Breakdown In Family Relationships
In our society, many families who were once strongly established on biblical principles and commitment are being deceived by believing they have all the needed power within themselves to master their mind and conduct, being in harmony with the “Higher Self” and connected to the whole human race.1 As a result of thus displacing God, many are now discovering that it is difficult to trust Him, others and even themselves. No wonder so many husbands and wives become over-possessive or paranoid about each other. The absence of trust has generated a torment of fear in family relationships.
Why should we trust God for direction and help with our family relationships? The wise man Solomon invited us to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV). We should trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him in our relationships because no one knows everything about anything. Some people know something about many things, but only God knows everything about all things. Hence, He knows, understands and cares for the family even when no one else does.
Although there are many families who maintain moral principles for commitment in relationships, an increasing number of couples now enter a contract rather than a commitment of marriage. Some have blatantly disregarded moral standards while many others simply minimize the importance of them. Recently, in a counseling session, a young lady said that it was “too much of a gamble to get married.” She preferred to live with her boyfriend in a common-law relationship so that, in the event of problems, she would be free to quit the relationship. Such people fear total commitment, and they may base relationship on “trial and error” for some undefined duration. This tendency to disregard moral values and do what is right in one’s own eyes is developing rapidly (Jud. 17:6, 21:25).
Many young people have had weak role-modeling of leadership and high moral values in the family system. Some have come from dysfunctional families laden with conflicts, stress, anxiety, addictions and abuse. These young people have seen conflicts in their parents’ relationship and repeatedly heard Mom say how miserable her marriage has been. Therefore they replay the examples visible in their childhood experiences and may even believe that it is an acceptable and normal way of life to be verbally, emotionally and physically abused. Some have had difficulty maintaining any healthy interpersonal relationships, even to the extent of developing personality disorders with chronic feelings of emptiness and multiple suicide attempts.
The Myth Of Free Sex And Substance Abuse
The departure from God’s principles and the promotion of “free sex” have produced significant problems among people from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, adversely affecting family relationships. Love is replaced by lust and sensuality; sex is perceived by many as an activity for one’s own gratification without any concern or love for the other person. The Ten Commandments no longer hang on the walls of public schools, but “safe sex” and other unbiblical things are communicated to young people who are thereby subtly given approval for sexual promiscuity. As a result problems in family relationships have been accelerating, and caring parents become increasingly concerned about the health and purity of their children who are exposed to these humanistic philosophies.
Many teenagers are heavily involved in substance abuse. The children are crying out for love and acceptance, but they are looking to the wrong persons and in the wrong places. Families are becoming overwhelmed and are frequently seeking help from law enforcement, psychiatrists and counselors. According to H. Norman Wright, the family is in trouble and “the sexual behavior evident today, both in and out of marriage, threatens family stability and is also a symptom of other problems.” 2
The sad results of adopting the philosophy of “free sex” are becoming more evident as people contract behavior-related diseases – for some of which there is no known cure. Many people, both male and female from various walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, are experiencing conflicts in their relationships because of “free sex” and extramarital affairs. The pleasures for a moment leave a lasting, heavy weight of guilt and fear. On the other hand, there are some who value family relationships and prevent such conflicts by proclaiming and practicing total abstinence outside the marital relationship. Thus, such conflicts are not only avoided, but love between husband and wife can really be experienced. This is God’s way for a happy relationship.
How confusing is the message that society gives to those who are unfaithful in their marital relationships! Some time ago a basketball star was charged with soliciting a prostitute. However, later that night when he arrived at the sports arena to play a game, according to James Dobson, approximately 17,000 fans gave him a standing ovation.3 What embarrassment and shame it must have triggered, especially for his wife! Sometimes a wife becomes laden with guilt due to the behavior of her husband, blames herself, rescues him, becomes more concerned about his feelings, and finally exhibits co-dependency symptoms such as low self-worth, obsession, weak boundaries, anger, lack of trust, depression and other things.
God’s Institution Of Marriage
From a Christian perspective marriage is one of the greatest institutions God has given to the human race. In the garden of Eden, God Himself performed the first marriage, and the Scriptures emphasize that “marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
The marriage of Adam and Eve should be a model for all subsequent marriages. God brought one wife to Adam, not two or more wives. It was God’s desire for a man to be united with his wife, given him by God, and only to her. However, as a result of sin, the principle of monogamy was violated by some men in biblical times and continues to be violated in our present society.
In the Bible, Lamech is the first known violator of the moral standard of having one wife. “Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah … Then Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; O wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me’” (Gen. 4:19,23). In spite of having two wives, he was weighed down with guilt about the man he murdered. There was no evidence of peace and joy. Instead, fear and misery existed in the family relationship.
