Wednesday, 31 August 2011

                                                                                     Mike S Reddy                                                                                                                  


Interpersonal relationships include marital relationships, relationship with parents, relationship with siblings, relatives, friends, neighbours and working colleagues. Good interpersonal relationship starts at home.  A person who has experienced conflicts with parents and siblings is more than likely to take this conflict into the marriage relationship. There are always conflicts and disagreements in relationships, very especially in marriage relationships. The central message of interpersonal relationships is love. Everything comes down to loving yourself and loving other people. There is a commandment in the Bible that we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all of our souls, and all of our minds; and that we should love others even as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). 1.

Marriage is a relationship that often presents a maze of problems. There are many reasons for marital conflicts, one of the main reasons being, a poor loving relationship between a husband and wife. This is usually explained as poor interpersonal relationship and breakdown in communication. Good interpersonal relations begin with Jesus Christ. The followers of Jesus were promised an inner, supernaturally produced peace that gives internal stability, even in times of turmoil and interpersonal tensions. 1.

It must be remembered that good marriages are dependent on two crucial things: (1) the personal traits of the partners and their (2) determination to make the marriage work. 1. Bad traits are carried into the marriage relationships. Some traits are so entrenched that they can be difficult to change. But if you already are in a marriage with bad traits this can be changed through God’s saving and redeeming grace. No matter what your personal traits are this can be changed, if you are willing to change. Since all bad habits are learned, they can be unlearned, and new habits can be learned to take its place. If you are in the Lord, and born again you can change for the better. 1.

No matter what the problems are in a marriage, there must be a determination to make the marriage work. Married couples must be driven by this determination. There are problems in almost every marriage, and people are expected to work through these problems. We can work through these problems with our spouses, or get help from a counsellor or religious leader. What we should not do is abandon the marriage. We must remember the vows and the covenant we made before God. To “love honour and cherish” “in sickness and in health” and “till death do we part”. This is a covenant made before God. There are some that are pushing for changes in the marriage vows. They want the “till death do we part” to be changed to “till death or divorce do we part”. In conclusion, the key to a good marriage is the determination to make the marriage work.        

Personal Traits: Good interpersonal relations are dependent on the personal traits we bring into the marriage relationship. Marriage is the coming together of two people from different backgrounds that have different upbringing, values and world-views. When they first meet they are oblivious of each others weaknesses and bad habits. They are physically attracted to each other and they call this love. This is what is meant when people say that love is blind. True love is not blind, it is discerning. According to one psychiatrist there is no such thing as “blind love”. He states that this is nature’s way of getting people to procreate. Nature plays cruel tricks on people. Nature allows people to become attracted to each other in order to get them to cohabit and procreate, thus ensuring the survival of the human species. 2.  

Determination, Effort and Skill: Good interpersonal relations involve determination, effort and skill. You have to work towards having a good relationship. This does not just happen. You have to develop good listening skills, and speaking and communicating with kindness; and learning to refrain from speaking harshly, and from emotional outbursts and unkind words. All marriages have conflicts and disagreements and we have to work hard at minimizing these conflicts.

Footnotes and Sources
  1. Kruger, Nan. 1998. The Counselling Process in Woodbridge, N. Christian Counselling. Pretoria: University of South Africa.   
  2. Peck, Scott. 2003. The Road Less Travelled. 25th. Anniversary Edition. London: Random.


Many people believe that the marriage relationship is the most difficult relationship to sustain. Marriages all around us are falling apart. Divorce is on the rise. One in three marriages ends in divorce. In the light of this I will answer the following questions.

Is marriage a divine institution? Marriage is certainly a divine institution. It is an institution of God, where one man and one woman enter into a life-long covenant with each other that glorifies God and extends His kingdom on earth. It is a divine sanction, and the fact that society has kept on with it over centuries, seem to indicate not only how needed it is as an institution, but that it is a truly good and beneficial experience if managed correctly. 1.  

This life-long covenant is an ideal situation and one that fulfils God’s divine purpose. But look at the marital problems of church leaders, today. The leader of a large church divorced his wife who is a believer, married a divorcee, and continues leading his church. Now he is on his second break-up, his second wife is also divorcing him. Church leaders have been silent on this matter, but not the press. Newspapers have been sensationally reporting on this matter, placing Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a very poor light.

Coming back to the question of marriage being a divine institution, there is strong evidence in the Bible that marriage is intended to serve as a God-given institution. From a secular perspective, it is viewed as the only satisfactory and acceptable arrangement for mutual love and companionship and for bearing and rearing children for the next generation. It is based on a principle that has been in place over many generations. 2. From a Christian perspective, marriage is the most significant relationship any of us could ever have. It is a symbol of the relationship God has with His people (Ephesians 5:25-33), and is as close as we can get to being one with another person. Because of this, good marriages can be heaven on earth. As a plan for the perpetuation of the human race and for the attainment of happiness, marriage is indeed a very simple one. But carrying it out does not appear to be so according to one writer 2.  

How are Marriages Broken? Marriages are broken by infidelity, excessive drinking, unfulfilled sexual frustrations, money problems and interferences by in-laws and significant other persons. “Marriages are perhaps made in heaven, but they are always worked out on earth” according to one writer. 2. “The reasons why so many marriages are unhappy will always remain a mystery for so long as the forces of the unconscious are ignored” according to another writer 3.  Even the very conflicts of marriage are not what they appear to be. “The quarrelling is a kind of unconscious double-talk and really reflects the conflicts within the person more clearly than it does the existing situation”. Primary infantile desires war with the interests of the marital partner, with one’s better impulses and with the concepts of morality.  3  

Curt and Diane: Dr. Gary Collins relates the following story, which I have shortened, adapted and paraphrased from his book Christian Counselling. 4. Curt and Diane (not their real names) had a very stormy marriage. She came from a stable Christian home and he came from a home where religion was not considered. She took her children to Church every Sunday while he remained at home watching television. He was laid back, and took life easy. He drank excessively and became abusive. She spoke to her pastor and he became angry that she was airing their dirty laundry to outsiders. Help arrived from an unexpected source. After arriving drunk at work one day, Curt was given the option by his employers to enter rehabilitation or be dismissed. He chose the former and as a result, stopped drinking. Now after twenty years of marriage, Curt and Diane seemed to be getting along much better. Nobody would consider the marriage to be happy, and at times there is a lot of griping and mutual put-downs. They have learned, however, to tolerate each other and to live together as companions. Most evenings are spent watching television, but there is little in-depth communication. Neither seriously thinks any more about separation or divorce. Instead they live together in what might be called a tired marriage. This story reflects the state of many marriages today. I have seen many marriages like this. Many of my relatives have had similar tired marriages. 4.

