Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker is a wonderful resource for Christians who wish to reflect the peacemaking work of God in their interpersonal relationships. His follow-up book Peacemaking for Families: A Biblical Guide to Managing Conflict in Your Home has become another favorite of mine. I often recommend it in place of the original due to its concision and vivid application of peacemaking principles to the details of marriage and family life.
Toward the end of the book, Sande has a helpful couple of paragraphs for couples who are struggling with whether their marriage is experiencing truly minor and easily resolved conflicts, or whether tensions have escalated to dangerous levels:
Marriage, like life, often has its ebbs and flows, its ups and downs. It is only natural that partners in a long-term relationship are going to feel closer to each other at some times then at others. However, when the tide goes out but does not quickly come back in, or when the relationship goes south and stays there for an uncomfortably long period, you need to take note. Here are some warning signs you should look for:
-You sense a steady decline in respect, affection, or love for your spouse.
-Your conversations are growing increasingly superficial.
-You feel less and less desire to be with your spouse and a growing desire to be doing things away from your spouse.
-You talk repeatedly about the same issues without making noticeable progress in resolving them.
-You argue frequently or with intense anger.
-You go through lengthy periods of unforgiveness.
-You or your spouse seem to be attracted to another person.
One or more of these signs may mean that your marriage is in trouble. The question then becomes: What do I do about it?
In most cases, the first thing to do is talk with your spouse. Using the principles discussed in the first seven chapters of this book, carefully plan how to share your concerns. Avoid the temptation to blame or attacked. Instead, use confession and the gospel to stimulate hope that things can get better. Be specific about your concerns and the consequences you may both face if you do not work together to improve your relationship. And then pray that the Holy Spirit will move your spouse to fight for your marriage too.
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)