Is it okay to speak the truth in love in marriage?
This week started out with an interesting discussion on the blog about what to do if your husband has a really big belly–which makes sex difficult. A number of commenters said that this was completely an invalid thing to ever bring up, because we should just accept him. But I don’t buy that. Yes, we should love him and still sexually pursue him, but is it okay to ignore the fact that he is really unhealthy, and that he is hindering physical intimacy?
It reminded me of this piece that I wrote a while ago for a different website, about how too often we think that love means that we’re always kind and say nice things. What if our view of love is too one-dimensional? So today, for Friday’s musings, I thought we could look at how love and anger can even co-exist.
Sheila’s Marriage Musings: Why Speaking the Truth in Marriage Matters–even if it’s hard
“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” My daughters learned that song in Sunday school. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, stomp your feet, shout Amen!
Then we went to a nearby playgroup where they sang the song differently. “If you’re mad and you know it stomp your feet.” Wow. Kids were allowed to be mad and not just happy? Who knew?
Sometimes it seems like in Christian circles there are only a few acceptable emotions–happiness, joy, peace.
Anger, even if it’s righteous, is seen as being judgmental, and certainly not gentle, like women should be.
And we often treat love the same way. When I speak at marriage conferences and ask women how to love their husbands, they always say something “nice”–be affectionate, praise him, encourage him. These things are all wonderful and necessary, but they do not encompass the sum total of what love is. That’s why I love this little nugget from 1 Corinthians 13:6:
After talking about how love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and love isn’t vengeful, Paul says that, with all of that in mind, love still has boundaries. Love wants the best for the object of affection. Love does not just want to be loved in return; love wants the object of one’s affection to flourish. And that loved one cannot flourish if evil, or sin, are abounding.
An important part of love, then, is confronting sin and pointing people to Christ.
Love is not just about being nice; love is about being good. That means that love does not tolerate something that will hurt the person who is loved.
Now, I’m not talking about making a big issue if a spouse won’t put dishes in the dishwasher or is always late or isn’t that affectionate. These are just differences that all couples must iron over in marriage. I’m not nearly as neat as my husband is, and when we were married, we had to work out how many clothes it was acceptable to have on the floor at once time–and I had to learn about the virtues of a laundry hamper.
But sometimes in marriage there is something “evil”–something that is jeopardizing a person’s relationship with God and relationship with their families.
I once received a letter from an older woman explaining how God had given her the ability to forgive her husband again and again in their marriage; how God had helped her stick it out for 41 years before he died of alcoholism. Her husband had been angry. He had yelled and at times hit. He had squandered their money. Their children had all fled when they were quite young, and many had made poor decisions themselves. But she was so happy because God had helped her be faithful and loving.
And I thought: Is it loving to do nothing while an alcoholic hurts himself, his kids, and his marriage? Or is it better to confront that alcoholic and say, “you need to get help and this needs to stop.” Paul tells us that love rejoices with the truth. Love does not cover over evil and enable it; love says “there is something wrong here and it needs to be addressed.“
Of course, none of this can be done in isolation. We can’t confront sin if we aren’t also kind, patient, and keeping no record of wrongs. We need to get our hearts right first. As Jesus said:
Sometimes, though, the problem does not lie with us. And that’s when it’s time to stop covering up sin and start rejoicing in truth.
Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done emotionally. I’ve often had women say to me, “If I take a hard stand against his porn use, he may choose the porn over me.” They are scared to say anything or do anything because they may lose the relationship.
However, if they’re putting their own dreams for the relationship ahead of the good of their spouse, then they’re not actually being loving towards their spouse. They’re saying, “my marriage continuing matters more than my spouse getting well.” That’s not rejoicing with the truth. In a backhanded way, that’s actually being selfish.
True love does not rejoice when someone does something that hurts their soul. True love says, “you matter to me more than the relationship, so if I have to rock the boat a little, I’ll do that, because I care about you so much.”
Paul gives a blueprint in these verses for dealing with sin in marriage. We don’t do it vengefully. We don’t do it to prove that we are right or better than someone else. We don’t do it in anger. We do it gently, with the goal of restoring the person and the relationship. We do it because we believe in Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we want our marriages to delight in that Truth, too–even if the way towards Truth seems a little rocky.
Struggling with how to rejoice with the truth in your marriage?
If you’re hurting in your marriage, please pick up the book. I think it will really help you find a way to forge a new relationship centered on what God really wants–Truth and Grace, together.