Is Marriage a Stable Institution? In the western world marriage is not a very stable institution. 4. In the United States and Britain, the average duration of a marriage is only 9. 4 years. More than a million couples are divorced each year.  In South Africa, it is estimated that one third of all marriages end in divorce. This is because in South Africa divorce can be very easily obtained on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Many other married couples who stay together have tired marriages. These marriages are tolerable but not especially happy. 4. However, it would not be fair to say that all marriages are unhappy ones. There are some marriages that are very happy. There are many couples who make a commitment and they stay with it and make their marriages work. But for many others, marriage is a complete disappointment. 2.   

Is Marriage a Permanent Union? Marriage which is supposed to be a permanent union created by God is treated more and more as a temporary arrangement of convenience, for many people who marry and divorce multiple times. This is especially true amongst the rich and famous. Divorce in the Christian community, is becoming a matter of grave concern, and should be addressed from church pulpits, regularly. One way of preventing divorce in the church, is a proper mate-selection process and pre-marriage counselling. Pastors have a responsibility to preach sound marriage principles on a regular basis. 2.

What does the Bible say about marital problems? Marriage is perhaps one of the first topics discussed in the Bible (Genesis 2:18-25). God created Adam and then saw that he was lonely and God created Eve as his wife and helpmate. God said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. Then sin entered into the human race. Eve influenced by the Serpent, drew Adam into her sin. That started their marital conflict. Some years later, their elder son Cain murdered their younger son Abel, resulting in anguish, guilt and perhaps further marital conflict. Elsewhere in the Old Testament we read that Abraham had a disagreement with Sarah over Ishmael. David had a disagreement with his wife. She despised him because he had put off his kingly garments and danced as a commoner. These are just some of the examples of marital conflicts in the Bible. 2.

Marriage and marital problems are mentioned throughout the pages of the Scripture and is discussed in detail in the New Testament writings. The purpose of marriage, the role of husband and wife, the importance of sex, and responsibilities of parents are all discussed in the Bible (see Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-25; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; Heb. 13:4). Marriage failure is mentioned in the Old Testament law (Deut. 24:1-4) and is treated in more detail in the New Testament by Jesus and Paul in their discussions on divorce (see Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).  4.

Marriage is discussed in the New Testament, and takes on a completely new direction and meaning in Christ, when the relationship between husband and wife is compared to that between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:23, 32; Rev. 19:7, 9).  The Bible states that the husband ought to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and died for it. The wife is required to love her husband in much the same way as the church loves Christ. This gives new meaning and direction to Christian marriages. If the husband is ready to love his wife as Christ loves the church and the wife is ready to love and submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ then we will have good marriages. 4.

What else does the Bible say about marriages? The Bible encourages believers to enjoy interpersonal and sexual relationships with their spouses (see Proverbs 5:18; Eccles. 9: 9); and finding a mate is described as a good thing (Proverbs 5:18). In contrast, the Book of Proverbs very amusingly portrays the difficulties of living with a contentious, quarrelsome marriage partner. Sharing a house with such a person is like listening to a “constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15-16 and Proverbs 19:13; 21:9). Although the Bible describes some good marriages, there appears to be evidence that Lot, Abraham, Jacob, Samson, David, and a number of others had marital tensions at some time or the other. 4.

It should be kept in mind that marital conflicts are often a symptom of something deeper, such as selfishness, lack of love, unwillingness to forgive, anger, bitterness, communication problems, anxiety, sexual problems, drunkenness, feelings of inferiority, sin, and a deliberate rejection of God’s will. Each of these can cause marital tensions, each can be influenced by husband-wife conflict, and each is discussed in the Bible. Thus while the Bible deals with marital conflict somewhat indirectly and in passing, the issues underlying marriage problems are not considered in detail. 1.

Footnotes and Sources
  1. Murray, R. 1998: Personal Issues: The Christian Counsellor in Woodbridge, N. Christian Counselling. Pretoria: University of South Africa.
  2. Cloud, H and Townsend, J. 2002. God will make a way. Nashville: Integrity.
  3. Peale, N.V and Blanton, S. 2000. The Heart of Real Happiness. London: Vermillion.
  4. Collins, Gary. 1988. Christian Counselling. USA: Word Publishing.


There are many causes of marital problems. According to writers the cause of many failed marriages is often to be found in events before the official wedding ceremony takes place. Individuals come into the marriage with unresolved conflicts and childhood problems, such as: inadequate personality development, unrealistic perceptions and expectations of the marriage, disappointments in premarital relationships, wrong value choices, egocentric lifestyles or habits, the influence of questionable friends and especially disobedience to and disregard for God in the choice of a marriage partner. 1

Many couples enter marriage without any premarital counselling, and often in disregard to the good advice of parents, friends and the persistent still voice of the Holy Spirit. For others marriage is an arrangement of convenience to provide for specific needs, such as finance, sex, security and companionship. In these instances, God’s intention and prescription for marriage is often ignored. And it is no wonder that that we have so many marriages ending in divorce. Writers are agreed that divorce brings greater problems than solutions, especially when there are children involved. 1.         

