The title of this blog post comes from a statement by relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman. His research indicates that couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. Couples have built up resentment for six years before they take action to resolve their differences.

People believe if they can find the right technique for a blissful marriage, it will overcome years of resentment. Gottman points out that the belief that you can save your marriage just by learning to communicate better with one another is probably the most widely held misconception about happy marriages. He writes, “Perhaps the biggest myth of all is that communication – and more specifically, learning to resolve your conflicts – is the royal road to romance and an enduring, happy marriage.” (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, p. 11).

Learning to communicate more effectively is helpful, but it doesn’t address the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart. When couples criticize one another and show contempt for their partner it demonstrates a heart problem. You don’t have a marriage problem, you have a sin problem. Gottman emphasizes that avoiding conflict is not enough, the relationship must be characterized by love and intimacy from the heart.

If there is not genuine love and respect for the other person then simply teaching good communications skills is insufficient. Gottman points out, “Active listening asks couples to perform Olympic-level emotional gymnastics even if their relationship can barely walk” (p. 13).

Healing starts when I realize that I may not be able to change the situation, but I need to change myself. This requires humility, forgiveness, and trust that God can protect me in this situation. Your walk with God does not depend on other people, places, things or events. The sad reality is many people aren’t willing to make those changes and they would rather blame the other person.

What does a changed heart look like? The Apostle Paul gives us a picture in his letter to the Philippians,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Genuine change in the relationship starts with me. When I believe that God can heal my broken heart, then the relationship can start to heal. There’s no human remedy for sin, but God can change me. I must realize that sin management is not repentance. I must also realize that God’s children have an endless supply of the fruit of the Spirit. Lasting change starts when I align my heart with God,

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

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