King David had multiple wives even though God’s command for a king was “neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away from Me” (Dt. 17:16-17). He had such a passionate lust for women that he sought them out from even the heathen nations around him. On one occasion, instead of being actively involved with his soldiers in a battle with his enemies, he succumbed to the battle within and yielded to his lustful eyes. When David was on the roof of his palace he saw Uriah’s beautiful wife and lusted for her to such an extent that he had her husband killed (1 Sam. 18:17-30; 2 Sam. 11). Lust gratifies for the moment, but it never satisfies! Even with many wives, David was unhappy in those relationships.
The wisest man, King Solomon, was the greatest polygamist among those found in the Bible. He loved many foreign women – and with his kingly possessions, power, prestige and prominence, he had as many women as he lusted for – but he was never satisfied. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. How sad that these women turned his heart away from God (1 Ki. 11:1-8). King Solomon focused on the wrong priority and suffered greatly. With all his women, wine and wealth, he was unhappy in his relationships. He concluded: “I hated life … for all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Eccl. 2:17).
In our present generation there seems to be an increasing tendency toward polygamy. Some fail to resolve the conflict in the first marital relationship and then become involved intimately with another person to escape the immediate problem. Some religions encourage, or at least don’t frown on, polygamy. Also there is an increasing number of people who are living together in common-law marriages or are involved in other immorality. Many of these people are unhappy, laden with guilt and conflict.
Respect And Leadership
Lack of respect for one another dominates many relationships. Sometimes spouses are very negative in their attitudes and tend to devalue each other. While each person has the right to choose what he or she wants to dwell on, most people unfortunately tend to focus more on the negatives than on the positives. If one lets his mind dwell on negatives, he will find more negatives on which to dwell. The same principle holds true for positive thinking. Therefore, it is important to recognize the weaknesses, but to dwell on the strengths in the relationship.
In many families there are conflicts around leadership roles, and the wife often is afraid to verbalize her feelings because of fear of rejection. In various families there is the perception that leadership in marriage is based on hierarchy instead of on relationship. Because the perception is not discussed and resolved, there are often intense feelings of inferiority and superiority in the relationship; but how good to resolve the conflict by accepting the fact that Eve was taken from the side of Adam, implying both intimacy and importance. Hence, each parter in the marriage relationship should be respected as being equally important while recognizing that each one is different in physical makeup and has been divinely given a unique role to perform.
Another increasing manifestation of unresolved conflicts is dishonesty among both children and parents. Many children grow up in a disturbing environment where there are frequent arguments and lies. The quality of family life is a model for the child. A nurturing and supportive environment where truth and honesty are maintained is a significant factor in emotional stability. When such an environment is lacking, and the child hears or sees his or her mother or father lying to or about each other, the child has a tendency to lie without feeling guilt. David and Barbara Bjorkland concluded that “unhappy parents cannot make a happy home for their children or furnish the secure base kids need to venture out in the world and become independent.” 4
Children were more honest a generation or two ago. Since the Supreme Court ruled school-sponsored prayer unconstitutional in the United States, unethical behavior and dishonesty have greatly increased. The base, or foundation, of the Bible for behavior has been cast aside.
Quality Time With Each Other
One of the problems caused by parents working away from home is the lack of quality time for each other. Some husbands spend so much time at work that their primary priority obviously is work rather than family. Many wives feel like they are just receiving “the leftovers” because their husbands are emotionally drained by, and preoccupied with, work. As a result the relationship becomes strained because of the lack of affection and attention. Thus, according to David L. Bender and Bruno Leone, if men shift their priorities and recognize the profit from caring, loving and collaborating with their wives, they could experience quality relationships that are worth the investment of time.5
On the other hand, when the wife is also in the work force and away from home, there is hardly any quality time for each other or for the children. Many mothers become laden with guilt when they are unable to be with their children because of their employment. They feel “torn apart” or “stressed out” and “terribly guilty.” Barbara J. Berg tells of an employed mother, a manager, who exclaimed she was feeling terribly guilty because she was only raising her daughter on weekends, days off and after work, and that the family relationship was not what it used to be.6 There definitely are increased problems for the family when both parents are working away from home. We note that in some cases limited economic resources and existing needs in the family might necessitate both parents working. But there is no substitute for a mother taking care of and training her children at home to promote strong and healthy family relationships.
1. Susan Jeffers, Dare to Connect, (New York: Ballantine, 1992), 17-18.
2. H. Norman Wright, Premarital Counseling, (Chicago: Moody 1992), 16.
3. James C. Dobson, letter, Focus on the Family, 1 Oct. 1991.
4. David Bjorkland and Barbara Bjorkland, “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” Parents Magazine, 25 Jan. 1989, 128.
5. David L. Bender and Bruno Leone, Male/Female Roles, (California: Greenhaven, 1989), 238-239.
6. Barbara J. Berg, The Crisis of the Working Mother, (New York: Summit, 1986), 24.
By Emmanuel V. John
(Adapted from “Resolving Family Conflicts – How To Prevent Break-downs And Breakups,” published by Overcomer Press, Owosso, MI; 1993.)
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