Common Problems in Marriages
In Genesis 2:24, we read that in marriage a man “will leave father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. There are three things in marriage namely: “leaving”, “being united” and “becoming one flesh”. When any of these three elements are ignored, problems can set in. Becoming “one” involves the sexual, but it goes beyond the physical and emotional. It means a sharing of everything, including hardships, sorrow, joys, thinking and feeling. This does not in any way imply that two individual personalities are squelched or obliterated. When the one flesh relationship is lacking, the couple have an unfulfilled marriage. The bottom line is that marriage problems often arise because a husband and wife have deviated from the biblical standards for a marriage. 2.  The following are some of the problems that are experienced in marriages:

Faulty or Poor Communication: Poor communication or lack of communication is probably one of the most common problems resulting in marital conflict. Communication problems come about when couples pursue self-centred goals. 3. At other times problems arise because individuals do not know how to communicate their feelings honestly and accurately. Some people find it difficult to express their feelings because of their particular personality. Good communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is based on mutual respect, love, trust, and acceptance of the other person’s bona fides, integrity, goodwill and intentions. 1. There are others that do not communicate their feeling at all or communicate with outbursts of anger and frustration.  Words can cut deeply and hurt very badly. Married couples therefore need to be very careful how they communicate with each other. Words can make or break a marriage. They need to communicate tenderly and lovingly. They should never try to tear each other down.

Disjointed/Under-integrated or Over–integrated Relationship: Getting too close to another person carries risks, because we become vulnerable and open to criticism and possible rejection. Intimacy allows two people who form a relationship to become aware of each others insecurities, inadequacies and weaknesses. 4. In terms of under-integration it is not easy for people to trust others, and that includes even marriage partners. In the opposite extreme, over-integration in marriage occurs when a relationship has become engulfing and suffocating and both partners have lost their individual identities and feel trapped in the marriage. In this kind of relationship people are known to smother each other, without giving each other space. This can become so unbearable for the parties concerned that they want to get out of the relationship. 2.

Interpersonal Tensions: When two people marry, each brings into the marriage relationship more than two decades of what is commonly referred to as baggage consisting of past experiences and the way they look at life. Each has perspectives that are not shared by the other and sometimes, even when there is a sincere desire for compromise or synthesis, a couple still have difficulty resolving their differences about roles, sex, religion, values, conflicting needs and personality differences. 4. I think that this is something that couples should sit down and talk about before they decide to become marriage partners. They need to talk about their religious beliefs, their roles, their values and their needs. I believe that people need to know as much as they can about their potential marriage partners before they decide to commit to the relationship.         

Irreconcilable differences: A marriage joins two totally different people, often with divergent backgrounds and experiences, deep-rooted life and world-views, perceptions, value systems and future goals. The courtship, being in love, the wedding ceremony and honeymoon do not guarantee any essential adjustments and changes. Areas that can become sources of serious differences are the following: Religion, values, money, individual differences, sex, role divisions, children, external factors and even boredom. 4. It is difficult to get two people who share the same backgrounds, world-views, value systems and goals. People are different. Even siblings from the same households are different. Even if couples share the same world-views, value systems and perceptions there is no guarantee that they will not experience marital conflicts. 4.

A marriage is about compromise. Couples must be willing to embrace each other’s differences. There must be a commitment to make the marriage work in spite of the differences. I believe that Christian marriages have the potential to work in spite of individuals differences. Christians from different background can have a strong spiritual connection with each other when they are born-again and spirit filled. The same apples to married Christian couples. The over-riding principle in a believer’s marriage is that the husband is required to love his wife in much the same way that Christ loves the church, and the wife is required to submit to and love the husband in much the same way that the church loves Christ. For committed Christians there is no room for irreconcilable differences. As Christians, irreconcilable differences pale into the background as we take on a new nature and put on the love of Christ.

Money Problems: One of the most common problems in marriages is money problems. There are many couples that find themselves in an almost permanent state of disagreement and anger over the matter of finances. 4. A stable marriage, with good conditions for rearing children, must be secure, and this security is said to be one of the strongest influences in a woman’s selection of a mate. When a woman is denied this sense of security, there is often serious trouble in the marriage. 5. There is absolutely no reason why spouses should hide their earnings and expenditure from each other. Moneys are jointly earned (even if the wife is a house-wife) and jointly spent.        

Sexual Problems: The urge for sexual fulfilment is inherent in all human beings, just as it is in all animal life. When these urges are frustrated, this can result in consequences for the marriage. Many people are able to sublimate their sexual urges in ways other than marriage. 5.  In the marriage relationship the outcome of unsatisfied sexual frustration can result in divorce, infidelity or a nervous disorder. Yet rarely does divorce settle anything; since the inner conflict which broke up the marriage remains to threaten all other subsequent relationships. People contemplating divorce for this reason are more in need of a therapist than they are of a divorce lawyer. As for infidelity, experience shows that it creates more guilt than satisfaction in civilized people. 5.

People get into the greatest difficulty when they are unable to handle their powerful unconscious strivings. They may, for example be unable to suppress the urge for constant romantic conquests. They feel an overwhelming need for them and they act on it. They have matured physically, but remain emotionally underdeveloped. “Moved by the prompting of their unconscious minds, they insist, like children, or savages, on granting of every whim at any cost”. 5.     

Footnotes and Sources
  1. Murray, R. 1998. Personal Issues. In Woodbridge, N. Christian Counselling. Pretoria: UNISA.
  2. Collins, G. 1988. Christian Counselling. USA: Word Publishing.
  3. Crabb, L. 1977. Effective Biblical Counselling. Michigan: Zondervan.
  4. De Koven, S. 1999. Christian Counselling (On Belay). Germiston: Teamwork Impact.
  5. Peale, N.V and Blanton, S. 2000. The Heart of Real Happiness. London: Vermillion.


There are several specific effects of marital tensions which are discussed as follows: 1.

Confusion, Despair and Hopelessness: Marriage which is supposed to be built on hope is replaced by sadness, hurt, and anger. The partners feel hopeless and the goal of counselling then is to restore hope and faith. A bad marriage not only impacts on the marriage partners. It affects the children of the marriage and in turn affects their children and affects the community.     

