Help and Hope for Spouses Dealing with Marital Strife
Dear Amy and Michael,
Thank you for the update on your situation. Please read this response carefully! At first what you will read might seem harsh, unbelievable, unkind, impossible, or whatever. But keep pressing into God for insight and understanding. I am writing this so that you can either read it together, or read it separately.
When you married your spouse, you made a vow in covenant agreement with God, that you would honor your vow to your spouse. God honors His covenant with you, when you honor your vow. Your marriage then becomes an issue between you and God, not you and your spouse.
When things seem to be going wrong in your marriage, ask God what part of your vow is not being honored. Here are excerpts from the marriage vow:
“I promise to love, honor and cherish you, through sickness and health, through richer or poorer, through good times and bad.”
The issue has something to do with love. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us about love…it believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things, is long-suffering.
Love is something we give, not something we seek. Love is not something we seek, it is something we give.
We do not know what our vow will involve until after the marriage ceremony takes place. If people knew what their vow to their spouse would involve before the marriage, most people probably would never get married. What happens is that people get married; making a vow of what they will do for their spouse, but after the marriage, the focus turns to what their spouse is doing, or not doing, for them.
So, the first step is to return to your vow. What did you promise that you would do for your spouse?
The second step is to pull back and take 100% responsibility for what is happening in your marriage. That is the only way that God is able to show you what your spouse is going through. An inner need is not being met in your spouse, that your spouse was trusting was going to be met through you. I know this sounds one-sided, but it has to be one-sided in order for resolution to come forth. This is happening to you. This is happening in your life. God does not allow things to just happen, without there being a very definite reason that will enable you to learn something that will enhance your walk with the Lord.
God gives you certain promises. God does not renege on His promises. Your relationship with God was established long before your relationship to your spouse was established. The issue has something to do with you and your relationship to God. You have to get your spouse 100% blameless in the matter, in your heart and mind and spirit, in order to be in a position to be able to hear from God on the matter.
You have to view your spouse as a five year old little child, who just wants to be loved unconditionally, no matter how wrong, or bad your spouse seems to be, and no matter what wrong or bad thing your spouse is doing. A person knows that they are truly loved, when they are loved, when they are doing wrong, or being bad.
This is not to mean that you ACCEPT the wrongdoing. You get the wrongdoing put solidly in God’s Hands, and out of your thoughts. Do not dwell on the wrongdoing, or you will hold your spouse in bondage to the wrongdoing. Get it into God’s hands, and out of your mind, so that God has access to your spouse, unhindered by your condemning and critical thoughts.
You are not responsible to correct your spouse’s wrongdoing, or to monitor your spouse until what you perceive as improper behavior is corrected. Your spouse’s wrongdoing is an issue between your spouse and God alone. Your spouse’s perceived wrongdoing is not an issue between you and your spouse, no matter how wrong the behavior might be.
When you married your spouse, you took on a divine appointment to be the person in your spouse’s life, that God put there to help your spouse overcome the shortcomings, sorrows, disappointments, childhood trauma, hurts, fears, etc., in your spouse’s life.
1 Corinthians 11:9 tells us women are created for the man’s sake, not the man for the woman’s sake. Amy, as a Christian woman, if you felt loved and protected by your husband, even when you are unhappy in your marriage, you will ultimately come to the understanding of your proper role in the marriage relationship. You will know that you are loved in good times and in bad times, especially when you are not even certain that you want to continue being married.
A Christian husband, who feels respected and appreciated by his wife, no matter what he is doing, or not doing to enhance the relationship, ultimately comes into the understanding of his proper role in the marriage, as well. This is a spiritual concept that is worked out in the marriage, when one or both spouses make a determination to base the marriage on their vow, not on their feelings. Feelings come and go, sometimes changing with the wind. During the bad times in a marriage the standard by which to make decisions, has to be based on the vow, not on feelings.
When havoc, or a void, develops in a marriage, it is because the couple initially
connected to each other, without one or both of them FIRST connecting with God, to the point of having clear understanding that the marriage covenant requires a dying to SELF commitment, so that God can work out the spiritual growth process through one or both spouses, that will spiritually enhance both lives, and bring honor and glory to GOD.
