TriWhat 11-01-006

What Did You Expect??

Redeeming the Realities of Marriage


Paul David Tripp

Crossway, 2010, 287 pp.  ISBN 978-1-4335-1176-9


Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a popular speaker, a staff member at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and a professor at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas.  A good marriage is built through a reconciliation lifestyle that consists of daily habits, thousands of little moments that fulfill six personal commitments.


1. What Did You Expect?

Most people enter marriage with unrealistic expectations -- which always lead to disappointment.  It is hard to look at reality while overcome by a powerful romance.  When you are in love, you are sure everything will work out okay.  Tripp recommends "prepared spontaneity," developing a lifestyle that builds on the life-giving wisdom of Scripture. 


The basis for our problems is a personal happiness paradigm.  You are a sinner and you married a sinner.  Your life and your spouse's life are affected by sin, weakness, and failure.  But God wants to rescue you, to use your circumstances to change you into a personal holiness paradigm. 


When we study the Bible, we see the world as it really is.  This helps us be realistic in our expectations and reach out for His help.  And He is powerful.


2. Reason to Continue

Every marriage becomes a struggle at some time or in some way.  Sin complicates things.  What is the answer?  "A marriage of love, unity, and understanding is not rooted in romance; it is rooted in worship." (33)  " You are a worshiper, so everything you think, desire, choose, do, or say is shaped by worship."  (33)  "You attach your identity, your meaning and purpose, and your inner sense of well-being to something.  You either get these things vertically (from the Creator) or you look to get them horizontally (from the creation). … No marriage will be unaffected when the people in the marriage are seeking to get from the creation what they were only ever meant to get from the Creator." (34) 


"Marriages are fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally.  We have to deal with what is driving us before we ever deal with how we are reacting to one another." (35)  "It is only when I love God above all else that I will ever love my neighbor as myself. …the difficulties in our marriages do not first come because we don't love one another enough.  They happen because we don't love God enough; and because we don't love God enough we don't treat one another with the kind of love that makes marriage work." (36) 


3.  Whose Kingdom?

It's hard to fix something when you think the problem is the other person.  "All of the horizontal battles are the fruit of a deeper war."  "Real change is all about winning this war." (46) 


"Sin turns us in on ourselves … to our own wants, needs, and feelings. … Because of sin, we really do love us, and we have a wonderful plan for our lives!" (47)  "What we actually want is for our spouse to love us as much as we love ourselves…."  We tend to see others as vehicles to help us get what we want or obstacles in the way of what we want.  This is living for the kingdom of self.  There is an ongoing battle between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God.  When you are losing the battle, you inevitably have conflict with your spouse. 


"His grace purposes to expose and free you from your bondage to you." (51)  Ask yourself whose kingdom shapes your marriage, defines your dream, and makes you happy?  "Reconciling your marriage begins when you begin to reconcile with God." (53)


4. Day by Day

"The reconciliation of a marriage must be a lifestyle…." (57)  "The character and quality of our life is forged in little moments."  "We must have a 'day-by-day' approach to everything in our lives….  Things in a marriage go bad progressively.  Things become sweet and beautiful progressively." (58)  "You quit working in those little moments to make your marriage better, and you begin to succumb to what is."  "There is an epidemic of marital laziness among us … rooted in the self-centeredness of sin." (59) 


We must be reconciled daily to God and one another with intentionality.  This becomes a marriage reconciliation lifestyle. It consists of daily habits based on daily commitments.


In a fallen world, trust is the fine china of a relationship.  It is beautiful when it is there, but it is surely delicate and breakable." (66)  "There are two sides to trust.  First, you must do everything you can to prove yourself trustworthy.  Second, you must make the decision to entrust yourself into your spouse's care." (66) 


5. Coming Clean: Confession

You can't grow in affection toward someone while continually rehearsing their wrongs.  (71)  Marital difficulties are rarely rich in self-awareness.  People don't seem to be willing to do the one thing that makes change possible--confess.  "No change takes place in a marriage that does not begin with confession.  Confession is the doorway to growth and change in your relationship.  It is essential.  It is fundamental." (72-3)


It is most tempting to believe our greatest problems exist outside us rather than inside us.  But the greatest, deepest, most abiding problem each of us faces is inside--sin.  Selfishness begins to replace service.  We become self-righteous.  "The deception of personal righteousness is a huge wall in the way of marital change." (75)  We don't see ourselves objectively. 


Healthy relationships require the humility of approachability and the courage of loving honesty.   "It's hard enough to consider our present weakness and failure.  It is even harder to consider the fruit that that weakness and failure has produced over the years." (78)  "Confession should be seen as a wonderful gift that every marriage needs.  It should be liberating." (79)  And only Christ makes it possible.  "There are few things that contribute more to the health of a marriage than the commitment to keep short accounts." (81)  "Change is not only about admitting wrong; it is about progressively growing in self-knowledge." (81)


6. Canceling Debts

In healthy marriages, people find joy in canceling debts.  It is essential.  Without confession and forgiveness you end up with dislike and disrespect.  Every day you harvest what you planted.  Each selfish act followed by a bitter response damages affection and unity.  This can become a relationally destructive and exhausting pattern, building up walls of defense. 