Withdrawal: There are large numbers of people who are legally married, living together, sleeping in separate rooms, and sometimes sleeping in the same bed, but who are emotionally and psychologically divorced. The husband and wife may engage in similar activities and go to the same places together, but there is little warmth, concern, communication, intimacy, love, or interest in each other. By withdrawing emotionally from each other, the partners avoid the pain and social stigma of divorce.  

Desertion: When the family pressures get too intense, some people simply leave, leaving financial pressures and one-parent families behind.  

Separation or Divorce: Even Christian couples sometimes ignore the biblical guidelines for dissolving marriages. Sometimes divorce may be the only feasible alternative to a problem-plagued marriage where child and spouse-abuse is involved. Even though divorce is common, it is never a happy solution to marital problems. Somebody once wrote that in death there is closure, because the corpse is buried and the living can go on. But in divorce there is no closure because the “corpse” is still alive and walking around. 

Preventing Marital Problems
Seminaries must develop (if they have not already done so) courses on Family Life education; and churches must become more aware of the need for more teaching about Marriage and Family issues. 2. To prevent marital problems churches should teach the following during sermons, Sunday schools and youth meetings: (1) teach biblical principles for marriage; (2) stress the importance of marriage; (3) teach principles of communication and conflict resolution; and encourage counselling when needed. 1.

Having a Framework - People should be taught to have a framework that reflects God’s purpose. The framework must reflect some of the values that reflect God’s purpose for marriage. Couples must be encouraged to write down their commitments on making the marriage work. The following is a very brief adaptation from Cloud and Townsend’s book God will make a way. 3.
·        Our marriage has God at its centre.
·        Our marriage is the most important relationship.
·        We are committed to truth without compromise in our marriage.
·        We will grow personally in our marriage and our marriage will be lived in community.
·        We will respect and cherish each other and we will develop closeness and intimacy.
·        We will be responsible and realistic in our marriage
·        W will seek God’s path for healing when we have a problem.
·        We will speak the truth lovingly, kindly and gently
·        We will use God’s resources of prayer and Scripture reading.

The best way to overcome marital problems is to follow the command given by Paul when he states that the Husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church and for the wife to love her husband as the church loves Christ. This is the greatest commandment given to Christian married couples. It is so important that I will be repeating the commandment everywhere in this booklet.

Footnotes and Sources
1. Collins, G. 1988. Christian Counselling USA: Word Publishing
2. Murray, R. 1998. Personal Issues in Woodbridge, N. Christian Counselling Pretoria:
3. Cloud, H and Townsend, J. 2002. God will make a way. Nashville: Integrity


One of the best ways to prevent marriage problems is proper mate selection before the marriage.  “Mate selection is such an important aspect in marriage, yet it is ignored by people who are so amazingly unthinking in their selection of marriage partners” according to one writer. 1. If couples are asked before the marriage whether they are intellectually, culturally, spiritually, financially and physically compatible, they would probably laugh and respond with the age old saying that they are in love. It is all very well to be in love, but this does not ensure compatibility. And while the joy of perfect physical union promotes initial marital happiness, it will certainly not of itself sustain marriage permanently. 1.

Couples cannot live on love alone. Love does not pay the rent or the bills. For the sustaining of a marriage, there must be companionship, mutual understanding, shared responsibilities and mutual respect. There must be a sense of equality, a sharing of goals, dreams and ideals. There is no shortcut to success in this most complex of human ventures. 2.  The choice of a marriage partner may seem obvious enough, yet people give this choice of a life partner less consideration than they might when buying a new car or new home. 1.  

Causes of Good and Poor Mate Selection
According to one writer 1 choosing a marriage partner can be a difficult experience, especially in societies where the choice mostly depends on the couple. Very often, young people blinded by inexperience, infatuation and sexual attraction make choices that are clearly unwise. As a result of the wrong choices, their marriages are miserable, their lives become miserable and the lives of their children become miserable. Knowing this, some people are afraid of choosing a partner and settling down to a marriage relationship. “Choosing a mate is one of life’s most important decisions. It involves emotions and passions, but it also involves our brains, lest we make choices that we will regret later” according to one writer. 1.  

Social pressures, the influence of parents and friends, sexual urges, or strong desires to get married are among the influences that push people into bad marriages. In addition, almost everybody brings expectations to their marriages, and sometimes these expectations are not met in the harsh reality of relationships. Sometimes people select a mate purely on the basis on what they can get from the marriage. When people enter a marriage on the basis of getting and not giving, they can be headed for disappointments. “The lopsided desire to receive, without giving, is a mark of immaturity that is rarely seen in more stable marriages where needs are met as each spouse gives to the other.” 1.         

Many people get married for many good reasons. But there are others who go into relationship for all the wrong reasons. People choose marriage partners for the following wrong reasons: primarily to get away from a difficult home situation; prove that one is an adult; to rebel against parents or a former partner; to escape the stigma of being single; to get an in-house sexual partner; to bolster self-image; to improve social status; and to find someone to “take care of me.” You can expect tensions in relationships entered into for the wrong reasons. 1.

Other circumstances that signal potential problems are wide age differences, recent mental illness suffered by one of the parties, evidence of financial irresponsibility and instability, substance abuse by one or both of the parties, different religious beliefs, wide cultural and racial differences. Good marriages can occur despite these obstacles, but when several of these differences are present, or when couples have unhealthy motives in choosing a mate, the choices made are likely to be regretted later. 1.   

Despite all the potentials for failure, many people make wise choices in selecting a marriage partner. There can be several reasons for this.

Similar religious convictions: In western cultures, young people get to know their future mates through dating, and spending time together. Since, people never know when a dating relationship may lead to a marriage - it is wise for unmarried Christian persons to limit their dating to other believers. Christian persons that choose wisely, often pray about their mate selection, at first alone, but later together. This principle may not seem important to people to whom religious beliefs are not important. But, even here, couples are more likely to be compatible if they share similar beliefs and values.        

