GALVESTON, Texas (BP)–“Warning: Any attempts to make your marriage work apart from God are dangerous to your health.”
That’s the warning label Steve Pettit, a counselor with One on One Ministries, Gainesville, Fla., said should come with marriage.
“I’ve got the root of marital discontent figured out: Men marry women,” Pettit told more than 300 couples gathered for a LifeWay Christian Resources marriage enrichment conference in Galveston, Texas, Nov. 12-14.
Men and women are different in many ways, Pettit said, including:
— Communication. Men communicate in headlines, but women in fine print. “Ask a man how his day went and he will say, ‘Fine.’ Headline: ‘Man Has Fine Day.’ Ask a woman how her day went and she’ll start off with breakfast and tell you everything that happened all day long.”
— Intimacy. Men want to walk through life side by side, but women want a more intimate face-to-face existence. “Men think sitting in the same room watching a ballgame is intimate. They are in the same room, aren’t they? Women want more than that.”
Pettit also pointed out differences in the way men and women process pain and view shopping. But these differences are not a design flaw by God, he said.
One night the difference between Pettit and his wife, Ella, had been very apparent, and he was complaining to God about why she couldn’t be more like him.
Pettit said God told him that wasn’t the plan.
“Your differences are not the problem. Her differences are my voice calling to you to love like I love,” Pettit said God told him.
That was when he realized “the Holy Spirit uses marriage to bring us to a point of divine discontent,” he said. The only solution to that discontent is to love one’s spouse the way God loves, and that is only possible through reliance on God.
When in counseling he asks couples to identify the problem in their marriage, they almost always talk about something one or the other or both have done or are doing, Pettit observed.
Yet that misses the point, he contended. The important thing is not to change actions but the deeper causes of actions.
“Actions don’t change until attitudes change. They don’t change until values change. Values don’t change until beliefs change. Nothing will change beliefs except a change in the objects of our faith,” Pettit said. “Differences in belief systems cause problems, not attitudes or actions.”
Couples must understand it is not their faith that makes for a strong marriage but the object of that faith.
The difficult part is that “many people think it is more important to look good than to look like God. We have given authority to the seen and temporal, rather than the unseen and eternal.”
Too many marriages are a two-ticks-and-no-dog relationship, he said. “The two suck the life out of each other until there is either no life left or they find the secret in the One who says, ‘I am the Life.'”