The Marriage Merry-go-round

Posted: Wed. Mar, 2 2016

Last week, we heard from a seasoned counselor who reported that only 7% of American marriages are healthy.  That means 93% are UN - healthy.

How can it possibly be that only 7% of American marriages are healthy?
How can so marry marriages that started with “I do” end up in “I won’t”?

Here’s how. It’s something called the crazy cycle.


The Crazy Cycle


So the marriage hits a rough patch. Things are in the “for worse” category rather than the “for better” category.

If the wife thinks it’s the husband’s fault (he doesn’t love me enough), then she will hold back on her respect for him.

If the husband thinks it’s his wife’s fault (she has no respect for me), then he will hold back on showing his love for her.

It’s what respected counselor and author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his book Love & Respect calls the “crazy cycle”.

But how do things fall apart to the point where the healthy are only 7%?
It’s all explained by the math.  The area of a square, to be precise about it.


The “Field” of Marriage

Marriage can be compared to a field that is set apart to yield a fruitful harvest.



 But in order for that to happen, that marriage field needs to be fertilized and watered  - on a regular basis.

The fertilizer is love,  and the husband is to cover the field completely with it.



The water is respect and the wife is to water the entire field of the marriage with it.


And for both sides this ought to be a 100% thing.  All in.  The husband should cover the entire field of the marriage with his sacrificial love for his wife.  Give of himself totally.  And the wife should blanket the field of the marriage with her respect for her husband. Be subject to him in everything.  100% yellow and 100% blue yields a 100% green - healthy! - field.

The Multiplier Effect

Here’s the problem. And why we can end up in a situation where only 7% of the marriages are healthy.

It’s the multiplier effect.

Here’s  what we mean by saying marriage is a 100% / 100% proposition. 
If the husband takes care of the love  cycle 100% of the time….and the wife is in the respect mode 100% of the time….


100% times 100% = 100%.   A perfectly healthy marriage. The whole field is fertilized and watered. 


So far so good.
Now what happens when both parties think “marriage is 50/50” ?


50% times 50%  = 25.  25 % healthy.  A failing grade. 



And when either party pins on 0%?

Nothing times anything is nothing.

The crazy cycle.

This can spin out of control, and when that happens, marriages fall apart. Couples divorce.  Or couples stay together but are in a bitter, loveless, and potentially violent relationship.


Hope for Christian marriages

Yet, there IS hope - especially for Christians.

Because Jesus Christ is amazing.

It’s revolutionary to be a Christian.  It means we are under grace instead of law. 

Law would look at a failing marriage, judge the performance of each party, and punish failure.

Grace looks at failures and instead asks a single question:  How will this look once they let Jesus into the game?

Jesus totally gets this problem in marriage.  It is why He offers to put himself right in the middle of every Christian one.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 
Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

That’s in the New Testament:  Colossians chapter 3, verses 17 to 19 (COL 3:17-19). 

He tells the wife: " I know you can’t stand looking at this guy right now, so just look at Me.  Work this out with me first."

He says the same thing to the husband.
He says to the husband, "watch how I love the church. See how I have loved you.
Remember?  Remember how you discovered that I loved you so much that I died for you.  Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and good for your soul."

When this happens, slowly but surely the crazy cycle slows down, and eventually comes to a grinding halt.   The negative momentum peters out.

And the marriage gets a fresh start. Can start spinning in the right direction. With the husband and the wife rowing in the same direction.   The way the Lord wants you to.

22  Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.  100%!

25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up  - 100% - for her, 26  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (EPH 5:22-33)


 The Jesus Cycle

When the husband and the wife both look at Jesus and do what He tells them to do in the marriage, the marriage starts to turn in a new direction.  Cycles of love and respect reinforce each other. This brings life and healing to the marriage.  Then add in mutual forgiveness, that soothing oil in a marriage, any time that urge to go in the wrong direction raises its ugly head. 

The Marriage Merry-go-round

See, it’s a matter of momentum.  Like when you used to ride on a merry-go-round at the playground as a kid.

It sat there.  And it took somebody strong to get it to start moving.

But then sometimes you wanted to reverse directions. That was even harder. Somebody had to slow it down and bring it to a complete stop. Then exert a strong force to get it spinning in the right direction.

On the day you were married, you marriage was probably off  to a flying start.  You no doubt were both pushing in the right direction, and you probably had a lot of other people who were there helping , cheering, giving your marriage a big push. It was a magic merry go round. When you both pushed in the right direction, it flew.

But then they were gone.  Family members, friends.  And it became just the two of you.  Here you were in this place called married life. And you never did this before.

And you didn’t realize it probably, but before too long  each of you started to do things that slowed that merry go round down.  You had moved to opposite sides of the merry go round.

You both were pushing the way that seemed natural to you.  The man pushed for respect and the woman pushed for love.   Both pushing toward their own true north. 

And when the merry-go-round went slower you started blaming your partner.  She’s pushing in the wrong direction. He’s pushing in the wrong direction.

Until it ground to a halt and started rotating in the wrong direction.  Right into the ground.


Jesus is in the playground!

Now you need a giant push, but you can’t see anybody there to give it.
See, that’s where Jesus comes in.   Literally. 

We husbands and wives are really children on a merry go round.  We really do want it to go fast in the right direction. But we do things to slow it down  - or worse.  We drag our feet on the ground.  We stand up when we should keep low.  We rock back and forth when we should stay still.  We feel like jumping off .  Or we start pushing but in the wrong direction. 

Jesus is standing by in our playground. He is strong enough to get the wheel-go-round moving in the right direction.  Learn the directions to the marriage merry-go-round. Then trust Him to get yours moving in the right direction.

The Rewarded Cycle

Someday soon we will talk about the rewarded cycle. It is where heroes are forged and rewards are given.
Well, OK, here’s the picture of that:

But that’s for another day. One trip to the playground a day.

Until the next time, we’re all ….
In His grip,

Pastor John

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