To support the growth of healthy relationships, our churches must inform couples how to effectively communicate. It sounds simple, but basic communication is essential for working through conflict and building intimacy. In the last thirty years, we have learned most divorces stem from problems in poor communication not the result of infidelity, abuse, or addiction. Dr. Terry Hargrave, of Fuller Seminary, emphatically believes “The Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, resentment, and stonewalling)” will destroy your marriage. He argues these four negative communication patterns are the early predictors for divorce. Therefore, churches must teach couples to identify and address these negative patterns before they begin to wreck our relationships.
Before couples walk down the aisle, the local church should be the first people to encourage them to engage in premarital counseling. Research continues to show solid premarital counseling programs can lower a couple’s divorce rate by 30 percent. This counseling is designed to set couples up for success, not break them apart. Far too often young couples avoid discussing the “Big Six.” The book Wonderful Marriage emphasizes the need for couples to see eye to eye on religion, money, sex, children, recreation, and acceptable behavior if they hope to engage healthy relationships. ”Without full agreement on each of these issues in a way that makes both of you happy, your marriage will not be built on solid foundation.”
Couples must learn how to negotiate minor problems before more destructive problems and behaviors begin to form. As a church family, we must remind couples the importance of romance in a relationship. Dating is not just for young couples; it is for everyone looking to sustain meaningful relationships. Encourage couples to turn off the television, put down the iPhone and emotionally connect with one another. Gary Neuman reminds his readers, the number one emotional issue for women is “not having enough time with their husbands, but feeling underappreciated followed closely behind.” We must educate our friends, family members, and neighbors about the reality of conflict in every marriage, even happy couples fight, and offer constructive ways to deepen intimacy.