Marriage: External Vs. Internal


Do you know the difference between external and internal issues, especially as they relate to marriage?

I fancy myself no expert on the subject of marriage. But three decades does give you experience, coupled with all the men I have ministered to in various ways regarding their own marriages.

I believe an important line, which can be, and needs to be, drawn in finding solutions to problems within a marriage is to define and divide the external from the internal. Now, of course, eventually for a problem to become a problem, we must manifest internally. But where does the problem begin?

When Issue A arises, and keeps arising, is the real catalyst internal, coming out from one or both spouses? These would be issues such as …

  • Selfish Demands
  • Irresponsibility
  • Passivity
  • Devaluing or Degrading the Other
  • Irrational/Immature Behavior or Communication

See it? These are all internal heart problems.

Now, if Issue A arises, and keeps arising, but you look closely and realize the catalyst is actually external, coming from an outside source, such as ….

  • Job Stress
  • Finances
  • Extended Family Interference or Pressure
  • Friend/Co-worker Interference or Pressure
  • Parenting Dilemmas

When you can determine an issue truly comes from an external source, you at least have some options that do not exist when the source is purely internal from either spouse.

First, can you eliminate the issue/source? (Sometimes you can easily.)

  • Can you talk out job stress issues in a healthy manner to create an outlet?
  • Can you end or decrease a relationship with a friend or co-worker?
  • Can you set new, healthy boundaries for that family member?
  • Can you get outside financial counsel?
  • Can you get on the same page about your child’s behavior, receive advice, and deal with it together?

As long as we are sinners, we are going to be battling our internal issues, our selfish ways. Through Christ, we can grow and mature to decrease those over time. But external issues can often have an immediate, or certainly accelerated, solution when we diagnose their origin and take action together; to learn to fight outside together, not inside at each other.

Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say. —Ephesians 4:29 CEV

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