Christian Marriage Counseling
Why is it that we can sometimes wonder whether our spouse has two identities? Their public persona is mild mannered, polite, and considerate by day. But upon arriving home to you they seem to switch into their secret identity and by night you encounter the selfish, ill-tempered, inconsiderate, and just generally cantankerous thorn in your side. Granted, not everyone experiences these shifts in their spouse, or at least not to this degree. But I think that we should all ask the sometimes bewildering question: “Why do we hurt the ones we love the most?” What is going on here? Why is it that our beloved seems to treat everyone else better than they treat us at times? These are good questions to ask.
We should recognize at the outset that the reasons and contributing factors behind any person’s behaviors, moods, and choices are many and diverse. This article should not be read as the be-all and end-all explanation for why your hubby does all the kooky things he does. He is too complex to be summed up in a single article and it goes without saying that this also applies to wives. Instead, this article seeks to provide two potential points of context for the conundrum of spousal inconsistency, in which spouses can end up on the short end of the stick.
Reason # 1 for Spousal Inconsistency
The more secure you feel in a relationship, the greater your propensity to take it for granted.Like us if you are enjoying this content.
This general rule can readily be observed across the board. How secure do you feel in your work relationship with your boss? If you feel insecure, you will probably try to dot every “i” and cross every “t” – and wouldn’t dream of mouthing off with a snappy comeback. This would probably hold true irrespective of whether your boss was horrible or great. Unless you were about to dissolve your work relationship yourself, you would not want to risk getting fired. But conversely, if you have a fantastic relationship with your boss, have banked up all manner of goodwill, and are generally seen as an irreplaceable cog in the wheel – then your job security affords you the opportunity to “speak freely” a bit more.
This reason is nowhere more observable than in our relationship with God. There is nothing more solid and secure than standing on the Rock. Speaking of our relationship with Him, Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) But if this reason means that the greater the security, the greater the risk of neglect, then we could expect Jesus to be more neglected and taken for granted than anyone.
So, how does this explain your mate’s moments of meanness? If we look at the example of Jesus and the Church, it is worth noting that the imagery and metaphor used is that of marriage. (Ephesians 5:25) Marriage is designed to directly illustrate and point to the relationship of Christ to His bride (Christians), which explains why “God hates divorce.” In a sense, to say “God hates divorce” is another way of saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” as marriage is meant to represent exactly the same rock-solid fidelity. It is meant to be secure, or at least that is the idea. But for all of our falling short of godliness, and our continuing tendency to preach a false gospel of insecurity and lack of faithfulness with our lives, we still have enough of an inkling of God’s design to know and to believe that marriage is for life. It is secure. This explains why we rocket toward neglect and take each other for granted when the honeymoon ends, whether a year or a few hours after the wedding. But is this the end? Should we just accept that we are normal and get used to it? To quote Paul, “God forbid!” (Romans 6:2,15)
The nice thing about knowledge is that it allows us to be intentional in how we respond to that knowledge. Ignorance is not bliss and in Hosea 4:6 we read, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” We are able to use our insight in order to counter and fight against this maddening tendency to most hurt the ones we love the most. When we understand the dynamics, we can reject these demonic tendencies and go all out as we seek to buck the trend. Does my tendency to neglect my wife, and to neglect Christ, come from the security I feel with them? Yes. Am I okay with that? One thousand percent no. Instead, I strive to be aware of the schemes and snares, the traps and deceptions, that threaten to beguile me into hurtful and destructive choices so that I may choose life.
Reason # 2 for Spousal Inconsistency
The more intimate the relationship, the more vulnerable we are.
The second point of context worth considering is that the closer we come to someone, the closer we are to their touch. Our vulnerabilities become exposed when we draw near to each other, both literally and figuratively. You become simultaneously close enough to hug and in striking distance of a fist. In addition to the heightened risk that proximity brings, there is also the fundamental opening up that comes with intimacy. Intimacy has been expressed as “into me see.” When we are at our most intimate we invite another into our private world, and allow them past our protective shell. And that is where our squishy sensitive parts are located. The inside is where our most delicate self lives, or where our heart resides. You can afford to be somewhat careless with your fingernails – it is generally no big deal to bang them around a little, or even break a nail. But this does not apply to your heart – it is a much greater hurt to have your heart banged around or even broken.
In the context of marriage, then, we find that the intimacy involved in this one-flesh union, which is the closest of all human relationships, exposes us to the gravest threat of profound damage to our most important parts. And this tends to instinctively lead us to a self-protective approach. But unfortunately this survival mode, with its defensiveness and self-focus, tends to produce a crummy servant spouse.
The Cross of Christ and Christian Marriage
Having considered these two reasons, we can see that marriage creates a unique system in which we are more inclined to selfishly neglect it, and in which we feel pressure to selfishly protect our most delicate selves from harm. We have both a good reason to neglect our spouse and every reason to draw back. This means that servant loving in marriage can seem both unnecessary and dangerous. So where does that leave us?
The answer is: At the Cross of Christ. In the Crucifixion, Jesus Himself demonstrated how we are to love our spouse. Unlike human beings, God does not need to worry about not getting His way if He ignores others. But God did not ignore us. He demonstrated that it is through humility (Philippians 2:3-8) that we can proactively choose to serve our spouse. On the Cross, Jesus Christ knowingly offered up all of Himself, surrendering every claim to every right, including His being God, His dignity, His desire to be loved and accepted, His possessions and property, His clothes, His body and blood, His very life. He voluntarily sacrificed His most intimate self to be slaughtered. Why would He do that? Because, “… Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) As one pastor puts it, Jesus looked at the joy, life, and glory that His sacrifice would yield and the pain of the Cross became pitifully insignificant in comparison. (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-does-it-mean-for-jesus-to-despise-shame)
Think about that. Death by crucifixion is perhaps the most gruesome way to die, and the Cross of Calvary entailed the totality of physical, mental, and spiritual darkness and pain. If the shame of that is to be despised compared to the joy produced by such a servant act, then that must unleash an enormous amount of joy.
Let us follow Christ. Let us unleash enormous amounts of joy. Let us scorn the neglect and defensiveness that comes naturally. Instead, Christians, let us be supernatural.
Christian Counseling for a Joy-Filled Servant Marriage
As a Christian counselor, it is my privilege to accompany people as they seek to be faithful to Christ’s example in their marriage. If you want someone to help you lay hold of your supernatural servant birthright, by the grace of God I will walk with you.
All photos from CreationSwap.com: “Marriage Ring,” courtesy of Aaron Burden; “Relationships on Paper,” courtesy of Jacob Abshire; “Rays of Roses,” courtesy of Lauren Rees