"All Marriage Problems Are Heart Problems" [A Conference Recap]


Earlier this month, Jordan and I attended a marriage conference called "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" by Paul Tripp. In our nearly 4 years of marriage, this was the first time we'd ever done anything like this, and let's just say it wasn't Jordan's idea of a favorite way to spend a Friday night and Saturday morning. 

Lucky for me, I've learned surefire way to combat any resistance from my dear husband when it comes to taking me places he doesn't want to go:

1) Ask him to tell you the last time you made him to something like this. He'll sigh and be forced to admit it's not often.

2) Make a dramatic statement like, "But don't you LOVE me? Don't you WANT our marriage to be the best it can be?" He'll sigh and feel guilty. The plan is working.

If all else fails, end with:
3) "That's fine. I'll just go by myself." He obviously can't say no to this. No idiot would send his wife to a marriage conference by herself unless they were really having trouble.

And my work here is done.

BUT ANYWAY. The point of this post is not to share my strategies of spousal manipulation, brilliant though they are. The point, my dear reader people, is to share some of the wisdom we learned from our conference. Keep in mind I'm summing up close to 5 hours of conference time into one semi-lengthy blog post, so this might not all be fleshed out completely. If you have questions or need further clarification, please ask!

A marriage is rooted in little moments, and the little moments matter.

When it comes to marriage--and life--there are only a few big moments. But most of the time we live in the mundane, the little moments. So when you snap at your spouse or have a fight and think, "It's not that big of a deal; it was just one little moment," that can become a dangerous mind-set. Because we live in the little moments, and those moments are all important.

All marriage problems are heart problems.

The words we say to others are more caused by what is inside of us than an external circumstance. He gave the example of sitting in a traffic jam. We get angry with the traffic and say that we are upset because of the traffic jam. But someone else can be in a car right next to us and not be mad at all, even though they are in the same traffic. So then it's not the external circumstance (in this case the traffic) that is making us upset. We are already upset inside, and the traffic jam is only the occasion where our anger is shown.

When Jordan and I are having a conversation, whatever is going on inside of me is shaping my response to him. I might already be feeling sad or annoyed about something else and have that inside me, and I respond to him based on those feelings. My words always tell me more about myself than they do about Jordan. It can be helpful to examine why you reacted in a certain way, because there's usually something more going on beneath the surface than this one interaction.

Sin causes us to be self-absorbed and to assert ourselves in the center of our universe.

I am a Christian, and so I believe that I am not the center of my universe. Jesus is the center. But I am a sinner, and sin in its most fundamental form is selfish. Therefore I push Jesus out and put myself at the center. It becomes all about me and how other people can please me. This harms relationships, and marriages specifically, because our spouse stops being an object of our affections and is reduced to being an obstacle to our happiness.

If I was honest with myself and made a list of all the silly reasons I get mad at Jordan, I would find that I get mad at him mostly because he is getting in the way of my selfish desire to do things my way. I want to be right and have him do things the way I like them, and when he gets in the way, I get angry.

A good marriage is one in which people learn to say no to their self and to make valuable what God says is valuable. 

1) "Serve one another in love. Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)
2) The fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

Be loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Love others as you would want to be loved. These are the things God says is valuable. Now who wouldn't want to be married to a person like that?

Obviously that was just a quick summary of what we went over at the conference. While we were there, I picked up the book that this conference is based on, written by the same man who came to speak to us. I'll be giving away 1 copy. Enter using the Rafflecopter below! International entries welcome. If you are really interested in this book and you win, I will send it to you even if you live in another country.
*I bought this book myself. All opinions about Paul Tripp and this marriage conference are my own. I am not being compensated in any way for this post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I can't remember where I first read it or where's it's from, but I really like the saying of marriage isn't 50/50, it's 100/100.

  2. THIS IS SO GOOD. I love that about the little moments...I am always thinking about how I want the little moments (the good ones) to count and be special, but you're right, when I have a "bad" little moment I am so quick to write it off. And I think a good marriage is one where both people are constantly striving to have the best marriage they can, whatever that looks like in the season you're currently in.

  3. having a good marriage means putting Jesus first, above you & above your spouse, and living life side by side as a team!

  4. We read that book as part of our marriage counseling!

  5. love this post! We served on a marriage retreat last weekend, so this post was good to read :) to me having a good marriage means having Jesus at the center, focus on the future together, good communication, telling the truth, & being affectionate! :)

  6. 1. I laughed out loud at your spousal manipulation techniques because I SO relate.
    2. But really, so many good truths. "All marriage problems are heart problems" is especially convicting!

  7. I was so excited when you mentioned that you were at or going to this conference!!!! There's another book called "When Sinners Say 'I do'" that is excellent! I can't remember if he wrote it, but the two books were sold together years ago, if I remember correctly. :)

    I love seeing couples put an effort into making their marriage awesome!

  8. Being able to have a good marriage to me? Listening to each other. Understanding that our needs/wants may be different but it's important to try to understand and appreciate your differences. Celebrate the little things and above all? Love and respect your spouse!

    This sounds like a great book and I'm glad you guys had fun at the conference!!

  9. I was one of those people who was giddy with excitement when we signed up for pre-marital counseling . My husband, not so much. But we found it really helpful and I think a refresher every few years is definitely a good thing. I shall be borrowing your manipulation tips.

