Putting Your Marriage In It's Proper Place
By Leslie Vernick
Next week is Valentine's Day, and for some of you it will be a huge disappointment. Your spouse is not loving or kind. Perhaps he or she is indifferent, deceitful and/or emotionally cruel. You stay married, but you feel like a failure at the very thing God values the most…a loving marriage.
What can you do?
The typical answer to women (or men) in your shoes is to try harder. Make your marriage or your man your number one priority. Try harder to be more respectful, more loving, more gentle, more patient, more forgiving, more sexually available, more positive, more affirming. And for some wives in some marriages that can often yield positive results.
However, if you’re in a destructive marriage, have already been trying harder, and find yourself worn out, and becoming resentful, I have a different direction for you to head.
I want you to consider that perhaps your marriage has become too important and having the kind of marriage you long for has become your highest priority.
The biggest red flag that lets us know that we have made marriage an idol is when we fall into deep despair or panic when our husband fails to love us well. For example, what happens to you and in you when your husband disappoints you over and over again? When he doesn’t treat you like you want him to? When he won’t stay present and work things out during a conflict? When he lies or cheats on you or mistreats you? When he doesn’t honor you on Valentines Day as someone important to him?
Of course you feel disappointed, hurt and angry. Any wife would. But if you find yourself becoming increasingly despairing, fearful, controlling, or resentful, it’s time to pay attention. Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important. It’s ruling your life, not to mention controlling your emotions. Whenever you are dependent on something or someone other than God to fill you or define you, it will always hurt you.
Christian women have been groomed to put their marriage and man first. Being a good wife and having a good marriage can become our highest goal, our deepest desire (Genesis 3:16). But that’s not God’s best for you. God wants to be your first love and he wants your primary purpose to be to know and glorify Him. Jesus commands us to love God first, with everything we have not only because God deserves our love and is worthy of it, but because he knows how crucial it is to our long term well-being. God knows that whatever we love the most will rule our lives.
That’s why the Bible counsels us to let the love of Christ control us (2 Corinthians 5:14), not the love of lesser things. Desiring a good marriage is not wrong. The problem comes when we place having a good marriage above all else, including God.
So begin to make a shift. Begin to center yourself in God’s love and not your husband’s lack of love. When you do this you will no longer become debilitated when he fails to love you well.
Don’t misunderstand me. You will hurt, but when you are centered and controlled by something other than your marriage or your man you can stand strong. How? By filling up on God’s love, not your spouses’ love. By allowing God to give you the strength and courage to forgive your spouse for his (or her) sinful failings as well as set appropriate boundaries and consequences when he continues to be unrepentant and destructive to the marriage and to you.
With God as your first love, you can love and be compassionate without being foolish and enabling because God shows you how to love in a way that is in the best interests of your husband. In loving your husband well, you trust God with the outcome of your marriage.
Let me ask you a question. If you do your part and love your husband well–perhaps by speaking the truth in love to him as well as implementing consequences for his destructive behaviors and your marriage doesn’t make it, can you trust God to be enough for you?
You must settle this question deep in your heart because until you do, you will be too afraid to make the changes you need to make. As you start to do things differently the destructive marital boat you’re on will start to rock and there are no guarantees that it will right itself.
But I do know one thing for sure. When your marriage has been in a downward spiral of dangerous sin and destruction and everything you’ve tried up to now has not resulted in any lasting positive change it’s time to change your strategy.
There are times you must risk unraveling the life you have in order to create the life God wants for you.