[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:” —Matthew 12:25
A house that has conflicting views on many things is a house and family that knows no peace especially if these conflicting ideas involve shouting, bickering and screaming. Where there are different visions and no clear direction which way to go as a unit the outcome can be people going in different directions or the marriage becoming stagnant. Stagnant is described by the Free dictionary as:
Showing little or no sign of activity or advancement; not developing or progressing; inactive.
There are many marriages that are in this state. The spouses disagree on EVERYTHING! Even decisions about small matters drive the couple to the battle ground.
Generally, when two people get married; when they say their vows they genuinely believe in their love. They believe that they will be separated only by death. They vow to be there for each other. They imagine a life of happiness and togetherness. They have a shared vision of happiness; peace and joy as they “build a life together”. Life happens however and people change; circumstances change; beliefs about certain things change driving the husband and the wife further and further apart. With divorce at an all time high all over the world both in the church and outside the church it is obvious that couples these days are finding it difficult to hang on to this ideal.
During the recent school holidays we went to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) with the children. We were able to reach our destination because of one thing…WE KNEW WHERE WE WANTED TO GO! We might not have known the direction to take but we knew the address of our destination. This helped us to know what to write in the Global Positioning System (GPS) for it to direct us to our destination. This is simple enough but sadly so many families and marriages crumble at the lack of this one thing. There is no one clear vision for the family to work towards. I put the details in the GPS and all was communicated to the last detail of the address. It was not enough to write just the city and the street in the GPS. That would still not have taken us to where we wanted to go. When you write the street name in the GPS and do not put in a number it writes words that if taken literally for a marriage and family could be disastrous: the GPS writes “Änywhere!“
Have a clear destination
When you are not sure where you are going you will arrive at the “anywheres” of life. When you are not sure of the job; career; type of marriage you want; type of life you want you will have just any kind of life. People who live their lives like this are unfulfilled. They complain that their life is not what they want. Their marriage is not what they want but they never sat down and wrote exactly what they want. It was never clear! They are just driving aimlessly and endlessly around and around until they run out of petrol or diesel. A spouse who has no clear direction; a marriage that has no vision or two conflicting visions goes around in circles and there’s never a final destination. This can be very tiring for the people involved as “it feels like we are going around in circles”. There needs to be a clear destination; a clear vision that is communicated so everyone will know what they are working towards and will know and celebrate the “You have reached your destination” points of life.
If you have two cars that each have a GPS they will direct the different drivers to the addresses written. They do not read your mind but go according to the script that you have written for them. The Bible says in Habakkuk 2:2 “Write the vision down and make it plain”. It does not say write the visions and it does not say THEM. It is One Vision that must be written.
We have a good model with how God has designed the eyes. It is two eyes but it is amazing that the two manage to focus on one thing at a time. There’s never a time when two eyes can look at different things at the same time. For the body; for them to function they are coordinated to focus on one thing at the time. It is a simple principle of life. If the eyes look up they both look up. If they look down they both look down. It is two eyes but they concentrate on one thing. That is how they are able to function effectively. Two people in a marriage have to work together towards one vision for their marriage to progress and move forward.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand!
Married but separate
Many couples live married but separate lives. They are married in name only but they live as singles. They do not want to go through the shame of divorce and they have practically given up on their marriage. The flame is no longer there and they could not be bothered to bring it back. It is about the kids now and providing a future for them. What they don’t realise is that the very children that they are working so hard for; the very children that they are alienating each other for and are concentrating on, are looking at how mom and dad are united. How mom and dad treat each other. How mom and dad love each other and how mom and dad are happy to be together. These are the uncommunicated models that will shape their futures. The material things that mom and dad provide are temporal but how they treat each other will have a far longer lasting impact. Impacting their future relationships and how they are towards their own spouses. We will do well as married couples to work towards modelling a home of peace and love for the sake of our children’s future and that of future generations.
This coming weekend at my kid’s school they will have their annual box car derby where different teams compete in a car race around the school field. Different grades have contestants who participate in the box car derby. The contestants have their teams of four or five who push the contestant around the field. What is significant is that the contestant cannot push the car forward himself. She or he needs others to push the car. The victory when they get to win or when they get to a designated finish is SHARED BY THE WHOLE TEAM AND NOT JUST THE DRIVER. They all win because they all had a part in the race. This is the ideal model for a family for everyone to work together towards a finish; towards a goal so that when that goal is realised it is everyone’s victory not just mom or dad. When they push in different directions the car will be stuck. There needs to be one direction that everyone on that team is pushing towards for the car to get to the finish.
Interestingly at the same event they always have a tug of war where opposing teams pull the rope in different directions to see who has more strength. The team that has more strength in its members wins as the other team falls in defeat. So many homes are a reflection of a tug of war; spouse fighting against spouse to see who will win the fight. The bystanders in the tug of war always pick a team that they will support and that they are cheering for. The only supporters watching in a marriage battle are the children. There is no winner for them as they love both mom and dad. Mom can have a temporary victory but at what expense if she is alienating her children and husband. Dad can show his authority as he expects his wife to submit. She indeed might eventually submit but if that submission was won after a battle it only leaves scars; scars that will not quickly heal. It results in one clear winner who deserves the prize money and who will have the prize. That victory however is not a team victory but an individual’s. Resentments almost always start to set in.
Tug of war
The first thing when you compete in the sport of tug of war is to pick up the rope. Both sides pick it up. There will not be a tug of war if there is no opposing side. For a “tug of war” to happen someone has to take the other side and pull. If you do not want a tug of war in your home simply refuse to pick up the ropes that present themselves in your home. Pick your battles — you do not have to be in conflict with your spouse at each and every turn.
Focus on one thing as a family and work towards it. So many people responded to my article on finances. They could relate to it as so many families are going through financial challenges. I would like to end this article with some practical advice on how not to have a house divided when it comes to your finances. There are many things that money can be used towards in the family. Unfortunately the spouses do not always agree on what to spend their money on. Efforts will be wasted if money is going to two projects at the same time. This is not a problem if the family can afford but where resources are scarce you need to focus on one thing at a time. In our family what works financially is we decide what we are saving towards. Each month is dedicated to a different project and if the project is big we dedicate two, three or more months of saving towards that particular project.
When we needed to pave our driveway for example that project required more than our normal budget so we only used money that was dedicated to it. This money was not at the expense of our fixed monthly expenses but money we could afford to spend. We both got involved. In the paving project for example my husband searched who would do the labour but I came with the design and the stone. Although one could say that is normally a man’s job we involved each other so we both could own the process. It is after all our home. When we needed to buy a television stand we both went around to different shops looking for a stand that we both liked that would suit our home. Again someone would say to decorate a house should be left to the wife but I do not want a husband who every time he is watching television does not enjoy the experience because he hates the TV stand.
In small or big decisions involve your spouse. Know that you are a team and that your victories are sweeter when shared. You are there to build with each other because a house divided will not stand!
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