An epidemic is sweeping the world. If this epidemic were medical in nature, if it was, for instance, a deadly virus that brought a painful death, the world’s citizens would fight it with every weapon and tactic. But this epidemic doesn’t cause sickness and death, at least not directly.
This is an epidemic of lifeless, joyless marriages and homes. It represents a social and spiritual catastrophe, a rising tide of broken relationships and broken people. You will find the symptoms in every country, in every culture, in all economic conditions. Sometimes it leads to divorce, sometimes only to chronic tension and unhappiness.
The technical word for this sickness is dysfunctional, as in, “They have a dysfunctional relationship.” But let’s not get too technical. Dysfunctional simply means, according to the Oxford Dictionary, not operating normally or properly. In other words, these marriages are broken and needing repair. How badly broken? How much repair do they need? It varies, but generally speaking, the longer the problems have been neglected, the more damage there is to repair.
You might think that some couples are immune, but that is not true. Whatever their station in life, whatever their financial situation, whatever their religion or spiritual condition, no one is immune. Business leaders or clerks, pastors or church members, rich or poor, marital breakdowns happen to them all. It can even happen to you.
How Healthy is Your Marriage?
Take a look at the statements that follow and evaluate your marriage. But one word of warning! It is so easy to use these statements to find fault with your husband or wife. Don’t do it, please.
Instead, ask yourself what you could do to bring a positive change in each area. Better yet, ask your partner to do the evaluation too. Then both of you can decide ways to make the marriage you have the marriage you really want.
Here are eight indicators that help determine the health of a marriage. After reading each indicator, write down the number that best indicates your rating for your marriage today. Be as honest as you can.
1. A general sense of tension in your marriage relationship. All marriages have tense moments, even tense times, but constant tension suggests unresolved problems. The normal condition of a healthy marriage is peace, not tension.
Occasional 2——–4——–6——-8 Constant
2. A decrease in laughter and overall happiness. Joy is also the normal condition of a healthy marriage, yet some couples cannot remember the last time both were joyful in their marriage. Rather than energizing them, their marriage drains them. How about your marriage? Do you laugh with each other? Does anything about your relationship bring you joy? When was the last time that simply thinking about your husband or wife brought a smile to your face?
Usually 2——–4——–6——-8 Seldom
3. You are easily distracted and find it hard to give one another your complete attention.Occasional distractions happen to everyone. If you have children, you will have more distractions. Wise couples learn how to focus on their relationship, planning time to pay special attention to each other. Couples in danger believe the lie that there is no time to find. Can you identify with this comment from one of our seminar attendees?
I cannot remember when we had our last heart-to-heart talk. We act like everything else is more important than special times for ourselves. Our lives are a swarm of urgent demands clamoring for our attention.
Seldom 2——–4——–6——-8 Usually
4. Electronic media takes the place of face-to-face communication. TV can entertain, educate, and enlighten. But do you ever use the TV to avoid each other? Does the TV or the internet dictate your daily schedule? Do you have the willpower to turn them off and do something more helpful for your marriage?
Right amount 2——–4——–6——-8 Too Much
5. As a couple, you are not communicating effectively. Every couple develops their own patterns of communication, but sometimes those patterns are unhealthy. If you have put each other in solitary confinement, if you no longer take the time to discuss important concerns, you are in danger.
Discuss 2——–4——–6——-8 Avoid
6. Sexual intimacy has become more a bother, less a blessing. Sexual fulfillment is one of Gods most exciting gifts to married couples. A healthy sexual relationship strengthens intimacy, relieves tension, and is fun! Do you both feel sexually satisfied in your marriage?
Fulfilled 2——–4——–6——-8 Frustrated
7. Little things make you angry. You are easily irritated. Irritability develops when we neglect intimacy. We find the tone of our voice becoming more sharp. We get offended easily. We avoid each other.
Anger and Irritation:
Seldom 2——–4——–6——-8 Chronic
8. You and your spouse have separate agendas, but no common activities. One couple we know look great to casual acquaintances. Nice home, prosperous, active in church and very involved in their careers. But if you scanned their date books you would notice that they have no time for each other or for their relationship. In fact, they had developed separate lives. It doesnt happen in a moment. It happens when we stop thinking as a couple and only think about our individual lives, careers, and activities.
Healthy 2——–4——–6——-8 Little or None
Now add up your score. If you scored:
20 or less- You have a great marriage and are mutually fulfilled in it.
21 to 39- You have a good marriage, but it could be great with just a little extra attention.
40 to 49– You are experiencing significant stress in your marriage, and little fulfillment.
50 and Above- You are probably unhappily married. Scores this high usually indicate a severely neglected marriage.
Can couples have a high score and still stay together? Yes, for divorce is only one way couples deal with a declining marriage. Some remain married legally, but let their marriages die relationally. They keep up appearances, but there is pain in their eyes and voices, especially in their unguarded moments.
Good news! You can change if you want to change.
How do you show each other you really want to change? Pick one area in your marriage that needs work and find something you can do to make it better. For instance, if you’re having too much face time with Facebook, turn it off, find your spouse, and do something together that you will both enjoy.
Take a walk. Have a talk. Watch a movie. Read a book. Sit quietly and closely. Dream together. Then, do it again tomorrow. Use your imagination. Just make sure you both do something that helps. And keep it positive.
You need to rediscover each other as friends, so can the criticisms. Some of your irritations will die on their own if you starve them.
Think, Act, Pray
1. Which warning signal would be the easiest one for you to improve in your own marriage?
2. Which warning signal do you think would be the hardest to improve? Why?
3. What could both of you do, starting today, to make your marriage more healthy?