Please leave comments about your marital challenges: helpful scriptures, stories, books, mentor examples.
Also, feel free to post a photo of an encouraging moment  – for us and you !

There are all kinds of challenges. Challenges:

  1. “during” marriage – loss of child or ability to bear children, loss of family member, job, move, etc ( see Stress Scale in Tools )
  2. challenges “to” marriage – unfaithfulness, abuse, drug abuse, etc
  3. My prayer, is that your “chord of 3 strands” will not be easily broken. Translation?:  #1 will be the goal for all challenges – that it is the 2 of you against the world or worldly event and you should be a team joined up, resolved to work together to overcome. I pray that #2 would be minimized and eliminated as you mature, that you work to eliminate the wall between, and instead build a wall of protection around your marriage, your marriage partner.

Over time I’m trying to add some Challenges Tools – while not presuming any one type of challenge. Don’t be offended by one subtopic outside of what you’re looking for, skip it and preview some other areas. Or, use all the material to be ready to help others as  God gives the opportunity, and He will.

Resource list:


Someone named Gary Smalley may have said it too, but it was Arlene, my favorite Sunday school teacher, that made me remember some communication basics. There are 5 basic levels of communication and there are different interpretations by the speaker and listener.

(1) CLICHES – Typical, routine, oft repeated comments, questions and answers given out of habit and with no real forethought or genuine intent. “How are you?” “Fine.” “Having a good day?” “Yes.”

(2) FACTS – Information/Statistics about the weather, the office, friends, the news, personal activities, etc. Requires no in depth thinking or feeling.

(3) OPINIONS – Includes concerns, expectations, and personal goals, dreams, and desires. Due to differences of opinion that naturally arise between two people, especially between men and women, this is typically the level at which we run into the “wall of conflict.”

(4) FEELINGS – Having gone through the “wall of conflict” via applying the communication skills following, you both feel safe to share your deepest emotions.

(5) NEEDS – The deepest level of communication and intimacy where you feel completely safe to reveal your unique needs with each other. Truly, unless needs are known and met, a couple will remain “strangers.” ( ….seems to align w/ Maslows hierarchy of needs, doesn’t it ?  )

That part can almost sound easy. Here’s where it gets fun ( Arlene told us this too !)

  • There is: what you said
  • what you feel you said
  • what they heard
  • what they think they heard
  • there is, or isn’t, a meeting of minds somewhere in between
  • Of whatever use at this point: there is what was really said ( of interest to lawyers, engineers, and others w/their personality types ! )

The communication highway has a huge possibility to have enough potholes to blow a tire. Now there is a reason I just ended with a metaphor. I firmly believe that when we get to “level 3” and above, i.e. what we desire or has the potential as serious/ useful/ loving/ caring communication, we should virtually eliminate metaphors & euphemisms. Certainly care should be taken when using adjectives and off color “humor” and remarks also. There is huge potential to sour the listener very quickly when they are deep in thought of “substantial” comments. Like the Stress Scale shows, we only have a given amount of space in our mind to process. The more useless junk talk that is thrown in, the more potentially overwhelming the communication becomes.  If you were negotiating the deal of a lifetime would you choose your words and non verbal expressions more carefully knowing it could affect the outcome ? I hope so. Your joint ministry partner is indeed a lifetime deal. It will not enhance understanding if the other person has to sift through “colorful” language – it will push them away as self preservation – not because they don’t love you…again, stress scale, one can multi task only so much.

The book, What Did You Say? What Do You Mean? was to be a tool to unravel popular sayings that have no literal tie to what is meant – specifically to help parents deal with a particular syndrome in children that can only understand literal. There is a good lesson for spouses here. Yes, do speak to your spouse simplistically when there is substantial topics. It can be useful to practice this approach at all times. NOT condescending in tone. Loving, literal.

How we speak of others and how we speak to others shows whats inside our heart.





Photos from


“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”

> Where there seems to be “passive” or “silent” situations, LINKED TO SOMEONE IN PAIN is a book you’ll find extremely useful.  (Sanfacon, Cheryl L., M.D., & Moccero, Joyce Magnin. (1993). Linked to Someone in Pain.)
This text walks you through a clinical view alternating an actual case demonstrating the 5 year recovery process involved with helping a spouse overcome past issues never dealt with. This brought to my ( Paul ) mind the need to understand that a spouse will not be able to successfully deal  with the here and now while dealing with a “full bucket” they’ve been carrying. Review the Holmes and Rahe STRESS SCALE calculator on the TOOLS page. You will start to see life through the persons eyes that has the pain and will begin to realize why they can’t give more,  e.g. love to you !.
> From my perspective, the facilitator, I also like the following book. It takes an extremely practical, short answer approach to all of your ….frankly…self first perspective. Its as if you asked your best friend and they were ready, with wisdom at hand, to answer every “but what about” thing you could throw at them until hopefully at one point you self heal, surrender to God, surrender to logic and common sense if not God. Click thru and read the table of contents. I think you’ll have some use for this material.

An excerpt from “TOUGH TALK TO A STUBBORN SPOUSE” BY Stephen Schwambach.

Available from our lending library
There was a time when being with your spouse gave you goose bumps. The mere thought of being together made your heart beat a little faster. But now the magic is gone. You don’t know if it was your spouse who changed, or whether it was you who changed. But there is one thing you know for sure: Nothing is the same. You didn’t want this to happen, your spouse didn’t want it to happen, and neither of you is sure exactly how or why it happened.
But one day you finally faced the truth: “I’m no longer in love.”
So you are going to leave. You cannot bear the thought of spending the rest of your life in a loveless marriage. It’s not that you don’t care what happens to your spouse; you do. You wish your spouse only the best from here on out. But the romance has not merely faded; it’s gone. You look at your spouse and all you see is an ordinary person, warts and all. Where is the person of your dreams? You haven’t the foggiest notion. All you know is, it isn’t the person who is now wearing your ring.
Obviously, you have the ability to leave if that is what you really want to do.
The law won’t stop you.
But if you are really interested in meeting your own needs, you might want to reconsider what you are getting ready to do, because the truth is, you don’t need a divorce.
What you need is a better understanding of how love works.
Love is not an emotion. Love is not on one day and off the next. Love is a decision. Love is an all out commitment. And Love is permanent.
But there is one thing about love that is temporary; the emotions that surround it. And do those emotions fluctuate!!…
Tough Talk to a Stubborn Spouse

Helpful links/ blogs:

A good checklist/checkup recalling the fruits of the spirit – love/joy/peace/patience/kindness/goodness/gentleness/faithfulness/ selfcontrol – for how you communicate

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