Houseguests from Hell!
Have you ever had an unwelcome houseguest? Perhaps someone you weren’t thrilled to have staying with you in the first place? After a couple of days you think to yourself, ‘At least they’re leaving tomorrow!’ But when the sun rises, disappointment comes right along with it. You discover that your house guest is enjoying their visit so much, they have no intention of leaving anytime soon!
Sometimes our marital challenges can feel this way. According to The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, there are two main types of marital conflict: solvable problems and perpetual problems. Solvable problems tend to be situational, more like annoying dinner guests. Perpetual problems are those issues that keep coming up, day in and day out, year after year—the house guest from hell!
I know that in my almost 17-year-long marriage, I have found myself thinking, ‘Why are we still talking about this? Shouldn’t we have worked it out by now?’ But these unsolvable issues are about more than the issue itself. Much of the time there are deeper tendencies, attitudes, or beliefs underlying them. As these pesky perpetual problems make up 69% of marital conflict, even happily married couples must find a way to co-exist with them. The alternative is to allow their relationship to become flooded with negativity until it drowns. Speaking of successful relationships, Gottman says “. . . these couples remain very satisfied with their marriages because they have hit upon a way to deal with their unmovable problems . . . they’ve learned to keep them in their place and approach them with a sense of humor . . . because they keep acknowledging the problem and talking about it, they prevent it from overwhelming their relationship.”
So, if you have found yourself dreading yet another conversation over the way the bills are paid, or how often you and your partner are intimate, or seemingly insurmountable differences in parenting styles, the best thing you and your partner can do is admit that you have yourselves a perpetual problem. Then you laugh about it together. Keep the nasty little thing out in the open so that it doesn’t creep up and overwhelm you.
In Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, Goddard has a chapter on consecration, which I feel ties in nicely with marital conflict. Most of us think about the law of consecration as being a financial thing. But Goddard insists that “Our marriages are ideal places to practice the law of consecration.” Our problems, both solvable and perpetual, give us just such an opportunity. If we agreed on everything, how would we learn to sacrifice and compromise? How would we put off the natural man if we wanted the same things all the time? Joseph Smith said that “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” I would tweak this phrase: A RELATIONSHIP that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the JOY unto life and salvation. Are we not all more careful with something we have worked for? Do we not jealously guard those things we have sacrificed and saved for? I have to believe that if we consecrate ourselves in marriage and hold nothing back, we will be rewarded with the deepest, sweetest joy imaginable.