Similar backgrounds and complimentary needs: Marriage selection is best when the man and woman are similar in things such as age, interests, values, socioeconomic level, and education. In addition, it would be helpful if the couple can meet each other’s needs. We need to distinguish between complementary and contradictory needs. Complementary needs fit so well together that the relationship is smooth and compromise is rarely needed. Contradictory needs clash and requires frequent resolution. If both partners like social contacts and the one is out going and the other shy this can be complementary - on the other hand, if one person loves parties and the other prefers to remain at home, these are contradictory needs that can give rise to conflict.

Emotional Resonance: Individuals often wonder how they will know when the right person comes along. It is not very helpful to give the common answer “you will just know”. But in many instances, a person will know when the relationship feels harmonious right. To use a common cliché, in a good relationship there is always good chemistry, in other relationships the spark is just not there. To choose a mate on the basis of these feelings alone can be unwise, but to ignore and overlook the fact that there are no feelings of attraction would also be a mistake. 1.  

Compatible Personalities: Counsellors and writers of books on marital issues often write about potential mates having compatible personalities that are sometimes referred to as good marriage traits. These characteristics may include the following: 1.  
  • An ability to work through problems and to persist until there is some resolution
  • Flexibility
  • Similar spiritual interests
  • Common beliefs and values
  • A willingness to share intimate thoughts and feelings
  • Emotional stability
  • Good communication skills
  • Appreciation for each other
  • A good sense of humour
  • The ability to give and receive love
  • Comfort in expressing emotions

Young single people, according to surveys carried out in the USA, have indicated that they are looking for the following qualities in their potential partners. They were looking for people who had warmth, kindness, openness, good sense of humour, physical attractiveness, good social status, positive personality traits, and the ability to honestly express themselves. Other research has found that people are happiest in their relationships when they believe that they have found a kindred spirit, someone who understands them and shares their experiences. 1.

Other studies have shown that in time, when it becomes apparent that similarities are not as common as they once thought, partners in good relationships tend to downplay the differences and see positive characteristics in their partners that may not be evident to others. This gives counsellors an insight to the common tendency in people to see “idealised traits” in each other. “Apparently, this self-deception and idealization of a partner can last into marriage and even increase marriage stability”. 1

Whether or not this happens, it would be good for us to remember that nobody can meet all of the ideal marriage traits  that people think is importance. For   mate selection, a feeling of love or strong urge to get married cannot be the sole basis for making a wise choice. 1. The outside perspective and guidance of a friend, family member, counsellor or wise pastor can be helpful and important if one wants to have a stable, happy and lasting marriage. 2.              

Footnotes and Sources
1. Collins, Gary 2007. Christian Counselling USA: Word Publishing. 
2. Peale, N.V and Blanton, S. 2000. The Heart of Real Happiness London: Vermillion.  


To have a successful marriage, couples need to overcome their dark-sides or bad spirits. To do this, they must be prepared to acknowledge their faults. People cannot change what they do not acknowledge. I have adapted the following from Phillip McGraw’s Relationship Rescue for the purposes of this chapter. 1.

Score-Keeping: In a healthy relationship, partners co-operate, support and depend on one another. Partners do not compete with one another, because competition between partners can turn a relationship into an ugly battle ground.  Competition means scorekeeping and trading of favours. When partners try to justify privileges or claim entitlements instead of focusing on what they can give or contribute to the marriage, they are driven by childish selfishness.

Fault Finding: There is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism or complains about the actions or attitudes of the other party, if that criticism or complaint is designed to improve the relationship. But what many present as constructive criticism is nothing more than destructive criticism, condemnation and fault finding. Partners are sometimes plagued with a spirit of constant fault finding by which they become irrationally obsessed with the flaws and imperfections of their partners.  

Having your own Way: Here, one partner becomes self-righteous and become unyieldingly rigid. They become obsessed with control and everything has to be their idea and has to be done their way. As rigid controllers, partners become intolerant of initiatives by other members of the family. People with this kind of attitude need to acknowledge their problem and get rid of their attitudes if they want to save their marriage and their relationship with their children.   

Turning into an Attack Dog: Individuals start out discussing an issue and end up ripping into their partners with personal attacks. They lose control and impair the dignities of their partners. The attacks on partners are often irrational and out of proportion to the issue being discussed. When a partner experiences viciousness coming from the person who is supposed to be their greatest ally, it can hurt them deeply and cause the relationship to break down completely.      

Being the Passive Warmonger - Passive aggression is just as bad as open aggression. It is a spirit that expresses itself through unfair attacks on an unsuspecting partner. It is just as destructive as open aggression, although it is hidden and underhanded. “Toxic partners will work long and hard to obstruct that which they do not like, but do it in such an indirect or covert manner that they are able to exonerate themselves or escape accountability when confronted.”         

Resorting to Smoke and Mirrors: Just as those who sabotage their lives and relationships with passive aggression, those that are afflicted by this dishonest spirit also lack the courage to be honest about the causes of the problems in their relationship. In contrast to passive aggression, spouses give their partners overtly misdirected signals about how they are feeling or about what are important to them. They cause their partners to spend considerable energy trying to solve problems that is nothing more than a decoy – a decoy that is set up because people lack the strength to disclose the real problem.

Unable to Forgive and Carrying Grudges: Many spouses are unable to forgive and let go of the past.  Every time there is an argument they are able to recall an incident from the past. Bitterness and anger are such powerful forces that they can permeate a person and change his or her entire personality and outlook. In that state people find it impossible to love and be loved. People’s inability to forgive their partners, and also their inability to forgive themselves is what gives rise to marital discord.  

Becoming a Bottomless Pit: People with feelings of insecurity constantly undermine their chances of success. For them there is never enough of anything. They cannot be satisfied. They can never be loved enough. They can never be attended to enough. They can never be supported or appreciated enough. They can never look good enough, and they can never perform well enough. They feel in some strange way, unworthy and undeserving of happiness and incapable of achieving their dreams.

