I had an email recently that thanked me for not having the common “marriage ministry philosophy” that the man is wrong because he is a beast and he needs to be tamed. The specific comment was about sex, and that sometimes we feel like being passionate and even a bit aggressive. I agree with this, but it made me think of a bigger problem I see in parts of the marriage ministry world – the idea that the man is always wrong and if he would just get it right his marriage would be fine. The corollary to this is that anything a wife is doing wrong is his fault, and as soon as he gets it together, she will immediately change.
I know that sounds crazy, and anything but biblical, but it’s out there. I went several rounds with a fellow who teaches that, and has a book which says the same thing. The reason this couple teaches this is that their marriage was this way, and his changing did fix everything. The problem is that not every marriage is this way; I’d say very few are this way. Occasionally it’s almost entirely the man, occasionally it’s almost entirely the woman, and most of the time they each have things that need to be dealt with. Any change either makes may precipitate change by the other, but it neither causes nor guarantees that the spouse will change – or that if they do change it will be for the better. If the husband is the vast majority of the problem, then a book that makes the husband the problem will help. If both have things to deal with, a book that blames all marriage problems on him won’t help, and will likely make things worse. If the wife is the vast majority of the problem, a book that puts it all on him will make things much worse!
The “it’s always the man’s fault” approach to marriage problems is a result of the “one size fits all” method of dealing with things. I’ve seen some well-meaning people do a lot of harm because they assume everyone is like they are, and everyone’s problems are the same as theirs are or were. It would make things easy, but it’s not true! Stay away from anyone who has a one size fit’s all answer for marriage problems, as well as from anyone who has a “guaranteed fix”. These things will work for some, but not for all, and they will make things worse for many.
By the way, this applies to anything I say as well. Often I give a bit of advice that will work for most, but very few things are universally true in the area of marriage. I’d say 5% to 10% of what I share here I don’t do in my own marriage because it would not work or is not the best option. My bride is unique, as am I, and that makes our marriage unique. In many areas, we are “average”, and that means the common solution works well. However, like all couples, there are places where are not normal, and that means that the normal solutions won’t work, or won’t work well enough.
The bottom line is that you must be a student of your bride. If you’re not sure about something, try it gently, and see how it goes. Just because something worked for another couple does not mean it will work for you. Even more importantly, just because something did not work for you does not mean there is no solution.