Marriage Isn't Complicated . . . It's Just Hard


In the first session of marriage counseling couples are sometimes very discouraged about their chances of success of having a better relationship. They'll often talk at length about what they have tried, what has failed, and how counseling is now their last hope for change. Frequently I hear from them, "Dr. Cockrell, we've tried everything!!" They say this with a tone of desperation and anguish that is heartbreaking. I really do hurt for them because I have seen it and heard it so many times before. Seemingly, everything they have tried has only ended in making things worse, not better.

I use the following illustration. I give them a Rubik's cube and ask them to solve it. Less than 1% of the world's population knows how to solve the cube, so I'm usually pretty safe using the illustration. They'll twist and turn the cube for a minute or two before I start encouraging them to try harder. I'll tell them, "You're not trying hard enough." I'll watch as they try in frustration to solve the complicated puzzle. After about two minutes, I'll take the cube back from them and begin turning the cube in my hand. Occasionally I'll glance down at the cube to see it's orientation in my hand, but then I go back to looking at them as I explain the following.

There are 43 quintillion combinations of moves on the Rubik's cube. It's a number that's almost incomprehensible. You're not going to solve the Rubik's cube by chance. Anyone who tells you that they solved it randomly is lying to you. If someone made one random move every second it would take a quadrillion years to solve the puzzle. So, it seems really complicated. HOWEVER - if you learn seven basic steps of solving the cube, virtually anyone can learn to solve any 3x3 Rubik's cube in under 2 minutes. On average I can teach someone to solve it in about an hour. So, it's really not that complicated at all, as long as you understand the algorithms that make the cube work.

Like the Rubik's cube, there are lot's of ways to do marriage wrong. I can think of an unlimited number of ways to mess marriage up. Despite my best efforts of trying hard to do marriage well, it only ends in frustration and disappointment. But, if I understand some basic principles in marriage, I can have a God-honoring, satisfying, and healthy marriage. Much like the algorithms of the Rubik's cube, these principles are what make marriage work. No matter what other things we try in marriage, if we get these things wrong, ultimately the marriage will break down. It's not about how hard we try, it's about what we try. I know maybe you've tried to do lots of things to make your marriage better. I know you are frustrated by your failures and now feel hopeless that things can be better. But I assure you doing the right things in marriage will produce positive results. (Cue the gasps as I hand them back a solved Rubik's cube).

Below are eight basic principles that I believe are crucial to having a satisfying, God-honoring marriage. I'm going to list them here and then over the course of the next few weeks, I'll do a blog post on each of the eight principles. These eight principles are not complicated. But, they are not easy to do either. They are hard work.

  1. CHRIST FIRST AND IN EVERYTHING – Colossians 2:6-8

  2. YOU BEFORE ME – Philippians 2:3

  3. CELEBRATE DIFFERENCES – 1 Corinthians 12:12

  4. OVER-COMMUNICATE AND DO IT RIGHT – Colossians 4:6

  5. CONFLICT IS OPPORTUNITY – 1 Peter 3:8-11

  6. GIVE APPRECIATION – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

  7. ACCEPT INFLUENCE – Proverbs 10:17

  8. SHARE IN THE MISSION – Matthew 28:19-20

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