Getting into a Comfort Zone - this is in direct contrast to criticism, competitiveness, self-righteousness, and aggression. But still this is a bad spirit. Here, people get so comfortable and passive that they get nestled in a comfort zone, where they want to play it safe by maintaining the status quo. People in this passive mode do not want to challenge themselves. They do not want to strive for any kind of excellence. A comfort zone is not what partners want out of a relationship.

The Helplessness or Give-up attitude: The give-up spirit is what is referred to as “learned helplessness”. That is the state of mind many people find themselves in. They believe that the circumstances of their lives are so unchangeable that they can do nothing about it. Such people combined with other characteristics or spirits mentioned earlier, become forlorn and lonely and isolated and disconnected. When one spouse displays that kind of a spirit it can affect the partner and children and bring discord into the marriage.

Footnotes and Source
  1. McGraw, Phillip. 2000. Relationship Rescue USA: Integrity.


Divorce is never easy. Even when couples agree to terminate their marriages, the pain of separation is very intense and is accompanied by feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, fear, and disappointment. This is followed by loneliness, confusion, lowered self-esteem, insecurity, rejection and depression; and the haunting concern about who was at fault. When children are involved the pain is even greater. Families watch as innocent children suffer because their families are torn apart. No one wins in a divorce “Everybody loses: the couple, their children, their parents, and the community at large”. Speak to people that are divorced, and if they are honest, and they will tell you about the pain that they experienced. 1.

Divorce is common in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Divorce is also common in South Africa, because it is easy to obtain a divorce in this country. It is estimated that one third of all marriages end in divorce in this country. Perhaps it is because of this that many people opt to live together without getting married. Marriage is no longer considered to be a life-long commitment and this attitude is reinforced by television dramas, soap operas, and Hollywood movies. Divorce is portrayed as a convenient way of escaping from the difficulties of marriage. Many people, including Christians and those belonging to the Hindu faith disapprove of these views, but we have learnt to accept infidelity, illegitimacy, and divorce as a way of life.

Sermons, support groups, therapy and divorce recovery workshops may deal as best as they can with these issues, but these rarely removes the pain that accompanies broken marriages. People that conduct coping with divorce seminars, will tell you that people break down and cry at these seminars. 1. Divorce is painful, it is ugly and it is very sad. There is a lot of heartache and a lot of grief. Unlike death, there is no closure in divorce because as someone once said, the “corpse” is alive and walking around.              

The Bible and Divorce
The difficulties of marriage and the pain of divorce have led some compassionate Christians to re-interpret and de-emphasise biblical teachings in an effort to make divorce and remarriage seem easier and more acceptable theologically. Ignoring or de-emphasising biblical teachings, however, is neither compassionate nor helpful. If we are to be effective, Christian counsellors must have a clear understanding of what the Scripture states about divorce and remarriage, according to one writer. 1.   

There is no consensus among biblical scholars on this subject. They are divided in their conclusions. Most scholars tend to fall into one of the following categories. Each category has strong advocates. Firstly, there are those that hold that marriage is for life, and that divorce is never permitted on biblical grounds, and that remarriage of a divorced person is always adultery.  Secondly, there are those that conclude that there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce and that remarriage is permitted under these circumstances. Thirdly, another group contends that some circumstances arise in a marriage that has no easy solution. Divorce then becomes necessary for the sake of the mental, emotional, or physical health of one of the spouses or their children. This conclusion is based less on specific biblical teaching and more on general biblical principles.

Teachings of the Old Testament: The Bible presents marriage as a permanent union between a husband and wife. This is God’s ideal, but since the fall, human beings have lived on a sub-ideal level. The Bible recognises this and in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 there are brief guidelines that govern the practice of divorce. Writers state that this practice is tolerated but is not commanded or divinely encouraged. In the Old Testament, divorce was to be legal (with a written document), permanent, and permissible only when “uncleanness” was involved. The meaning of “uncleanness” is not clear and was the subject of much debate. Some maintained that it was inappropriate behaviour; others argued that uncleanness referred to sexual infidelity. Jesus seems to have agreed with this second view. 1.          

The Teachings of Jesus: In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirmed the permanent nature of marriage. He pointed out that Moses allowed divorce only because of human sinfulness, and not because it was God’s ideal. Jesus stated that sexual immorality was the only legitimate cause for divorce, and clearly taught that one who divorces a sexually faithful spouse and marries another, commits adultery (and causes the new mate to also commit adultery). Even when unfaithfulness is involved, divorce is not commanded, it is merely permitted. Forgiveness and reconciliation is preferable to divorce. In counselling a person who wants to divorce his or her spouse for unfaithfulness, counsellors urge the counselee to consider forgiveness and reconciliation. However, if divorce does occur under these circumstances, it is the opinion of many evangelical biblical scholars that the innocent party is free to marry again.1.     

The Teachings of Paul: Largely in response to a question from the church in Corinth, the apostle repeats Christ’s teaching and adds a second permissible cause for divorce: desertion of an unbelieving mate. This same passage deals with religious incompatibility when a believer (Christian) marries an unbeliever (non-Christian). These mixed marriages are not to be ended in divorce (except when the unbeliever deserts), even though the differences in religious beliefs may create tensions in the home. By staying married, the believing mate sanctifies the marriage, and in time the unbelieving mate may be brought to Christ. 1. There may have been special problems in Paul’s days relating to people accepting the Gospel. One partner may have accepted the Gospel while the other refused to accept. This would have caused tensions and some mates may have decided to leave the believing mate. This may have occurred among the Corinthians who then appealed to Paul for a solution.

