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Marriage Q&A with Pastor Phil Ayres

13 December 2022

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Pastor Phil Ayres, from Kingdomcity, joins Bec and Jeziel every fortnight to share his advice on growing a strong marriage. To wrap up the end of the year, Pastor Phil opened up his trove of knowledge for a Q&A session where the 98five Family could call or text in with any relationship or marriage questions.

Here are the Family submitted questions answered by Pastor Phil:

My partner says sorry for something they did and asks for forgiveness, but they continue to do the same thing over and over again. At what point do I stop forgiving and hold them fully accountable for their actions?

In this situation, there are two things to consider: origin and safety. If your partner is doing XYZ, is the origin based on their attitude or ability? If it’s based on attitude, that can be corrected. It might take forgiveness and conversation, but they can take ownership of that behaviour. If it’s an issue based on their ability, capacity or human trait, that is something you’ll have to work around together. In terms of safety, we have to ask ourselves are the issues causing me to be unsafe, or is it an issue of preference? If you’re thinking “that’s just annoying” or “I’m over it”, that is a preference.

When we have a disagreement I find it hard to just listen. I feel that when I say nothing, they think I agree with them. I saw my mum let my dad walk all over her and I’m afraid this is happening again with us.

The first thing to ask yourself is “what is the origin of my struggle?” Is my deep struggle because of us, or the trauma that I’ve experienced in my family of origin? It may be a soul reflection. Don’t make your spouse pay the price for the relational debt created by someone else. Identify whether the issue is because your family has triggered you at a level that is not necessary, or if the fear realistic.

Secondly, ask your spouse for forgiveness and recognise together what is triggering your primary response. Third, discuss and create a plan for how you will act during a conflict, and commit to these safe conflict boundaries together. For example, we won’t interrupt when one is speaking. We won’t start shouting or raising our voices to be heard. We won’t become indifferent or dismissive. It’s also really helpful to identify what healthy disagreements look like for you, in terms of volume, spacial distance, etc. Although remember this has to be discussed during a peaceful time, not in the heat of a current argument.

Have a listen to part one of this conversation where Pastor Phil answers the above questions.

What’s the best way to keep a long-distance relationship intimate?

Make sure you create regular communication opportunities. Communication equals connection. Say you’re a FIFO worker. In that time when you are apart, create opportunities to communicate regularly, like a daily phone or facetime call. Then when you are together again you might have to compensate for the lost time by creating extra time together; in the family and relationship context. So, you might have to break the “norms” to continue growing. For example, taking the kids out of school one day to spend time with mum or dad who is away often. So if you’re in a relationship with limited time together, the key is to compensate and communicate.

I have a hard time letting go of hurt feelings caused by my fiance, is there a way to let the hurt go quicker?

Are your expectations realistic? The first thing you should do if you’re struggling with hurt and unforgiveness is think about the level of expectation you’re putting on your partner. Secondly, practice deciding to forgive and let go of hurt before you actually feel forgiveness and release. The literal meaning of forgiveness is to let go, to release a debt. It’s more of a choice than it is a feeling, so the decision will influence the feeling. On the other side of the same coin, if you decide not to forgive, the feeling of hurt will reside and continue. You also can’t make your forgiveness conditional on never getting hurt again. Be realistic about the fact that people, and those closest to you, will let you down. You are married to a human, not a god, not a perfect being, so be realistic with your expectations.

How can I get my husband to church? He’s not a man of faith, I don’t want to pester him but lovingly introduce him to God.

Paul says (in 1 Corinthians) to make sure the first church they interact with is the one they’re married to. Let them experience the love and power of God in your life as you live your life as a witness to Him, and make that attractive. Make your faith attractive, make your life attractive, if he doesn’t see it at home, it’ll be a waste of time trying to export that. Before he comes to a service find ways to integrate as a community rather than in a formal sense.

Is it possible to fall in love again after you no longer feel in love with your spouse?

Absolutely! There is a great quote by Mignon McLaughlin who says “a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” In marriage, there are seasons that are wonderful and seasons that are flat. So how do you reboot that feeling of being in love? There is a great book titled Feeding the Starved Marriage by Matt Townsend, in that book he simply says your memory of being in love is in the chemistry of what you did. In other words, when you do the things that caused you to fall in love with that person, the chemistry of that love will come alive again. You’ll experience those same dynamics if you’re willing to put your time, effort and money into rebuilding and rediscovering that.

Have a listen to part two of this conversation where Pastor Phil answers the above questions.