Navigating marriage's tough spots

Navigating marriage's tough spots

Renee EllisonApr 16, '23

All close relationships are difficult — if not immediately, then eventually — with one's spouse, with each of one's children, with aging parents, with grandchildren.  They all take artful adaptation, and love's private renewal at the throne of God.

With one's adult children and with aging parents, one mainly chooses the route of quiet adaptation.  But in marriage, because it is the closest of all relationships and lasts the longest and is the most intense, you must communicate about tough issues and hurtful dynamics.

Expressing what you feel to your mate, however, is different from demanding control.  Because another full-blown independent will is involved (in your spouse), you must let go of the results.  Because of background and or addictions, or hard wired modus operandi, there may be little or no response or ability to respond to your words and expressed feelings.  Therefore, after expressing your feelings you must internally shift to the healthful coping strategy of a Plan B.  Plan B is not implemented before your words of honest response, otherwise you will end up stuffing feelings and exploding later.  Plan B is your "go to" afterwards, if needed.

These may be words to the wind regarding your particular current difficulty.  Probably are.  But I would try this strategy first, each time, before shifting to Plan B.

I would remind your spouse that there is a person on the other end of all of his sentences — and that person is not him, nor does that other person (you) process feelings the way he does.  Each spouse is a totally different person.  In all relationships there must be an atmosphere of honor and space made for different emotional make-ups.

Share with him that if he cavalierly states that "You shouldn't be so sensitive or take things so personally," that is not the end of the issue.

His declarations are only declarations, and if not agreed to and joined by the spouse's perception, they will need some work.  They are only one person's knee-jerk expostulations.  They have nothing to do with how you or anyone else will receive his put-downs.

If he doesn't feel that he needs to apologize when you have told him that certain words have wounded you, that is his decision, which he has to live with, including your emotional withdrawal from him for a while, after each instance, in order to protect yourself.  He may also have to adapt to your stated resultant new boundary-setting behaviors, such as: "I will be leaving the room.  I will not be riding in the car with you tomorrow," etc.  You can't make him apologize.  You may look for it, in vain, but you can hold the line by enacting appropriate repercussions to things that need apologies.

PLAN B is next, after you have explained to him your honest feelings, so that those put-downs are never allowed to dissolve into thin air without a repercussion, even if that might only be a swift "ouch" statement from you.  Otherwise, if there are no repercussions do not be surprised if he wields such behavior again.  You must meet his unkind statements with real honesty and boundaries  with some fallout for him.  It is then, afterwards, that you implement your Plan B.

First: in your soul you depart for prayer, take the real hurt to Christ, gain comfort and solace from Him (that is always an emotional miracle upon demand), and gain assurance that He sees all suffering on earth and that there will be a day when He will reward the sufferer.  At the end of the ages a heavy hand of justice is coming down — a hammer that will fall — for all gradations of abuse from one human being to another, from Hitler on down to "little foxes of unkind skirmishes" that happened on earth.  It will be a time of miserable awareness, followed by the atonement of Christ's blood for the believer’s unkindness, and by eternal separation for the unbeliever's ruthless tyranny.

Today, now, is not the age of vengeance (that is God's job), but it IS the age of spousal honesty and setting wholesome boundaries.  Marriage is the one relationship where there is work to do to make it function.  There is no relational "golden chariot" that will take you there; it is always trench work for both partners’ ongoing moral growth.

And in that prayer in which you seek personal comfort and emotional repair, it is good to pray for your spouse 's sanctification.  Furthermore, it is there, in your prayer closet, that you also forgive him, yes, yet again, time after time, to clear the fragging on the computer screen of your own soul, recognizing that you are both fragile sinners.  It is level ground at the foot of the cross.

Having made this prayerful transaction allows us to come forth with new loving energy for our very needy human spouse, acting as if the past incident didn't just happen (because it is now given to Christ), so that you may be able to go forward in the relationship without personal impediment.

"In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  That is no idle promise.

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