Do your conflicts with your spouse ever get far more serious than you ever intended them to be?
You dig in, and you don’t realize the effect this is having.
I found an amazing new marriage blogger on Twitter lately, who just shares some great insights about what she’s learning in her marriage. And I asked her to tell us all a story about a moment when God really showed her something. It went so well with yesterday’s post about the silent treatment that I just had to run it this week!
Here’s Ketsia Gutsave, from the blog Pure Couples, telling us about a night when she nearly wrecked her marriage:
They say the first year of marriage is like a honeymoon, but that wasn’t the case for my husband and me.
We had done things the “right” way and gotten premarital counseling, stayed celibate until our wedding night, and made vows to be an example our family and friends could look to. We prayed together most mornings and genuinely wanted our marriage to be Christ-centered.
But some days I felt like I was constantly struggling to climb uphill. There were so many little details to work out: who would be responsible for different chores, figuring out when we would spend quality time together since he was still in school, and learning what made each other tick. At one point, it seemed like we were constantly getting on each other’s nerves.
Then one night our marriage almost ended, and everything changed.
Up until that point, our disagreements had a certain pattern: one of us would get upset (usually me), then I would give him the silent treatment for a few hours, and eventually he apologize to me and we would talk things over.
In my mind, giving my husband the silent treatment was a punishment that would train him not to cross certain boundaries. I thought that if I held out long enough, and treated him with enough contempt, he would realize just how badly he had messed up and know never to do it again.
My parents had a very rocky marriage, and when I think about my parents, their arguments are the main things that stand out in my memory catalogue of their interactions. More often than not, my dad would do or say something really inconsiderate and my mom would react emotionally, flinging back hurtful words calculated to cut just as deeply as she had been.
I grew up thinking, “I will NEVER stay with a man who doesn’t treat me right.” I never took into consideration the fact that my father had grown up with a very harsh father who thought nothing of burning his son’s arm with a toaster for leaving bread in it too long. All I knew was that my dad could be really rough with his words and didn’t realize how easily he could hurt my mother’s feelings.
So when I went into my marriage, I already had a chip on my shoulder and I didn’t recognize the pattern that I kept reverting to whenever Jono and I had a disagreement.
One day he said something that really hurt my feelings. I’m a pretty sensitive person, and I don’t even remember exactly what he said, but I remember feeling hurt, unappreciated, and maybe even disrespected. In my mind my husband was lucky that I married him, and should have known better than to hurt my feelings the way he did.
So I gave him the silent treatment again. Except this time, the frost between us lasted a couple of days.
Finally I figured that I should say something so that we could talk about it and get it over with. I knew it was the right thing to do, but my heart wasn’t in the right place yet. I hadn’t repented of anything. I tried to make peace for the sake of saying that I had tried.
Well, things did NOT go well. Instead of listening to each other and trying to understand where the other was coming from, Jono and I just kept repeating ourselves, saying why we felt wronged. Finally my husband said, “I need you to be patient with me. I’m trying to change, but I can’t do it overnight.”
When he said that, I instantly remembered my parents’ marriage. I imagined myself stuck in a marriage where I wasn’t happy, desperately waiting for the day my husband became a more sensitive man in tune with my emotional needs. I remembered my promise to myself, that I would NEVER stay in a marriage where I wasn’t happy.
A cold calm came over me and I told him in so many words that I didn’t know if I was willing to stick around for him to change. It was too hard and I didn’t know if I wanted to stick it out.
My husband snapped. He shouted back at me, “And that’s why I’m always afraid that I’ll end up alone again.” He kicked the chair he had been sitting in and put his fist through the wall, sobbing.
I stood frozen in shock. I’d never seen him so emotional.
I went to our room and quickly locked the door, my heart racing. What had just happened?
I heard our front door open and close.
As the hours went by, God started showing me my part in what had just happened. I came to some realizations that were hard to face. I wept as I realized that my fear of being hurt was poisoning my marriage. Instead of preventing the cycle I had seen with my parents, I was actually making it certain.
I cried out to God to save my marriage in spite of my selfishness and fear. I realized that I couldn’t keep holding on to my fear and be fully committed to my marriage at the same time. I kept holding my husband to a standard that was impossible for any human being to live up to.
Instead of giving him the time and space to work on his flaws, I was using them as a weapon to threaten him into submission. I had been selfish and manipulative.
God broke me down real good that night.
And by the end of it, I was praying and hoping that Jono was safe and that our fight wouldn’t be the last interaction we had. I asked God to bring him home so that we could work things out and start fresh.
When he finally came home around 2 in the morning, I threw my arms around him and gave him a fierce hug. He looked so confused! “I’m so sorry,” I said as I kissed him on the cheeks and mouth. “Let’s work this out.” He admitted that he had been expecting my bags to be packed and me ready to leave him.
That night we had a long talk. I explained everything, and so did he. He had grown up without his parents, had always felt alone, even in the midst of friends. And in the back of his mind, he feared ending up in the same position again.
That night was a turning point in our marriage. It taught us both that we couldn’t love each other the way God intended if we kept holding onto fear.
Since then, our disagreements are a lot healthier. We’re both quick to apologize and sort things out instead of letting them fester. We’ve learned to look at ourselves as a team instead of opponents on different sides of an argument. It’s so much easier to love when you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder at the past, or for an emergency exit.
The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear.”
Perfect love can never originate in our own selfish hearts. It takes the healing power of Jesus’ love every day to help us love one another the way we’re supposed to. When we let go of our fears of being betrayed, taken advantage of, or being vulnerable, we free ourselves to let His love permeate our words, actions, and thoughts. Instead of looking at each other in distrust and unforgiveness, we partner with each other and let God do His work in us. We become willing to take the chance to love without limits. When we do that, we take the limits off what God can do in our marriages.
Ketsia blogs at Pure Couples, and writes for many other websites on marriage, too. She’s a fresh new voice, and I invite you to follow her! And do check her out on Twitter, which is where I found her in the first place.