How to Deal with Irreconcilable Differences in Marriage

Good marriages go through these 3 stages.

Irreconcilable differences are often cited as “grounds for divorce.” Obviously, some couples really struggle in this arena. That makes sense to me, but not completely. Carolyn and I were married on August 4, 1979—so we’re about to celebrate 38 years of marriage. Over the years, we’ve learned how to cope with and even appreciate our differences.

Talking with my friend Eric Helmbold a while back, we agreed that the best marriages go through three stages of dealing with their differences. Going through these three stages can make our differences grounds for a great marriage instead of divorce.

Here are 3 stages to go through to deal with irreconcilable differences and create a great marriage:

1. Learning the differences.

What I Learned from My Dad

Claude A. Williams Jr. had JOY, despite challenges.

I’m sure that what I learned from my dad is far more than I realize. Although he went to be with the Lord in 2011, I spent my formative years with him and my mom. I’m sure that I’m a “chip off the old block” in dozens of ways: viewpoints, gestures, facial expressions, voice inflections and looks.

Dad, Claude A. Williams Jr., and me. Note his “trademark” pens in shirt pocket!

Of course, as a teen, being like my dad was unappealing. But with more maturity, I see many ways that I want to be like my dad, if I’m not already.

One of the ways is my dad’s joy in living, even when things seemed pretty bad to me.

While dad was dying, he was in the hospital for about a week and his pastor came and asked him how he was doing. Dad smiled and responded, “As I’ve often said, I’m doing better than I deserve.”

He was asked a few hours before he passed, “How are you doing dad?” His answer, “Wonderful.”

Question: How could he be doing that well? How could he have such joy?

Answer: He found joy in God’s way: J-O-Y

Here’s what I learned from my dad about how to have JOY:

1. J = Jesus Comes First

How Can and Should a Christian Apologize?

It’s hard for many to do, and even harder to do well.

I hate to mess up! Even worse, I hate to apologize. Am I unusual? I don’t think so. I recently asked a group of Christians how many believe an apology is the mark of a good Christian and a good leader. They were in almost unanimous agreement that it is.

Dale Carnegie wrote in his fabulous bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People: “When we are wrong—and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves—let’s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm. It is a lot more fun, under the circumstances, than trying to defend one’s self.”[1]

To apologize is not a sign of weakness, bad character or bad leadership. It’s a sign of strength, good character and good leadership.

But how should we apologize? You can probably think of examples of poorly done apologies. Here’s how to do it right.

Here are seven steps to apologize, from a biblical Christian viewpoint:

1. State your wrong behavior and call it what it is.

3 Reasons Why People Misunderstand Christmas

Let’s get Christmas right this year!


So many people misunderstand Christmas. In much of the world it is the most celebrated holiday of the year. Yet people get it wrong. For many, things get way out of focus!

So, I’d like to dispel some of the misconceptions in this article. Let’s get it right this year.

Here are 3 reasons why people misunderstand Christmas:

1. They think Christmas is about family.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much a family man. Carolyn and I were married in 1979 and have 3 boys. Family times are extremely important to us. We spend holidays like Christmas with family.

But Christmas is so much more than family. The name itself points to the real meaning: CHRISTmas.

Our family is at a time where we have lost many family members due to old age and other tragedies. But through Christ, we become part of a forever family that never ends.

We become children of God through faith in Christ: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:11-13 KJV)

We should enjoy our earthly family while not forgetting that Jesus Christ provides a forever family that we’ll never lose. That’s a big part of the real meaning of Christmas.

2. They think Christmas is about culture.

The Christian and Recreational Marijuana

Now that it’s legal, can Christians use pot?

The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of recreational marijuana. In fact, the word marijuana doesn’t appear in Scripture. Thus, we must draw our conclusions about it from the general moral teachings of God’s Word. Christians must use prayer, discernment, godly teachers and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Image by Chuck Grimmett via flicker

I live in California, a state which has voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Several other states have done the same (despite that federal law prohibits it so far). So, if this is not an issue in your location, it might become one soon.

So how should Christians respond?

Here are 4 biblical issues to consider regarding recreational marijuana:

5 Reasons a Little Porn Will NOT Help Your Marriage

Be careful of this subtle trap.

