Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of hurt, it can be very hard to see how there could ever be a turning point in your marriage.
It’s Wednesday, and I always post a “Wifey Wednesday” thought to help our marriages.
I had a bit of a comment dustup on a guest post last week. A reader left a comment that was really quite bitter towards her husband–she hated sex and always would; God made men to be perverts; and her husband had been awful towards her. There then ensued a debate between commenters who were wanting to steer her to a more productive way of thinking (let’s let go of the bitterness and work towards healing) and those who said if a person is hurting, you need to embrace that hurt, and to try to correct her is just plain being mean.
I understand this tendency we have to embrace the hurt.
We hear a woman talk about her problems, and we want to say, “Oh, what a jerk! I hope you made him pay for that!” But it really doesn’t help anything, because when we’re stuck in hurt and bitterness, we can never move forward.
I have spoken to so many people who have faced major marriage problems and come through on the other side, and there is always a common denominator: they stopped focusing on how much they were hurt, and they asked God to help them see the situation with clear eyes.
That’s what happened in my marriage, so let me tell you a bit of my story (this has been my week for telling personal stories!). When we were first married, I had major trust issues. I had been rejected repeatedly as a child, and then my husband had also broken off our engagement before we reconciled and eventually married. So I was paranoid that he was going to leave me, and opening up was not easy for me. I had been so desperate to get him down the aisle and actually commit that I hadn’t given much thought to what came afterwards. I guess I thought marriage would be easy.
Because I had trust issues, though, I also had sex issues. I shared about this a lot in both The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, but suffice it to say that sex hurt, and Keith wanted it all the time. So we had major conflict for the first part of our marriage.
The turning point came in our marriage when I decided not to dwell on my emotional pain. I was focusing so much on my own issues–“he only wants me for one thing, he doesn’t really care about me, he won’t show me love”–that I didn’t really look at the other side—“am I showing him love?” And once I made the emotional commitment to love him (and really throw myself into sex, too, but that was only a part of it), things started working much better. I really did love him. I started thinking about the things that I was grateful for about him. I stopped being so sensitive.
But it was difficult, and it took a few years to get to that point.
When you’re in the middle of a serious hurt, it’s hard to see the other person’s perspective.
But when you decide to love regardless, amazing things can happen.
At the same time as God was softening my heart, God was also doing a work in Keith’s heart. In fact, Keith came to basically the same decision around the same time I did. Never ever discount what God can do in your spouse’s heart. But that’s the key, I think: God does it, not you.
For me, then, the turning point in our marriage was a shift in my own attitude, and a submission to God, which also led to the same thing in my husband.
I can honestly say that we’re so grateful for each other and we’re ridiculously lovey-dovey all the time now. But it wasn’t always like that.
It seems to be a spiritual principle that God starts working when we are in submission to Him.
Even if you are not the principle problem in your marriage (ie. your husband is doing something wrong/sinful/selfish), the more you hold on to the hurt, the less God works.
I was reading in my devotions today about how God “pleads the case of the orphan”. God likes pleading the case of the person who is wronged. But He tends to do it once we have stopped pleading our case. When we hand our case over to God, He works. When we try to fix it, He doesn’t. Remember how Jesus couldn’t do miracles in his hometown because of the people’s lack of faith (Mark 6:5)? When we don’t surrender to God, He doesn’t usurp our will and work anyway. He allows us to draw the boundaries of what He will do. And if we don’t surrender, He doesn’t force Himself on us.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t confront, or use consequences. I’m not saying that we need to use the “Duck Principle”, like I talk about in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, where we duck and get out of the way and do absolutely nothing so that God can smack our husbands. Sometimes we need to draw clear boundaries and say, “this can’t be tolerated.” But those boundaries will never work when we enact them out of bitterness or anger or manipulation. When we do it out of surrender to God and a desire to see Him work in the marriage, healing can really take place.
That’s because it’s not about what we do as much as it is what is going on in our hearts.
When are hurt, we need to hand our emotional needs over to God. We need to hand Him:
- our need to be right;
- our need to have our husbands admit they were wrong;
- our need to have them love us completely and utterly.
When we are expecting these things from our husbands, then God can’t work in the same way because we’ve set up a very negative dynamic, both emotionally and spiritually. When we turn to God, things change.
It doesn’t always mean that a marriage can be saved, especially if a spouse is more interested in using you than loving you. But when you surrender to God, the bitterness goes. And then even if the marriage isn’t saved, you are a whole person. But usually that marriage can be saved, and it all starts when the dynamic changed; when someone takes that scary first step to stop waiting for a spouse to make the hurt better, and they run to God and live out God’s love anyway, whatever that looks like.
So let me know your story. What was the turning point in your marriage? What flipped the switch? Leave it in the comments!