While you are working to gain insight and understanding into YOUR part in the marital strife that you are now experiencing, pray that God will not allow anything to happen that will take you, or your spouse, out of His Will for your lives, and that neither you, nor your spouse, will do anything to take you out of God’s Will for your life, and the life of your children. Pray that God’s Will prevail in your life.
Ask God to have mercy on you, and your spouse, and your children, and to protect all of you, until you have the absolute assurance that the matter is solidly in God’s hands, and that He is taking care of it. You know that a matter is in God’s hands, when you have absolute peace in your heart about the matter.
Get your mind off of the situation, and keep your mind on things above. Colossians 3:2. Read Psalm 1, and put your spouse’s name in it, as you are reading it, “Blessed is (your spouse’s name), who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,” etc.
Pray for God to bless your spouse richly and abundantly and to pour out His richest blessing upon your spouse.
Get your mind focused on that which is praiseworthy in your spouse. For example, Michael goes to work everyday. He pays the bills. He is not slovenly in his appearance. He loves his children. He treats people with dignity and respect, etc. Amy is a good mother, has a great sense of humor, is kind-hearted, takes good care of her home, etc.
Do not look at the circumstances and situations that set you back emotionally. Keep your mind set on that which is praiseworthy about your spouse.
Go back to what attracted you to your spouse when you first met. Focus on what you found praiseworthy then, and make a firm decision to keep your mind set on that which is praiseworthy now in your spouse. Soon the not so praiseworthy attributes fade into the background of your heart and mind and spirit.
Listen very carefully to what your spouse says to you. Our spouses tell us what we are doing, or not doing, that is causing them to want to get away from us, but spouses generally dismiss their concerns as being “untrue”, not valid, etc., thus invalidating the person, and eroding their soul.
Recently, I had a couple in my office, who are going through an extremely difficult time. The husband wants to take a course of action, but the wife will not agree to it. The husband feels like his leading of the family is discounted, as if his will does not count in the family setting. The wife was trying to tell her husband WHY she did not want to do as he desired. He, without being aware of it, was dismissing her concerns as not being credible. They were doing the same thing to each other, and were not even aware of it.
As soon as they both stopped to LISTEN until they HEARD what the other was saying, and kept listening until they BELIEVED that their spouse REALLY MEANT what they were saying, and kept on listening until they UNDERSTOOD WHY they were saying it, that changed their attitude toward each other. When the husband finally understood his wife’s concern, he was able to amend his request to accommodate her concern, and then the wife was able to agree with his plan of action.
If you are not able to have the benefit of your spouse being part of the “gaining understanding” process, then get yourself focused on recalling the complaints your spouse has made about you in the past, and believe that your spouse really means it, and keep meditating on the complaints until you understand why the complaint was made.
I know of a couple right now who are on the brink of divorce. The wife has repeatedly expressed her concern about her husband’s relationship with a female in his workplace. The husband insists that the relationship is just a friendship. He expressed his lack of care for his wife, by choosing not to end that particular relationship, because he did not want to offend the other female. His wife does not feel validated by him. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are. It is the responsibility of the spouse to guard the feelings of the one to whom they made the VOW, not to those they don’t want to offend.
When you married your spouse, you gave your heart to your spouse. Every time you share your heartfelt feelings with your spouse, you are increasing closeness with your spouse. But generally what happens in marital strife is that one spouse feels attacked by the other spouse.
Instead of gently addressing the hurt or anger they are feeling from the attack, they either respond with an angry outburst of accusations, or internalize their feelings. They then take responsibility for the complaint of their spouse, and assume that they have to do something to resolve the issue. This is usually never possible.
Putting an expectation on another person to make a change, as a means of gaining peace in your own life, prevents you from learning how to set your own boundaries.
What often happens is that the attacked person, rather than gently addressing the complaint with the spouse, goes to another person to share their hurt or anger. This only causes further alienation in the relationship. The spouse is seeking to have a heart connection, through understanding and acceptance, rather than experience further rejection.
When you are in the midst of marital strife that is not the time to try to get your spouse to understand you, and your feelings, and concerns. You will do best to not say anything to your spouse, but rather do all you’re talking to God. Ask the Lord to show you about you. Your vow is to cover for the hurts and the deficits in your spouse, through unconditional love. Don’t feed into the hurt and anger expressed by your spouse, but rather pull back and ask the Lord to reveal to you why your spouse is expressing hurt and anger. The love vow that you made is UNCONDITIONAL, expecting nothing in return. When you GIVE love, you get it in return from GOD. When your love is TRULY unconditional, that is when you get it in return from others.
