Rise Up, My Love (226): Some Keys for Living in Harmony with Your Spouse

toby-mac-practice-the-pauseSong of Solomon 7:3 Two last thoughts before leaving this very sensitive, but critical subject. First, what if you are trying your hardest to do everything right, but your spouse is unresponsive or adversarial? The first and last step—as in all things—is to prayerfully look to the Lord for help and guidance. Some relationships are so damaged…some individuals are so emotionally disabled…that the marriage may need serious help from the outside—from trusted and respected counsel. But, sometimes the problems can be remedied by prayerfully studying some of the many marriage resources available.

One such book is Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, which identifies some important ways of communicating love that people most appreciate. Whether it’s by kind words or deeds, the book guides you in finding out how to speak your spouse’s “love language” so that he/she will recognize and respond to your attempts to truly love in tangible ways. Learning to love in the ways your mate wants to be loved does not usually come naturally.

My husband likened marriage to inheriting a 747 jet without having taken pilot’s training. In the light of the 911 tragedy, we now also recognize that we need complete training…not just in how to take off and fly, but how to land without disaster. Believe me, today is better than never to try getting that training!

Love is a lifetime quest. A very wise and elderly pastor once said that he thought learning to love was like learning to paint, and that his life of loving his wife was like a long mural. At the beginning the strokes were clumsy and awkward, and it was hard to recognize what he was even trying to portray, but the more he practiced, the better the painting became. Isn’t that beautiful? And, isn’t that true?

Second, what if both partners are doing everything right to the best of their ability but there is still deep, unresolved tension? That may be the time to employ the advice Paul gave in I Corinthians 7:5, “Defraud ye not one another, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” There may be rare times when your difficulties are so great that rather than joining physically, you should temporarily set aside normal physical needs (including eating!) and give yourselves wholly to prayer and fasting until God gives you the wisdom and peace you both need for the problem resolution process. Think of how quickly people would focus on solving their problems if they stopped eating food until they came to an agreement!

By the way, this is never an excuse for one partner to start sleeping on the couch, because they are supposed to be engaged together in fervent prayer. Also, the resolution never includes the option of permanent separation. Notice the last portion of the verse: “and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” If you are going to deprive your spouse of sex, consider depriving yourself of food (or at least some food you love, like desserts or salty snacks) at the same time. That will give both partners a small reminder of how serious a matter sex is!

Do you have seemingly insurmountable disagreements? Just a few years ago, my husband and I did. We spent the first almost two decades of our marriage with my husband generally making decisions that I often sharply disagreed with and deeply resented. Instead of resolving problems, we just tried to bury them and “get over” it. As the wife, I was somehow expected to always cheerfully submit to and approve of his plans…but I didn’t! He ended up with a volcano on his hands…so touchy that every time the simplest problem arose, I blew up, because it reminded me of not only the insignificant conflict at hand, but of twenty or more past conflicts where I felt I had been treated unfairly. My trust and confidence in his leadership was down to just about “0.”

Because we didn’t really pray together over problems until we both felt peaceful that we had found God’s solution, I constantly felt that my husband was basing decisions on his own judgment and will, not God’s, and I became bitter over what I believed was intense selfishness on his part. I became so unhappy that I gladly would have left the marriage did I not have the firm conviction that God commands us to remain married…happy or miserable.

Somewhere during that time, the Lord opened my husband’s eyes to my misery and softened his heart, so that he truly did have a deep desire to try to make the marriage work. When we began trying to sort through all the problems that we’d buried, it looked like…not just a mountain…but a volcano. Some nights we stayed awake all night talking. We talked for hours…days…over a year. In fact, it took about two years to work through all the past hurts and find forgiveness and healing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but it was worth all the pain. Of course, that wasn’t the end of our struggles. We’ve gone through deep valleys since that time too. At one point our problems were so severe we needed outside help for resolution and employed Christian counseling. Today, we have a very positive relationship, and instead of longing to be free, I feel like we must be some of the world’s “luckiest” (most blessed) people!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any trials. Alan says we’re living in the “suburbs” of heaven…the closest thing to heaven on earth. Sometimes it seems almost like heaven, and sometimes a new problem will set us back to struggling again, but now at least we know that true problem resolution comes only through praying together until God brings both partners to peace. There is great strength in unity and harmony. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In such a state, the wife’s body will be open to her husband’s touch…as long as he remembers to treat her with the same gentleness he would accord a newborn fawn!  🙂

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