The Issue is Never the Issue

Not being able to sleep. Irritability. Anger. Depression. Hot headedness. Weight gain. Selfishness. Lack of motivation. Hopelessness. All characteristics of our first year of marriage. We had good moments very far and fee in between but for the most part, no matter what we did – or didn’t do – we just agitated each other. To make matter worse, any conversations we would have about these agitations just ended up making us even more irritable.

I’m willing to bet that we’re all maybe too familiar with the feeling that we’re a bomb waiting to explode – feeling that if your spouse does (or doesn’t) do this one thing – or list of things – one of us is going to burst.

Ray and I had such a difficult time connecting and communicating with each other, so much so that even our good moments turned into bickering, criticizing, and arguing.

“You never give me any attention.”

“I feel like I annoy you.”

“You don’t understand what I’ve been telling you.”

“That’s just not how I am. You can’t expect me to change who I am.”

Every time, after we were done and having not gotten anywhere, we would give each other the silent treatment until it would just pass over. We were never really dealing with the issues. We hadn’t yet realized that the people that complain the most contribute the least but because criticism is much easier than contribution, like Ray and I, most people stop there. We were willing to sacrifice connection over winning an argument at the expense our peace.

Kris Volotton once said:

“Listen from the heart, not from the head.”

Look further than what your spouse is doing or saying. If your spouse is irritable with you, that’s not as far or as deep as it goes. Instead of condemning them, try to figure out why they did what they did. This change in your reaction – something you can control unlike your spouse’s actions – will breed sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. With Ray and I, among many sources – expectations and selfishness – when we mutually decided to include God in our marriage, it was literally like a flip was switched. We began to be able have brutally honest conversations with each other and spending time discussing the things of God together.

We realized that what was hurting our marriage more than anything else that we brought into it (because we all bring some unwanted dirt into our marriages) was not spending time in the presence of our Savior. We can’t expect to be able to truly love and serve our spouses in a home where God isn’t the the source. Marriage is a place where two flawed people come together and over all else, they must learn to love well – a feat that is impossible if we don’t give Christ the proper place to show us how to model that love in our marriage. Timothy Keller put it this way:

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once.”

Be willing to relinquish control of your spouse and your marriage so that you can see what God has designed for your marriage. Just as you were purposefully designed, your spouse was as well and everything about them – yes, even those things about them that get under your skin sometimes – have their purpose in the context of your marriage.

Ensure that His presence abounds in your home and in your marriage because not only will it make it possible for you to see past your partner’s faults, offenses (mature love stays away from making assumptions and judgements), and actions to the root of them, but that very presence says that whatever is happening to you is happening for you. Oh yeah. Even during the ugly, distasteful, difficult parts of marriage.

And remember this: putting God first in your marriage won’t compete with your spouse, it’ll protect your marriage.

Question: Have you experienced times in your marriage when you took your spouse’s actions at face value without taking it to God and getting to the source? How did you you/ your spouse deal with it?

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