Anticipating the Pressure Points of your marriage

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This is as usual a blog post that I have been thinking of for some time.  I was thinking that in a marriage, the same issues will predictably occur time after time in that marriage, to cause friction, disappointment etc.  I was also thinking that for many people, it will be very, very easy to identify what these issues are, or what they will be within marriage, if you are not yet  married.  Often it will be very straightforward to guess the reactions of our spouses or would-be spouses to different issues, the things that will trigger different responses, insecurities etc.  And yet I am also sure that in many marriages, these issues are allowed to arise time after time, causing fresh aggravation and frustration with each reoccurrence, and deepening a divide between the spouses.  As a spouse, do you ever find yourself saying (or shouting) to your spouse “You always…..”?  That thing that they “always” do might be one of the pressure points.  Or again, if you are contemplating a course of action, and you find yourself rolling your eyes at the predictable response of your spouse – “I bet if I did that, he would do that…” that predictable reaction of his might be another pressure point.

I guess it is always easy to identify things that your spouse might be doing wrong.  But I’m sure that it would also be easy to identify issues in your own behaviour that might be constantly triggering friction in your home.  However, perhaps the reason that I think this is because I am very introspective, and I am constantly evaluating the reasons for my own behaviour. Dealing with people generally it is so clear that many people are not like this and clearly never evaluate themselves at all. This includes many Christians.  However, I believe that as Christians, this is something that we are to do regularly. It is not supposed to be strange or unusual at all.  We are to evaluate ourselves in the light of God’s Word and by the power of God’s Spirit.  Psalm 119v9; in fact, the whole of Psalm 119 (but please be warned, it is the longest chapter in the Bible!)  After a stinging argument, does it not make sense to go away and to carefully think how your own behaviour could have contributed to the matter?  And then you can adjust your own behaviour accordingly…

If however, you do not find it so easy to identify the problematic issues, and yet you and your spouse are often falling into arguments, then perhaps you could keep a diary for a few weeks, or even a few months?  I say “falling into arguments”, and yet I’m sure that for many couples difficulties are expressed not through arguments outright, but rather through “the silent treatment”, suppressed resentment and coldness, or passive/aggressive behaviour – such as exaggerated politeness. The point of keeping a diary is to be totally honest to yourself both about your own behaviour and motives, and also the behaviour and motives of your spouse.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes often people will mask the true reasons for their behaviour behind more valid-sounding reasons? So for instance, if someone is motivated by jealousy on account of someone else’s success, they might claim that they dislike this person’s arrogance, and then use the supposed arrogance as an excuse to release themselves to hatred. (To make matters worse in this particular example, it is of course impossible that the other person will be wholly perfect – so there might indeed be genuine expressions of arrogance in their conduct.  However, the dislike shown by the first person might be completely out of proportion to the actual arrogance present…)
The point of keeping the diary is to be able to see through these lies that we tell ourselves and others.  We have to do this both for ourselves as individuals, and also for our spouses. So when you are recording the various issues that crop up, you have to be able to acknowledge what the truth is:  what is truly making you angry, what about the situation is actually frustrating you, even if it is something that you would rather not admit.  And then you have to do this for your spouse too.  Once again, I am sure it must be very easy in a marriage to see through your spouse:  what they say (or shout), versus what the truth actually is.  I am not necessarily suggesting that you share the diary with your spouse, unless your marriage is strong enough and you feel that it is appropriate.
After you have done this for a while, then you might be able to see patterns emerging.  Perhaps arguments always happen on the same day of the week at the same time – on a Sunday afternoon, after going to church and doing the whole “smiling” thing.  Or perhaps there is a member of the extended family whose call always triggers a disagreement?  (Using the diary, more positively, you could also map the “pleasure points” of your marriage at the same time – so that you could work to fan those into flame – what makes it feel as if this marriage is a success?  What consistently increases or emphasises my delight in my spouse?)

OK, so then when you have identified pressure points in your marriage, then you can specifically address them in prayer. If your spouse has a particular, predictable failing, then you could pray that God would empower them to overcome this issue.  At the same time you could also pray that God would give you patience to endure that failing, until it has been thoroughly dealt with. I guess one big point here is that as spouses we have to take responsibility for one another, as well as for our own individual selves.  As a person, I am generally allergic to the idea of having to  take  spiritual responsibility for someone else when they should be able to pray for themselves.  This is especially true when the person is supposed to be in a position of spiritual leadership over me.  It’s OK to assume responsibility for praying for someone when we are talking about a child, for instance.  However, how can I be the one carrying you in prayer AND also submitting to you at the same time?!  That seriously does not make sense.

There is a difference between “carrying” someone in prayer and supporting them in prayer.  You have to carry someone when they do not pray for themselves at all or generally do not pray adequately for themselves. It is a bit like when you are fighting on the battlefield on behalf of someone who is not wearing any armour, and does not know how to wield a sword for himself – and yet still expects to be throwing orders to you on the battlefield – when you are fully and correctly equipped with armour, and your hands are adequately trained for war:  “Go here!  Go there!”  Well hello, the fact that you are not fighting shows that you don’t know what you are doing in the slightest and trust me, you are in no place to be telling me what to do.  Why don’t you just sit down and keep quiet?!
This is why I refuse to place myself in a position of submission to a pastor who would need to be carried like this.  (Tosin shakes her head.)  I just don’t want to know.  I’m sorry.

However you support someone when they do generally pray sufficiently for themselves, when they know what they are doing, when they appreciate the desperation of the fight that we are in as Christians.  It is again like when you are on the battlefield, and your commander this time is fully equipped, as you are, and is fully trained in how to attack the enemy.  Then it makes sense to listen to their commands, because they clearly know what they are doing, and they are doing it skillfully.  Supporting them in prayer is like when you see an enemy coming behind their back, and you quickly stoop in to fend off the attack.

And yet, sometimes as spouses, we might actually have to carry one another.  So I might find myself having to carry my husband, when he is behaving like someone who does not know what he is doing, and is completely unarmed, and is yet issuing orders, at which I might find myself endlessly rolling my eyes.  And there might also be times when he finds himself carrying me, even though I think of myself generally as someone who knows what she is doing, and someone who is very prayerful. However it does make more sense that the husband should be the one carrying his wife, because he is after all the head of the home, and he should be the one demonstrating spiritual leadership.

I think it’s clear that I would feel resentful at having to carry my husband spiritually, so that would be a pressure point that I could personally anticipate in prayer even before the marriage, even before I know who my husband will be. I guess that this is part of the advantage of knowing yourself, that you could start dealing with some of these issues in prayer a long time before you get married, even before you know whom you will marry.  You might not be able to anticipate what pressure points will be specifically caused by your spouse.  However, you could honestly evaluate your own responses to the standard causes of tension within marriage.  These are things like money, sex, children and inlaws, and tend to crop up to cause mischief in most marriages. So what I intend to do then is to evaluate what my own issues might be regarding these things and then start bringing these things in prayer before God from right now, so that by His grace the tension that might be caused by these issues is defused before it has even started.  It would also be wise for me to look back through this blog to see some of the sentiments that I have already expressed to identify further potential pressure points, and to make sure they are dealt with adequately.

Bible Verses:
Colossians 3v13:
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Ephesians 4v32:
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
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