The Teachings on Remarriage: The controversy over divorce in Jewish circles, at least until the time of Christ, centred on the causes of divorce. Generally, members of the Jewish community never questioned the right to remarry once divorce occurred. In contrast, the debate in modern evangelical Christianity is on the question of remarriage. According to some writers 1 Deuteronomy 24: 2 is scriptural proof that divorce dissolves a marriage and gives divorced people the right to re-marry. It does not require marriage, but grants the right if the party wishes to do so. They accept the clause of Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:19 which clearly indicates (to them) that where a mate has practiced fornication the other mate can divorce the unfaithful partner and re-marry. They believe that what Jesus seems to teach here was that while divorce dissolves the contract, habitual immorality dissolves the covenant and therefore gives the faithful partner an opportunity to remarry. They believe that Jesus does not command re-marriage. However, it is clear from Matthew 19: 9 that Jesus assumes that re-marriage will take place. In 1 Corinthians 7:15 since it is the unbelieving partner who determines to go and initiates a divorce, the believer is set free if he or she so chooses. Again, remarriage is not commanded according to a Paper on Marriage and Divorce by Evangelical Free Church Pastors. 1.           

Even if remarriage is permitted, it is not always wise to remarry. Paul urged the unmarried (this could include the formerly married) to remain single and many would agree with a modern writer who suggested reasons for not re-marrying. If past problems have not been corrected or resolved, if the individual does not have a clear conscience about remarriage, or if there is no strong desire to enter into a second marriage, then it may be best to remain single. 1.    

Teachings Summarised: Most Bible-believing Christians agree that God intended marriage to be a permanent and exclusive union between a man and a woman who find their sexual fulfilment within marriage. Divorce is nowhere commanded in the Scripture and neither is it encouraged. Divorce is permissible for Christians on two grounds only: Firstly, when one’s mate is guilty of sexual immorality and unwilling to repent and live faithfully with the marriage partner. Secondly, when one of the mates is an unbeliever who wilfully and permanently deserts the believing partner.

According to Charles Swindoll in Collins 1 no Christian should aggressively seek the dissolution of his or her marriage bond. But in certain extreme cases, against the wishes of the committed partner, the marriage bond is irretrievably broken down and cannot be restored, God, in his grace and as a “divine concession to human weakness” then allows divorce. In the opinion of many biblical scholars, the Christian divorced person has the right and freedom to remarry “in the Lord”, if that divorced person attempted reconciliation without success, and ended the marriage in accordance with biblical guidelines. 1.

Un-addressed Issues: The Bible says nothing about the divorce of two non-believers. Clearly divorce among non-believers is undesirable since it violates God’s one-flesh ideal and often involves adultery, a behaviour that is sinful regardless of the person’s beliefs. Nevertheless, there are no specific divine guidelines for non-Christian divorce. Many would agree that an individual who was married and divorced prior to salvation is free to re-marry after becoming a Christian. Secondly, we must emphasise the importance of forgiveness. God hates divorce and forbids adultery, but these are not unpardonable sins. God forgives and expects his followers to do the same. It is sinfully wrong for Christians to treat divorced people as if they are second class believers. When people are forgiven, and their sins forgiven we are to stop dwelling in the past. Thirdly, all of this seems to overlook those marriages where there is no infidelity or desertion, but where homes are filled with violence, physical and mental abuse, deviant forms of sexual behaviour including forced incest, foul language, failure to provide for the family’s needs, alcoholism, a refusal to let other family members worship and other destructive behaviour. Emotional and physical harm, along with the fear and mental anguish that they create, can make a home a living hell. Sometimes mates accept the abuse and stay in the marriage, at other times they respond with violence or decide to leave the abusive spouse. The question can be asked: Is divorce justified in these circumstances?  1.     

The Causes of Divorce: There is no one cause of divorce. Every marriage is different, and each divorce comes because of a unique combination of causes and circumstances. 1.

Footnotes and Sources
  1. Collins, Gary. 1988/ 2007 Christian Counselling: A Comprehensive Guide. USA: Word Publishing. Dr. Collins is a Clinical Psychologist.  


Keeping the above in mind, we need to remind ourselves of the unique nature of Christian marriages. From a Christian perspective, marriage, more than any other human relationship requires compromise. It is a partnership in which individual selfishness has to be surrendered for mutual gain. Marriage has no place for compulsive, uncontrolled self-centeredness on the part of the husband or wife. A real understanding of one’s deepest motives, together with an honest determination to make the marriage work, shared equally by husband and wife, can cure even the most stubborn of marital problems. However, this will depend on the substance the marriage is made up of, and whether it is supported by religious faith. 1.

That marriage is an institution ordained of God is clearly evidenced in the Scriptures (Genesis 2:18). Marriage therefore has its origins in God’s plan and not according to the will of man. God saw that man was lonely and he created for him a helpmate, wife and companion and someone who can bear his children. Both husband and wife have a shared responsibility towards each other and towards the raising of their Children. Both man and woman become “one” and God saw that this was good in His sight (Genesis 2:24; Genesis 1:26-28). A true Christian marriage can be described in the light of Scripture as a lifelong state before God. It is a state in which one man and one woman bind and commit themselves exclusively to each other, to live together in a loving and intimate way that glorifies God. 1.    

Marriage as an Institution of God
Marriage qualifies as an institution of God in the following way: 2 & 3.  
 Marriage is a Mystery: Marriage is a mystery in which two people of different genders from different backgrounds and with different characteristics and personalities can become ONE without sacrificing their own individual identities, uniqueness, human dignities and individualities. In this the marriage relationship reveals the mystery of the relationship between Christ and His Church on earth. It also reveals the mystery of how sinful man, who by his very nature is unfaithful, but who bears the image of God reflects something of God’s quality in his faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1: 9).

Marriage is a Union in Responsibility to God and to each other: The marriage partners enter into an agreement (covenant) with each other. Each of them must already be in a covenant with God, before they make their covenant to each other. Marriage becomes a triad covenant between man and his wife and their God. Marriage foreshadows the relationship between God and His people and between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:25, 29).       

Marriage is a Permanent Partnership: Marriage is a partnership in which two people have committed themselves to each other and which includes a lifelong monogamous relationship. God did not want humanity to sin and be unhappy. That is why God said that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16; see also Corinthians 7:10-11).

Marriage is a Spiritual and Physical Relationships: It is a relationship of companionship, closeness, intimacy and equality. The Bible expresses this idea by saying, “and the two shall become one” (Matthew 19:5; Gen. 2:24; 1 Corinthians 6:16 and Ephesians 5:31). Husband and wife jointly and separately have the calling and responsibility to manifest the will of God in their relationship to each other and to God.   