"The cost of forgiveness is great, but the harvest of forgiveness is a beautiful thing." (92)  Often, forgiveness is a process, not an event. Forgiveness requires humility, compassion, trust, self-control, sacrifice and even remembering.  Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in marriage grows. 


7. Pulling Weeds

Selfishness is the DNA of sin. It is a horrible reversal of God's design and it will never work.  We need to look for evidences of selfishness shaping the way we think, desire, act, and respond in our marriages and root them out.  Materialism can't make us happy.  "It leaves us empty, in debt, and addicted, while taking our time, attention, and energy away from the most important human relationship in all of life." (107) 


"A healthy marriage is a healthy marriage because, by God's grace, the people in that marriage never stop working on it!" (108)  Laziness allows us not to do things we know we should do.  It is rooted in self-love.  "In a fallen world, very few things are corrected by inaction." (112)


8.  Planting Seeds

"The character of a marriage is formed in thousands of little moments…." (115)  "There is much more manipulation going on in our marriages than we tend to think." (120)  "The problem in our marriages is … that we don't love God enough, and because we don't love God enough, we don't love one another as we should." (121)  "What this means is that you don't fix a marriage first horizontally; you fix it vertically." (121)  "Change in your marriage begins with confessing your need." (123)  Planting new seeds of love means exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. 


9. Sticking Your Neck Out

You must trust each other enough to place yourself in your spouse's hands.  See the good list of trust questions on p. 137.  Trust is an essential foundation of marriage.  It is about rest, peace, security and hope.  Trust is built moment by moment. 


10.  Someone to be Trusted

"Trust--it's readily given, easily broken, and costly to restore."  It must always be built.  "The comprehensive cohabitation of marriage…will reveal your true heart and your true character… including your weaknesses, failures, and sins." (153)


Trust begins vertically, learning to trust God and placing all your eggs in His basket.  You can move toward your spouse and not be afraid because your identity, purpose, and well-being come from God and not from your spouse.  "Straightforward, clear, and transparent communication…is essential to building a relationship of trust."   (155) Your spouse must be able to take your words at face value.  Trust always requires admitting wrongs and committing to change.  See vital steps of restoration on p. 163 ff. 


11.  All You Need is Love

12.  Ready, Willing, and Waiting

"Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving." (188)  "Love does its best work when the other person is undeserving." (189)  "Love grows out of the nutrient soil of gratitude." (189)  "It is impossible for any of us to love as has been described.  The bar is simply too high." (201)  "God's call to love confronts us with our weakness and inability." (201)  "He gave himself so that right here, right now, you would have the resources you need to live a concrete and continuing life of love." (203)


13.  Amazing Grace

"You and I are not the authors of our own story." (207)  "Your life is a mystery that only makes sense to you after the fact." (207)  "The more you esteem what God has created [like your spouse], the less you will want to remake it." (210)  "Determine to respond to your differences with appreciation and respect." (211)  "He has designed marriage to be one of his most effective and efficient tools of personal holiness.  He has designed your marriage to change you." (214) 


14.  Before Dark

Dealing with the differences between you and your spouse.  Face reality.  Deal honestly with your anger.  Overlook minor differences.  Deal with your anger before you sleep.  Communicate in wholesome ways, to build up one another.  Keep communication other-focused and other-directed.  Make use of resources.  Resist the enemy's lies. Look for God's wisdom in bringing you together.  Humbly admit your struggle.  Recognize that God is at work and that your hope for marriage is in God's love for you. 


15.  Eyes Wide Open

Marriages begin to deteriorate when people with good marriages quit doing the good things that make it good.  They quit watching and praying and working.  God will give you everything you need to be what you are supposed to be and do but you must do it.  No coasting. 


When your car is new you take special care of it.  When it gets older you neglect to wash it, forget to change the oil, and allow trash to accumulate in it.  The problem isn't with the car.  You get lazy and become inconsistent and impatient.  Remember, marriage is spiritual warfare. 


16.  On Your Knees

Nothing is more important in marriage than Paul's counsel to pray without ceasing.  Marriages typically change by erosion, ten thousand little steps while we are asleep at the wheel.  Prayer is a very important part of a lifestyle of paying attention. 


17.  Worship, Work, and Grace

"When your life is shaped by the worship of God, you live with his plans and purposes in view." (270) "It is only when a husband and wife are in love with the same King and live in practical pursuit of the same kingdom that they have any hope of functional unity, understanding, and love." (274)  Worship is a lifestyle and the hope of your marriage is in God's grace.


The Six Commitments

  1. We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
  2. We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
  3. We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
  4. We will commit to building a relationship of love.
  5. We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
  6. We will work to protect our marriage.


* * * * * * *

Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.

To discontinue receiving book notes, hit Reply and put Discontinue in the text.