Marriage is meant to shine. To be the origin of unique passion and aliveness between two lovers and soul-mates. Where individuality is honored and rich togetherness is cultivated. So often this fails to happen and couples eventually turn the corner where hurt, misunderstandings and wounds abound. Clearly the exception to God’s design for synergy and joy between two people who inspire one another.
Too many couples who experience marital struggles have fallen well below this experience. And some have sunk into challenges that have become destructive and harmful to the spirit and soul – of both! Not just poor communication or the usual suspects such as disagreement over finances, in-laws, etc. More tragic – problems honoring one another as unique human beings, who need to feel secure, loved and even cherished in the bonds of marriage.
This can happen for many reasons. Needs go unmet over time, attention to growing the marriage doesn’t take place and the thought of rocking one another’s world fades into a distant memory – often completely forgotten. When hurt and wounded, it gets easier to withhold love, to strike back and attack emotionally. Sometimes affairs grow from this neglected soil and add to the challenges of finding solutions – and moving ahead as lovers united as one.
Three themes (amongst others) often emerge from the rubble and reflect the destructive habits that get created when love suffers or dies.
- Serious fractures in the relationship have produced a one-dimensional way of seeing one another and relating together. We fail to see one another as “whole” individuals who need to be honored, who have inherent value and worth, fills the relationship space and keeps distance and anger alive. Once united lovers now become enemies – convinced the other is “defective.” And so both lovers treat the other in 1-dimensional ways, not as complete people. Everything is run through a “filter” that sees the other as limited, hurtful and someone to run from.
- This leads to a second theme permeating the couples’ relationship. That with such pain, the natural interpretation is that the other person is the cause of all the problems and woundedness in the marriage. Personal responsibility is often avoided and blames takes the place of a realistic analysis based on the contribution of both.
- And a not uncommon phenomenon relates to potential abuse – mild or overt. When two people fail to meet each other’s basic needs, anger results. Individuals have different ways of dealing with anger. Some become abusive – hurtful and critical. Not even necessarily physical.
Abuse also means we dishonor the uniqueness and individuality of our mate, instead vilifying them and seeing them as defective and incapable of loving. And ultimately, we withdraw love. We stop trying to meet each other’s needs for belonging, respect, love and acceptance.
How do we turn this around? How do two former lovers restore what they once had or at least dreamed of having? With serious unresolved conflict in the marriage, there needs to be a distinct approach to change, to restoration and to creating hope. These steps need to include at a minimum:
- Willingness to seek professional help. This is usually a must for couples who experience high levels of conflict and have gone down the path of serious, unresolved hurts.
- The need to look in the mirror and ask some vital questions such as “What’s my contribution to the escalation and pain we’re experiencing?” “Is my partner really evil, the enemy or as limited as I now see him or her?” “In what ways do I withhold compassion, caring and tenderness from my mate?” “In what positive ways could I reach out and try to turn this relationship around?” “Am I capable of forgiveness and am I willing to try?”
- Creating a mutual agreement to soften the tone, bring down defensive walls long enough to start something fresh and spending time to establish some kind of plan to move the relationship forward.
- Developing a personal commitment to bring light into the marriage by your own inner well of love, God’s inspiration and belief in the possibilities of change.
Light, love and honor come from someplace deep inside our spirit. We marry because we hope to powerfully love another and expect we will also be deeply cherished. We assume we will be valued for who we are, despite our flaws and weaknesses.
The road of destructiveness changes all that. Love turns to despair and oftentimes even hate. Love fades and dies. Our hurt grows and we need answers.
But love can grow again. Relationships can be restored. For love moves mountains, melts the hardest hearts and dances as a living being within the spirit of a man or woman. Let it dance, let Him dance and trust that within your best intentions, if mutual, you can soar into a new place.