3 steps to strengthening your marriage

By Brad Rhoads

Are you suffering from IDS? IDS is a common problem we face at Grace Marriage. IDS stands for “I Don’t Syndrome.” When working with a lot of couples and trying to help them grow their marriage. The three most common responses we hear from married couples are, “We are OK,” “We are fine,” and “We are too busy.”

OK is not OK and “fine” is my wife’s least favorite word. So, if you want to get busy, get busy together and join us in fighting IDS on a journey of investment and growth in your marriage. Let's talk about 3 steps to strengthening your marriage.

3 steps to strengthening your marriage

A young lady ran into Walmart and made a beeline for the bathroom. When she walked out, six inches of toilet paper was dangling from the back of her gym shorts. Guess who noticed the embarrassing stray remnant? That’s right, everyone but her.

Usually, others can see that we have a problem before we do. “You” statements can be hard to hear, but they can save our lives and our relationships. Listen to a few of them:

  • You need counseling.
  • You have a drinking problem.
  • You need to get back to church.
  • You work too much.
  • You need more exercise.
  • You need more sleep.
  • You have an anger problem.
  • You are on your cell phone too much.
  • You need to go to the doctor.
  • You need to work on your marriage.

Often, we ignore the counsel and just say or think, “I don’t” and allow “I Don’t Syndrome” (IDS) to deteriorate our health and our relationships.

The cause of IDS—pride.

If you ignore counsel and get defensive when rebuked, pride is the likely culprit. Humility is servant-hearted, loves rebuke, and submits to the Word of God. Pride seeks its own way and is quick to anger and slow to change.  Remember, pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). So, address it now before it takes you down.

How do we address pride and IDS? We turn to the one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). We follow Jesus’ lead. He was the most humble man who ever walked the earth, and we can read about His life and death in His Word, the Bible.

IDS and your marriage.

During our first year of marriage, Marilyn said we needed to work on our marriage and get outside counsel. I said, “We are not going to air our dirty laundry to anyone.” By God’s kindness, He broke me and opened me up to Marilyn’s input. If I had not gotten over IDS, we would have been stuck in a stagnant and contentious marriage.

Your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else in the world, so his or her advice is often the best advice you’ll get. Have the strength and maturity to listen and respond. Instead of getting defensive and annoyed, be receptive and act. Practically speaking, how can we fight this syndrome in all our relationships including marriage?

STEP 1: Allow others to know you.

A lack of authenticity and vulnerability can gut the impact of the marriage relationship. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Prov. 27:6) and “the prayer of a righteous person has much power” (James 5:16), but how can someone advise or pray for you if they don’t know what is going on with you?

Don’t keep your spouse or close friends at a distance. Let them into the messes of your life. When you do, I’ll bet you’ll find their life is as big of a mess as yours. Sin and struggle multiply in the darkness and come to blows in the light. So, “confess your sins to each other” (James 5:16), avoid isolation, and live life in a community.

STEP 2: Consider the adviser and how well the person knows you.

All input is not good input. I have received some very well-meaning and very useless counsel. When someone gives you counsel, consider the spiritual maturity of the adviser and how well they know you and your situation. Then, share openly with close friends and your spouse and seek their input as well. Remember, with many advisers plans succeed (see Prov. 15:22).

STEP 3: Run the counsel by Scripture.

If the advice is contrary to the word of God, whether it is from your spouse or a good friend, it is bad advice. Run it through the lens of Scripture before deciding whether to act on it.

Grace Marriage Mission

Where Could You be Suffering from IDS? First, ask yourself, “Have I said ‘yes’ to Jesus?” If you haven’t, confess your need, and believe that He died for your sins, defeated death, and rose from the dead.

Then, to grow closer to Him and others, stop and think, what good advice have I received that I have not acted on? Put together a plan and act. Doing this could save your life and your relationships.


The Grace Marriage Checkup

Tags: Divorce, Parenting, Faith, Relationship, Communication