Marriage is an Act of faith: It is an act of faith in the kingdom of God, that extends over our whole life (Psalms 32:8) and that places its trust in God’s love, care and faithfulness (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7 and Romans 8:39).

Divine Purpose and Task: Both marriage partners have a divine purpose and task. They are made in the image of God to live out God’s image through the marriage relationship. They represent the Creator as they rule and subdue the animal kingdom. They have a creative responsibility in being fruitful and multiplying and replenishing the earth.

God’s Joy, Happiness and Gladness: Marriage reflects God’s joy, happiness and gladness and gives God all the praise, worship and thanks for His blessing, mercy and tender care (see Psalms 103:1-2; Psalms 146:1-2; Psalms 134:3; Philippians 4:19 and  2 Timothy 4: 22).

Kingdom Perspective: Marriage has a kingdom perspective. As part of the kingdom of God, the Christian marriage serves to further God’s kingdom. God designed and ordained and structured marriage, and also laid down its boundaries. God has first claim to a marriage partner’s loyalty (see Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-12; Deuteronomy 13:6-11; Luke 18:26-30).    

The Special Relationship   
The special relationship between husband and wife is described in Ephesians 5: 25-32. Both husband and wife are commanded in verse 2 to “Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ”. The following is a biblical command. 3.   

Biblical Command to the Husband: The husband must have a self-sacrificing love for his wife, just as Christ loved the Church and gave His life for it, further more it must fulfil the following:
  • It must be an enriching, purifying and cleansing love (Ephesians 5: 26-27) just as Christ wished to cleanse the church to be “holy and without blemish”.
  • The husband is required through his love that enriches to inspire his wife to dedicate herself to God (Ephesians 5: 26).  It must be a caring love (Ephesians 5: 28-30).
  • He must see her as one with himself. It must be an indissoluble love (Ephesians 5: 31).
  • He must be joined to her in the same way that the members of his body are joined and just as Christ and His church are joined to each other. It must be a love in Christ (Ephesians 5: 32).
  • The Christian marriage is a type of what awaits believers in their union with the Bridegroom after His second coming      

Biblical Command to the Wife: The wife is required to fulfil the following:
  • She must love her husband in the same way that the church loves Christ (Titus: 4).
  • She must be a good wife (Proverbs 31:10-31) who loves God and cares for her family.
  • She must submit and be subject to her husband, as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).
  • It must be a qualified submission where both husband and wife submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5: 22).
  • The wife, like her husband, must be inspired by the love of God in her service /ministry.
  • This should not be a submission into slavery or with the loss of her individual personality and humanity, but out of respect for the wellbeing of the marriage.
  • In this submission, just as in the Church’s submission to her Head, there is no humiliation but rather glorification. It is a self-sacrificing love in answer to love.

The Needs of a Husband and Wife
Husbands and wives have similar emotional, physical, spiritual and social needs. The needs have been adapted from Phillip McGraw’s book Relationship Rescue. 4.   

Emotional Need: Married partners need the following from each other:
  • Constantly feel and be told that they are loved, valued and that they are a vital part of their partner’s life.
  • They need to feel a sense of belonging, respect as an individual; and needed for other than the tasks they perform such as providing money and cooking etc.
  • They need to feel that they are the priority in their partner’s lives. And they need to feel special above everyone else.
  • They need to have a sense that their partner is proud to call him or her their own; and that they are trusted as a responsible partner.
  • They need to feel that they are accepted, despite their faults and findings. And they need to feel that they have been forgiven for their transgressions.
  • They need to be desired, appreciated, and accepted as close friends; and they need to feel passion between them.

Physical Needs: Married partners have the following physical needs:
  • Partners have a strong need and desire to be touched, caressed, kissed and hugged; and to be accepted and welcomed into their partner’s personal space.
  • They need to feel that they are part of a couple when interacting with the world. They need to feel encouraged and welcomed by non-verbal communication; a need for tenderness; and a need for a satisfying and rewarding sex life.    

Spiritual Needs: Married couples have a strong need to feel that their personal spiritual values are supported and shared by their spouses; and to be respected by the partner if for some reason it is not shared. Ideally, Christian couples should be fellowshipping together at the same church and engaging in church activities as partners. In a Christian marriage the two become one.

Social Needs: The social needs of married couples are as follows:
  • Married couples have a need to be remembered by their spouses with telephone calls and acknowledgements when they are apart.
  • Spouses have a need to feel that their partners will plan and structure their activities to include the other partner; and the need to feel that social activities are shared rather than experienced individually.
  • They have a need for appropriate tenderness and support when in public; and to be encouraged, affirmed, and supported physically and emotionally when in public.
  • They have a need to hear sweet things in a social environment; and a need to share fun, joy and laughter.
  • They have a need to feel that they are the most important person in their spouse’s life and awareness when in crowded, busy social environment.

Security Needs: Security needs of married couples are as follows:
  • Married couples have a need to know that their partners will stand by them in times of distress, conflict and illness.
  • They need to know that their partners will rally to their aid when needed.
  • They need to feel input and control with regard to the emotional aspects of the relationship.
  • They need to know that they are supported by their partners; and that their partners will be loyal and committed to them.
  • They need to be assured that they have no fear of abandonment, disappointment, being let down by their partners; or being accused or judged of being inadequate (physically, emotionally, sexually, mentally, socially etc.). 

Footnotes and Sources

1. Peale, N.V. and Blanton, S. 2000. The Heart of Real Happiness. London: Vermilion.
2. Worthington, E. 1989. Marriage Counselling: A Christian Perspective. Leicester: Inter   
     Varsity Press
3. Murray, R. 1998. Personal Issues: The Christian Counsellor. In Woodbridge, N.B. Christian
   Counselling Pretoria: UNISA.  
4. McGraw, P. 2002. Relationship Rescue USA. Vermilion

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