"No way," he said to my invitation, "I avoid any kind of Christian 'married couples' activities like the plague."
"Really. Why is that?"
"Well, what typically happens when groups of married couples get together is that the men sort of cluster off and talk about what jerks their wives are, and the women go off and exchange stories about what jerks their husbands are. Sometimes this is veiled as 'teaching' or 'understanding the opposite sex', but often it is just blatant carping. And this gender mudslinging passes for 'fellowship' or 'ministry'".
"Yes, I have seen a lot of this myself. But isn't this at least a 'fellowship of suffering' of sorts?"
"No, this is the road to divorce. Sure my wife is a jerk, and so am I. As far as I know all men and woman are jerks. I do not find it edifying to have my attention focused on descriptions of my wife's feminine jerkiness in the guise of 'Christian fellowship', for it only sullies my attitude toward what I have to deal with every day. What I need is instruction and encouragement in how to love my wife despite her foibles and differences."
"But if these sort of 'differences' are sins, shouldn't the church be pointing them out and calling for repentance?"
"Of course. But only rarely does sin have much to do with it. Typically, we are talking about personality quirks: the differences between the way women think vs. men, what we value or don't, our tendencies, traits, etc. There was a time when such was attractive and winsome to me in my wife, and yet now it occasionally grates. The last thing I need is to be cavorting with other men in mockery of these things, nor does it encourage me to think of my wife using my eccentricities to encourage other wives to despise their husbands all the more. But it might well be about sin, for men and women seem to sin in predictable gender patterns. Is it useful to be swapping stories of such around the BBQ? And when it comes to actual sin, shall we speak of private things that need confrontation and repentance as a source of public entertainment and amusement? Should I passively listen to others when they do this? No. No thank you, I will pass unless you and I can agree that if/when this sort of thing comes up that it will be responded to in clear rebuke as a sin. For this is backbiting, pure and simple, and I have had enough of it."If you have ever known someone who is going through a divorce, it seems predictable that they will use every encounter with a sympathetic ear to garner support that their spouse is really to blame for the break-up. Have you noticed this as well? It seems like every conversation, meeting or encounter is held hostage to the agenda of proving that "I am right and that he/she is wrong; deserves this; is a jerk, etc." No matter what you would like to talk about, your soon-to-be-divorced friend is going to steer the conversation to everything bad / lousy / horrible about old so-and-so, with all of the over-rehearsed, skewed, slanted, one-sided details meant to persuade. Thus, being a friend to a person going through a divorce can be taxing, to be sure.
On the other hand, while not nearly as bad, people who are madly in love can also be somewhat domineering in conversation. While they often show more sensitivity and self-control than recently divorced or divorcing people, you can tell that--if you would let them--all they want to talk about is how great he/she is, how wonderful, exciting, and so forth in excruciating and flowery detail. Being a friend to someone in love means you are going to have to endure a bit of this kind of thing, whether you like it--or agree with it--or not.
Couples who are hatefully unraveling see the need to get outside justification for the latest salvo of escalation in the on-going war. Couples who are bonkers over each other are constantly thinking the best of their wives or husbands, and occasionally this even slips out.
Where are you on this spectrum?
How we speak about our spouses when they are not around a fairly clear indication of whether our love is growing or unraveling.
Prov 14:1 (NIV) The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.Isn't the above verse just as true for a man?
Could we not also substitute "mouth" for "hands" in the above verse?
What is happening, really, in our "couple's meetings"? Are we building marriages or tearing them down? Outside of church settings, what of our conversations with family members, or at work? Where do our mouths indicate that our hearts are headed?
The next posting is on Human Relations Technology as a distraction to what really works.
Marriage Counseling Index