Ask God to not allow ANYTHING to happen that will take you and your spouse and your children out of His Will for your life, and to have mercy on you until you are able to learn what it is that GOD wants you to learn from this situation.
Remember Proverbs 16:7, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to God, even his enemies are at peace with him.” If someone is not at peace with you, it has to do with YOUR WAYS not being pleasing to God, not with the person who is not at peace with you.
I do know that these words, at first, might even seem cruel, and humanly impossible to abide by, but I also know that the Lord can impart His wisdom to you, so that you can gain insight into them, that will lead to a positive resolution, if you ask Him, and get quiet enough before Him to hear His voice whispering into your heart.
A good way to test if your love for your spouse is unconditional is to carefully read I Corinthians 13. As you read, “Love is kind,” stop and ask yourself, “Am I KIND to my spouse?”, “Love does not behave disgracefully,” “Do I behave DISGRACEFULLY around my spouse, or in my responses to my spouse?” “Love BEARS ALL THINGS,” Do I BEAR graciously and lovingly with all the things I contend with involving my spouse?”
As you think of your own personal walk with the Lord, keep in mind that God cares MOST about you and your relationship with HIM. Reality is, however, that your relationship with GOD is reflected in your relationship with your spouse FIRST, then with your family, your church family, then with your relationship with your neighbors, friends, and co-workers.
We cannot have a genuine pure relationship with God, and have a CONTENTIOUS relationship with ANYONE on this earth, because that violates the Biblical truth contained in Proverbs 16:7, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to GOD, even his enemies are at peace with him.”
What happens in contentious CHRISTIAN relationships is that people erroneously FIRST get connected with each other based on emotions, sex, money, shared intellectual interests, music, etc. Those relationships ultimately get sabotaged for Christians, because they are SELF-gratifying relationships. An ENTANGLEMENT develops as each endeavors to gain SELF gratification from the actions and reactions from the other, with BOTH sides assuming that the OTHER SIDE is the one responsible for the contention.
When just one side pulls back and assumes 100% responsibility, and sets the other side 100% blameless for the upset that has come into their relationship, through the actions and/or reactions of the other, that is the only way a person can begin to see that the entanglement never could have happened if they had God in the right place in their heart and mind and spirit. That reality is what makes them 100% at fault for what happened to them, and enables them to get 100% set free, without the other side ever having to do, say or think anything.
When a contentious relationship develops between a couple, one or both spouses generally press into friends and other relationships to maintain a sense of validity as a viable human being. Since they often have not formed the same kind of SELF-gratifying connection with their friends, they are generally able to relate to their friends and relatives without contention. This causes much confusion for the spouse, with whom there is constant contention. It also can cause a sense of self-righteousness in the one who focuses on the non-contentious relationships, causing them to believe that because their other relationships are non-contentious, then the cause of the problem has to be 100% with their spouse. That misperception just adds fuel to the fire of contention. Your role is to GIVE love to your spouse, unconditionally, not GIVE love to others, and wonder why your spouse, on whom you have put conditions, is not loving you in return
For the most part, men are focused on providing food, clothing and shelter for their wife and children, then coming home to a relaxing environment to regroup for the next day’s challenges.
When men are confronted outwardly, or subtly from nagging wives putting demands on them that they had not planned on, they eventually respond with silence, or possibly withdraw physically or emotionally, and if pushed too hard, some men become violent. Men generally do not go to this extreme without first giving warnings in one way or another that they are being pushed to the limit.
Some women are under the false assumption that it is their responsibility to nag their husbands in an effort to mold them into the kind of husbands they believe their husbands should be. They are stunned when their nagging is tolerated for so long, and then their husband turns violent, seemingly unprovoked by them. While turning violent is never a good response, nagging is equally inappropriate.
As each of you pull back and take 100% responsibility for what has happened in your marriage, and sets the other 100% blameless, you will be amazed at what the Lord is then able to reveal to you that will set you free so you can begin to view your marriage from God’s perspective.
I pray that God will bless both of you richly and abundantly and pour out His Richest blessings upon you as you read this letter.
In Christian love from,