Every now and then Janet and I discover that one or both of us still struggle with some lingering effect from the bad years of our marriage. about the things we have done to each other and to our marriage. So I want to share with you how our old arguments and constant fighting did more damage than I would’ve ever thought possible.
Now I don’t want to give the wrong message here and cause discouragement to those still hoping to restore their marriage. Janet and I have overcome a lot and we are much better off having stayed together than we would have been if we had parted ways. It’s not that our marriage is in trouble or that it is threatened by our past. It’s just sometimes damage can take more work to overcome than anyone would have imagined.
Arguing and fighting is normal, right?
You see I grew up thinking arguing, fussing and fighting were just a normal part of life. My parents did it all the time, up until their marriage spit. Then even after they remarried they were still arguing with their new spouses. My sister and I were even told fighting between us was okay just as long as we obeyed a couple of rules of what not to do physically to each other.
I remember when I was in first grade we had this young newlywed couple living with us. One night the two of them set on the livingroom floor cross legged from each other and they took turns slapping each other in the face just to see who would back down first. It was a test of their will power against each other. (That’s messed up, right?)
Then as a teenager I lived briefly with another young newlywed couple who fought so bad it was a wonder either of them survived. I remember one night I was sitting on the couch while the two of them were outside arguing when suddenly the wife came running through the front door as her husband ran his car into the living room wall trying to run her over. (Another mess up event in my life.)
So fast forward to my own marriage I honestly believed it was normal to blow up in anger sometimes. Just as long as nobody was physically harmed what did it matter if I put a hole in the wall; that was my way of thinking. Eventually I did grow out of the temper tantrums where I broke things and put holes in the wall. But that didn’t stop me from using my words.
As it turns out my words were the most damaging of all in my case. I guess because I didn’t hurt my wife physically it never occurred to me how damaging my words were to her. Whoever said “stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt,” didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. Oh sure, I would always apologies for the things I said. But my words had already cut too deep for a simple apology to heal the wound.
The breaking point came when our oldest son was a teenager. Janet and I were always at odds with each other over how to correct him when he got in trouble. I was the one who would pick and choose what I would let him get away with and then get into a big argument with Janet because she disagreed with the way I handle him. Then there were times he was very disrespectful to his mom. At which point I would more often than not take his side and tell her how wrong I thought she was.
Of course I handle those confrontations with terrible anger and hostility. I would say whatever I thought I had to say in order to be victorious in our battles. My wife became my foe and I was determined to win and conquer at any cost. She had grit and she knew how to stand up for herself so I never thought I was doing her any harm. Until…
Then came her nervous breakdown. She had been beat down verbally by me so much she literally thought she was about to lose her mind. She was scared to death because she thought if I really knew what she was feeling inside I would have her committed to some mental institute. She was so trapped in her torment she could feel herself dying inside. Which was actually a deep dark depression that began to take over her life.
Out of the breakdown and the depression she eventually reached a place where she had to say enough was enough. She had to call it quits on our marriage or else it was going to cost her very own life. She even made that decision with the uncertainty of what it was going to do to her relationship with God. But she was that desperate, she was willing to take her chances.
What about now
So now thankfully we have moved way past all those horrible years of marriage that nearly killed my wife. But as I said at the beginning of this article we have discovered some lingering effects from those days. Back there when she felt like she was dying inside, it turns out there were parts of her that did die back then. Now we have to pray and work hard to help her get back some things she lost back then, like her creativeness, her confidence, and her sense of self worth.
The enemy has used our past and the way I treated her along with the way her family has treated her and he has had a heyday of beating her down to feel like she has no real value. But we know his lies and his schemes are out to steal, kill and destroy. Thank God Jesus has the last word and my wife will get back what has been stolen from her. And she will live out the plans and the destiny God has in store for her.
The lesson I’ve learned
The big take away from what I’ve just shared is a new understanding of 1 Peter 3:7
1 Peter 3:7 “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Over the years I’ve heard how the weaker vessel phrase in this passage explained by the way a woman is built physically different and weaker than men. Which is true for the most part, although I’ve seen women who could work and carry loads the same as a lot of men could carry. And I’ve heard it explained as she is weaker because of her more emotional and sensitive side, which is also true I think. Although sometimes men are emotionally weak because they don’t know how to handle their emotions, just like I was in our old days.
So for me the way I see this verse in light of our story is she is the weaker vessel because it is easier for the man to dominate her. For the most part he is more physically strong and emotionally hard enough to impose his will over her.
In other words this is how I interpret this verse now, “husbands be careful to understand how delicate your wife really is on the inside and guard your ways so that you do not crush the very essence of what makes her beautiful, so that together the two of you can be all God created you to be.”
It’s like I had been given this beautiful flower to hold. And when I should have been able to appreciate the flower’s beauty and the essence of it’s fragrance, I used the superior strength in my hand to crush the flower.
One more thing. I want to strongly recommend Fawn Weaver’s new book “The Argument-Free Marriage.” I think there is some powerful truths she packs into this book and I know it will deeply impact every marriage that embraces these truths.
Question: Should couples seek to understand healthy ways to resolve conflict?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net