By Teri M Bethel
Anyone can do good for people who are nice to them, but what about a misguided spouse who is emotionally or physically abusive? You know, the kind you want to have a Dathan and Abirum experience. That’s when God told Moses to stand back, ‘He’s got this’—then the earth opened up and swallowed some of the rebellious Israelites in one gulp.
Behind the sugar-coating they present to the public, some spouses are just plain mean. Regardless of the good you do, it’s never enough. When the consequences of their actions catch up with their abuse, however, they are usually quick to blame everyone, including God, for allowing it to happen. Taking responsibility for their actions seems the farthest thing from their minds.
Knowing when to speak and when not to
One of the biggest challenges many people have when going through trials in their marriage is knowing when to speak, how to speak and what to say when they speak. Oftentimes hurting couples just want to bloviate. Their thoughtless lengthy dialogues are mostly triggered by raw emotions that are not designed to restore a situation. On the contrary, they speak words that were planned to inflict damage, as though lashing out at their spouse lessens their pain.
There are times when your best approach is simply to be quiet, hold your tongue and calm your nerves, even if you were wronged. You must learn to listen. Show your mate respect and ask that they do the same for you when you wish to share your perspective. Some of you are probably saying, “Not a day like it!”. But the truth of the matter is, if your intended outcome is for peace and restoration, you must be willing to listen and at times be misunderstood. Your vindication will not come from arguing to prove your point; it will come from an irrefutable power if you have entrusted your marriage to God.
How far should you take it?
This is not to say that you must or should sit back and accept the abuse of someone who is consistently violating you and the sanctity of your marriage. There are times when you must fight. But if you are wise you will learn how to fight. I’m not referring to physical or emotional violence; that doesn’t serve a purpose no matter how much you think a good wallop on the side of your mate’s head would be the cure for whatever ails them.
What many people do when they encounter challenges in their marital relationship is they consult their friends or family. Usually, the ones who themselves have not maintained a healthy relationship and the ones who oftentimes hold a grudge against your spouse for the last bucket load of indiscretions you shared about them. Fortunately, those who choose to have a relationship with their Creator have a manual called the Bible which contains the keys to maintaining a successful marriage. The best way to initially troubleshoot a marital problem is to pray and refer to your manual. If you need intervention then you should consult an authorised dealer (pastor, priest or counsellor), someone who has a relationship with the author of your manual and successful experience with the subject. At all costs avoid the unauthorised bush mechanics that have no knowledge or experience with your issue.
When to put up your dukes
When you are being assaulted from external sources sitting quietly or pretending the problem doesn’t exist is not going to help you. This is the time to put up your dukes; you know, take your stance and begin to fight. The fight that will bring victory, however, is spiritual in nature. Quite often people going through challenges in their marriages believe that the issues will just fix themselves if they stay calm and keep quiet. More often than not, that makes a person bitter not the problem better.
If your marriage is under attack, your fight is not with your spouse but the thing operating in and through your spouse to bring division. The Creator’s manual says that God has come to give you life, but the thief (the devil) has come to steal, kill and destroy your life—that includes your marriage. It’s the thief who is behind the ruckus in your marriage but instead of you and your spouse joining forces to fight him, he usually has you turning on each other.
How does unforgiveness affect you?
One of the key elements in overcoming challenges in marriage is having a forgiving heart. Letting go of the past is the best way to embrace a healthy future. To continue to recite your spouse’s weaknesses will only open the door to unforgiveness and bitterness.
What about those who have embraced an embittered life? Dr Karen Swartz, the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at the John Hopkins Hospital, says that chronic anger can eventually result in physical changes to the body. Studies have shown that one’s heart rate, blood pressure and immune response can be affected. Anger, therefore, causes more harm to the person harbouring resentment than to the offender. In the article “Forgiveness: Your Health Depends On It”, Dr Swartz mentions that this mindset increases the risk of depression and other diseases, including diabetes. On the flip side, Dr Swartz noted that forgiveness calmed stress levels and caused an improvement in health.
So what’s the balance? Is it ever beneficial to harbour resentment or embrace unforgiveness? As Dr Swartz alluded, unforgiveness does more harm to the one holding the bitterness than the one to whom it is directed.
Considerations for the way ahead
When challenges arise, which they will, perhaps you should consider what’s most important to reviving your marriage. Be honest with yourself as you ponder the following questions:
• Is your ego more important than your relationship?
• Do you have to be right in order to be happy?
• Are you willing to work through the conflict issues in your marriage?
• Can you commit to treating your spouse with respect?
• Will you join your mate to find sustainable solutions to your problems?
• Can you embrace the good in your spouse rather than the things that annoy you?
• Are you prepared to speak highly of your spouse instead of back biting them?
If you are willing to stand together and fight for your relationship and not against each other, then the light you see at the end of the tunnel may not be a train after all.
• Teri M Bethel is a publisher and an author of relationship enrichment books which include “Before We Say, I Do…” and “My Marriage Matters”. She has also published romance and adventure novels, purse-making and fabric-painting DVDs. Additionally, Teri provides a free online directory for local authors to showcase their family-friendly books. She and her husband have two adult sons. Visit her website, www.BooksByBethel.com, or e-mail her at email@example.com.