discussing it. So I pressured her to talk. (That wasn't a good idea.) She got mad.

So we took a time out at Barnes and Noble. And half an hour later Cindy said, "Can we start that conversation all over again. What'd you think about the movie?" It was a great repair attempt.

Not only is it important to make repair attempts. It's also important to recognize when they are given. In some marriages the wife is quite skilled at making repair attempts, but her husband doesn't catch them. He's too caught up in his anger.

If he continues to complain and criticize without being softened by the repair attempt, it's deadly for communication. It won't take long before his wife says, "This doesn't work. I'm not doing this any more." And the relationship is in trouble.

So learn to recognize when your spouse is making a repair attempt, and if your spouse isn't catching on, be blunt. "Honey, this is a repair attempt. Repair attempts soften negativity. Please hear this for what it is: an expression of respect and love, even though we are miles apart."

That leads us to skill number four.

D. Remember the vision. The vision is friendship not perfection.

Perfection says, "This relationship isn't satisfying, and won't be until things change." And many Christian couples live with these destructive thoughts. They say to themselves, "If I'm a growing Christian, I should be able to have a marriage that meets pretty much all my needs." So they demand much of their spouses, and the marriage takes on a form of legalism rather than grace.

It's no wonder they find themselves unhappy.

The goal of a Christian marriage is friendship.

We see friendship-goal in Proverbs 12:4. "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones." This is a beautiful picture of friendship. A crown is a symbol of dignity, honor and value. An excellent wife works hard to convey this to her husband, even when she's angry.

But this verse makes it clear that it's not always easy for a wife to convey honor in marriage. The phrase translated excellent means valiant warrior. Sometimes warm friendship in marriage is a battle against our own sinful bent.

We also see this friendship-goal in 1 Peter 3:7. Peter says, "You husbands, likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way." The words live with mean to settle down with your wife…dwell with her in an attitude of friendship. The word understanding way means that you're getting to know her both as a woman and as a unique individual.

The friendship-goal generates a whole different outlook on problems. When problems come up rather than becoming overly frustrated and discouraged, you keep thinking, "Hey, muster up, buckle down…marriage is a marathon. Let's keep on working. We'll get through this."

In your marriage some problems will be solvable problems. If you want to resolve solvable problems you need four skills: gentle startup; self-soothing; repair attempts; and the friendship goal.

But some of your problems will be unsolvable problems. You will have them for the rest of your marriage. So…

3. TO BUILD A GOOD ENOUGH MARRIAGE…you've got to also work at accepting those problems that cannot be solved.

A. Now, I'm going to spend the entire message next week talking about how to deal with unsolvable problems, so all I want to do this week is remind you that there are unsolvable problems in every marriage.

It's not that you won't make any progress in these problems - you may make great progress - but the problem will never be resolved to your complete satisfaction.

Now unsolvable problems come from a variety of different sources.

SOME PROBLEMS ARE UNSOLVABLE BECAUSE A SPOUSE REFUSES TO GROW UP. There are some men who acted like frat boys in college. Now it's twenty-five years later and they're still acting like frat boys. These guys are narcissistic and immature. They haven't matured in twenty-five years, and they're probably not going to.

Now that seems like an unsolvable problem to a faithful wife who longs for a mature relationship with a man. But what can she do? You can't force maturity on fifty-year old unwilling to change. At some level she has to make peace with the fact that this may be an unsolvable problem.

OTHER PROBLEMS ARE UNSOLVABLE BECAUSE YOU HAVE HUGE DIFFERENCES IN PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT. Some of the funniest TV shows have depicted couples with huge variations in their personality: I Love Lucy, The Bill Cosby Show, and Everybody Loves Raymond, just to name a few. Every married couple can identify with the misunderstandings that arise when opposite personalities clash.

But in real life personality differences don't seem so funny. Imagine the wife who comes from a proper southern family where the goal was gracious communication. Mom and Dad always chose their words carefully, and their words were always intended to convey kindness. They never raised their voices and then rarely let an unkind word pass their lips.

But she marries a man whose parents emigrated from Italy. In his growing up years conversations were volatile and full of energy. They argued and haggled, and when they weren't being heard, they simply increased their volume. More often than not they said the first thing that crossed their mind and didn't care what people thought.

These unsuspecting lovers get married, and they can't believe how different they are. The wife is perpetually embarrassed by her husband's spontaneity. She perceives he's always putting his foot in his mouth. The husband is dumbfounded over why his wife is so bottled up in her emotions. Why can't she just cut loose and say what she thinks?

This couple is likely going to have communication issues for the rest of their marriage. It doesn't mean they can't make some progress. And it doesn't mean they won't be deeply in love, but their radically different orientation toward communication is going to be a lifelong struggle.

AND SOME PROBLEMS COME BECAUSE MARRIED PARTNERS HAVE DIFFERENT DREAMS. Imagine the man who was raised the son of an Army officer. He moved seventeen times when he was growing up, and hated every minute of it. When he goes into college he chooses a profession where he can be in one city for his entire career. His dream is to settle down in one place and never leave. If he never traveled again for the rest of his life then that would suit him just fine.

But he falls in love with a woman who grew up in the same town her whole life. She dreams of traveling, and experiencing new cultures, and she thinks, "If I have to stay in this same town my whole life I'll be bored out of my mind." They have two totally different dreams. And this is going to be a problem for them for the rest of their lives.

B. Now I hate to say it, but well over half of the problems you face in your marriage will be unsolvable.

And the challenge is this: you have to learn to recognize which problems are solvable and which are not. And then you have to learn to accept those problems that you will never solve.

And here's the things that characterizes every good enough marriage: they're really good at telling the difference. They're highly skilled at tackling those problems that can be solved and working on them in God's strength. But they also have this sense of serenity about those problems that will never get solved, and they can live in the tension just fine.

I'll talk about accepting unsolvable problems next week.

Conclusion:

The bottom line is that there are two ways you can think about marriage: You can aspire for a so-called excellent marriage. But there is a downside. Couples striving for an excellent marriage, usually end up highly conscious that needs aren't getting met.

But couples aspire to a "good enough" marriage have a completely different mindset. They're focused on friendship. As time goes one they're gradually conscious that many important needs are getting met. But they're getting met - not because they force them - they get met as the by-product of the friendship.

Amazingly, they have what the so-called excellent couples want, but they've obtained it indirectly. And when they get it, they're humble about it and say, "You know, whatever we have is solely by the grace of God."

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