    Little moments DO add up, but not just little moments of arguing. We live in little moments of happiness too and I appreciate those much more than the big things; like our Sunday night ritual of watching the Walking Dead together on the floor with blankets and pillows (to cover my face, obviously).

  10. What a great, reflective post friend! I think a good marriage is based on trust and respect. I never want to be that person who talks poorly about their spouse in public- I think that happens way too often, especially with social media these days! That book sounds awesome- fingers crossed!! :)

  11. this sounds so interesting and a great way to look at your relationship with fresh eyes.

  12. I love the concept of living in the little moments - both the happy ones and the little snappy comments that should not (and cannot) become a lifestyle.

    Be kind and listen. In my opinion, those are the two most important blocks that must be built into a marriage - both at the foundation and at a skyscraper height.

  13. this is very interesting. i agree about the little moments, they are what my marriage (and life) is made of. i wish KC would stop getting so road ragey when I'm in the car though, I'm always like they can't hear you BUT I CAN haha.

  14. SO GOOD. I almost started clapping at my desk when I read the part about why "do what makes you happy" is wrong. THANK YOU.

    My husband and I listened to an audiobook on marriage awhile back, and the one thing that always stuck with me was to remember that you're the bigger sinner in the relationship. Whenever you get frustrated with your spouse, remember all the things you've done and your selfish motives and poor reactions and give grace to your spouse. I'm summing that up TERRIBLY since its been awhile since I've listened to it, but you get the gist.

  15. So good to hear a recap!! This sounds like an awesome conference! I think it's all about making a daily choice to dying to yourself and loving and serving the other one, even when it's not easy! I love the quote about the little moments - so true!

  16. Those are some good tips and obviously they worked. Now about the conference... haha! So you identify the instances where you are being selfish and/or letting inside instances effect how you react but did you get tools on what to do to change your reactions??

  17. Yes! These are all really fantastic points! I struggle with the same kinds of selfishness, and it's so hard to get back into the mindset I know God wants me to have. I once heard that marriage is a mirror that reflects your relationship with Christ, and I've really come to believe that. I've learned so much more about my own flaws by examining my relationship with my husband. Thanks for sharing what you learned!

  18. The more I read your blog and get to know you, the more impressed I am by your persuasion (manipulation?) skills. :)

  19. This was really convicting and it's because I struggle to live this way in my relationship with Dave. It's so easy to be self centered and to try and prove why I'm right.

    I am pretty sure my Dad read Dave and I a poem at our wedding about marriage being a bunch of little moments. It's easy to just drop the ball on the little moments but they add up! And I need to work on the little moments more.

    Defining how to have a good marriage is a loaded question but I know that something that has helped Dave and I a lot is to resolve arguments quickly and to be quick to forgive. Dave has to practice forgiveness more than I do =).

  20. It's ALL about the little moments! And you're so right about whatever's going on inside you shaping what happens in all your interactions. I really try hard to give myself some cool-down time after a rough day at work just so I don't come home and let an innocuous comment from my husband set me off. All in all, I can't tell anyone the secret of marriage, but what's made ours not just work but be as enjoyable as it has been, has been the communication. No one likes playing guessing games.

  21. This sounds like a great conference! Good marriage require combined effort. You both have to be in God's Word. You both have to talk. You both have to take fault. etc

  22. The conference (and book) sounds great! Love your "tips" at the beginning...haha! We went through a book with some similar points during our pre-marital counseling. Definitely makes one realize that a Christ-centered marriage is challenging...why are we all such selfish creatures?!? As for what I believe makes a good marriage...I believe communication and shared life goals are critical. Not just talking to one another, but really trying to understand each others experiences and perspectives. And, of course, working to keep Christ at the center of it all.

  23. Wow. This is incredibly fascinating. I especially find the traffic example compelling. It's true that the way you react to situations is based on your mental state before that situation occurs. I've never really applied that to my relationship with my fiance, but I certainly will now. I wonder how that will change how I respond to him. Thank you so much for sharing.

  24. Haha! Your spousal manipulation tactics made me laugh. ;)

    That traffic example is SO true! So many relationship issues really are heart issues. I'm glad you got so much from the weekend! :)

    So what did Jordan think of the conference afterward?

  25. I loved what you said about your words telling you more about yourself than about Jordan. That's absolutely true for me, and a great way of putting it. I'm so glad you guys ended up going, even if Jordan resisted at first. I think any type of conference or counseling or whatever can be beneficial for anyone, not just people who are going through serious issues. I'd even argue that it's more beneficial to go to things like this as "maintenance" rather than waiting until there's a problem so big, it will take more than a conference to fix it.

    1. Oh hi, don't mind me, being signed into my wrong Google account....*doh*

  26. We read this book a couple of years ago with a few other couples, and it was so eye opening! Right now I am reading another Tripp book "Relationships A Mess Worth Making," and it is reminding me of the power of the sin of self absorption like you mentioned. I highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet!

  27. A good marriage means choices and dying to flesh. Like, allatime. :)

  28. What an awesome conference. I hadn't heard of this book before, but sounds like it'd be a good read.

  29. This is SO good. The interesting thing is that the points aren't mind-blowingly complicated- they're really simple but really profound. I know in my own marriage I've seen how the little things become the big things that become habits that are destructive and hard to change. And I love love love that traffic analogy- I'll be thinking of that really often because it really really stuck with me! I stumbled upon the giveaway too late but I'm going to see if our library has the book and I would love to hear what you think of it!


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