A little porn will NOT help your marriage. Recently I was talking with a pastor of a church plant. He said that one of the issues people in his church are struggling with is porn. That’s no surprise. But what’s surprising is that one of their major excuses is it enhances their marital sex life.

Perhaps you’ve wondered the same thing. Maybe you’ve given it a try and it seemed to spice things up a bit. If you think so, be careful, the thrill won’t last long. You’ve bought into a false bill of goods.

Here are 5 reasons porn will NOT help your marriage:

Why did God invent marriage?

"Christianity Questions and Answers" podcast CQA 054

This podcast is being released on Carolyn’s and my 37th anniversary (August 4, 2016). It seemed like a good time to answer the question “Why did God invent marriage?”

There is no question that marriage is in disarray for many. This is much more than a generation ago:

Wow, we need to get back to the basics: why did God invent marriage in the first place?

Here are some of the verses used in this recording:

4 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Protect Your Marriage

Years ago I was guest teaching at a small Bible College. My friend, a full-time professor there, had done the unthinkable. He had left his wife and literally run away with one of the students. It was a major moral disaster for his marriage, his family, the girl and the Bible school. I began to think about what to do to protect your marriage.

Here we are at church a few weeks ago.

As I write this, Carolyn and I are about to celebrate our 37th anniversary (on August 4, 2016). I’m so thankful that we’ve never had such a horrible marital crisis as this couple. Why didn’t we? One big reason is that we have implemented simple yet powerful protections.

How can you protect your marriage? How can you make sure nothing like this ever happens to you?

Here are 4 simple yet powerful ways to protect your marriage:

What is True Forgiveness?

What does true forgiveness mean when you have been obviously violated? Recently someone did some poor work on our new house and failed to make it right. It appears that a clear act of negligence will result in a loss for Carolyn and me.

CC Image courtesy of Flickr

Who hasn’t been violated in some way and had to wrestle with forgiveness? And how many times have we been the violator. This week I hiked up a hill but in the process walked across a man’s property. He got very angry at me for going through his property and even yelled about getting out a gun. I needed his forgiveness.

Before considering what forgiveness means, let’s consider what forgiveness is NOT or not necessarily:

  • Pretending there is no pain or loss.
  • Let it go, let it go…if that means allowing someone to repeatedly injury a helpless victim when we can stop them.
  • Forgetting it ever happened. That might be a nice goal, but unattainable. (However we can refuse to obsess about past events.)
  • Letting a guilty party be unaccountable to the law. (Prosecution might be necessary and helpful to stop a recurrence.)

Another great question is: Why should I forgive and what are the benefits of forgiveness?

First, forgiveness is primarily for the forgiver, not for the forgiven. Why? Because if we don’t forgive, we live with bitterness, anger, resentment, and angst. All of these create unrest for our souls AND greatly hinder our spiritual life.

Also, our prayers will not be answered:

Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

The Psalmist wrote “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not     have listened” (Psalm 66:18).

In addition, we won’t be forgiven for our sins:

Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15 NIV)

Someone said that not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.

Someone else said “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and then find out that the prisoner was you.”

So what is true forgiveness? I came across a wonderful definition from a Puritan writer Thomas Watson.

Question: When do we forgive others?
Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)

There is a lot in that definition. But every part is biblical and vital.

Let’s consider how each part of this definition is a biblical description of true forgiveness:

Irreconcilable Selfishness, Grounds for Divorce

Recently I was asked to speak on how to make a marriage last. The emailed invitation included this statement: “You guys obviously have a lot of street cred in this area.” I’m choosing to take that statement as a compliment instead of an inference to my age!

Here’s Carolyn and me at the front door of our new house.

After nearly 37 years of marriage, I guess we do have a track record and maybe some authority to speak on the subject.

My thesis for this article is this: too often divorce happens on the grounds of irreconcilable selfishness, (NOT irreconcilable differences as the phrase normally goes.)

I understand that divorce doesn’t always happen because of irreconcilable selfishness. The reasons for divorce can be complex and sometimes biblically acceptable in cases of:

There are certainly innocent victims of divorce due to these issues and perhaps others.

But I’m convinced that most marriages can flourish if we work hard to banish irreconcilable selfishness.

So here are 3 ways to overcome irreconcilable selfishness and make your marriage thrive: