“And they shall become one flesh”…. What powerful words are given to man. You can no more discard a spouse than you can amputate an arm or leg. Doing so causes both great pain and great damage to yourself. I have read that divorce is even harder on a person than the death of a spouse. It’s not just the cutting away of those ties that bind, but the rejection that wounds so very deeply that it cleaves both the heart and soul. Even if it later heals, it is scarred and calloused – looking at creation through wary and cynical eyes. Worse, there are emotional barriers erected to any true intimacy and a tremendous aversion to attachment which may or may not fade with time – but will nonetheless remain.
If you want to preserve you marriage and grow together rather than apart. Then some key things need to happen, it is never too late to make thing better. Even severed limbs can be reattached, if both the parties are willing to grow together, rather than growing further apart until they are torn from each other in a violent wrenching.
1. Restore trust. This falls on you to put aside any primal feelings like rage, blame, or anger and to begin to establish a trust relationship. People are human, they will make mistakes – many will be serious. No one of us is beyond fallibility – you will both need prayer, patience, and forgiveness in quantity. This is a slow process and needs small steps and time. It cannot be pushed or rushed, and you can never belittle or ridicule you spouse. Make sure that they feel comfortable sharing their failures and achievements, and when the failures occur realize that’s what’s done is done. Accept that your spouse sharing their failure is a sign of contrition and embrace them with love as Christ himself taught us by his example. Be supportive and work with them not for them, to solve the problem together as a team. This is how you begin to restore trust and grow together. Never make the mistake of loosing your spouses trust that they can tell you anything, because that is when they begin to keep secrets and those secrets no matter how small at first will consume your marriage like a cancer.
2. Embrace your differences. Don’t try to insist that you do everything together or share every interest. Find wonder in how you complement each other, do not try to force things, or push each other into activities which they are not interested in, fear, or that you know they dislike. This is all about getting to know your spouse. Just as you may despise working in the garden they may despise golf. You do not have to share their passions themselves, just share in the joy of their accomplishments and be supportive when they fall short. For what value is any achievement if you have nobody to share it with. Remember, it’s not about the accomplishment – it’s about recognition and self esteem. Imagine how you would feel if you wife said “That’s nice dear” and nothing more after you have just accomplished something stupendous, it would deflate the value you placed on the accomplishment and cause you to withdraw from her. Do not do this to her either.
3. Be an example to your spouse. In times of trouble you may feel helpless, but just knowing that you love her and holding her will bolster you both. Provide for her a safe harbor from life’s storms and she will do the same for you. The disasters of this world in any form can take your property or even your life – but your love for each other is like your soul, it must be given away because it cannot be taken. Listening is an art, start practicing – pay attention to what she says and how she feels. After years of marriage my wife and I need few words as we can read each other very well, but it was not always so. You will learn to read and understand her by watching and listening and she will do the same with you. Over time the bond will deepen until it seems like ESP when you answer in unison or finish each others sentences, ask what’s wrong without her shedding a tear, and instinctively know what she needs. The basis of such a relationship is the communication you build up from the start. In truth, you will still communicate after those years. It will just be that non-verbal communication will play a larger role and open the door to deeper and more interesting conversations.
4. Do not make them feel trapped or smothered. Give your spouse their space. Marriage is not about control, but submission and servitude by both parties. You want your spouse to be with you because she has no desire to be anywhere else, because she loves you and feels her place is at your side. If you try to put her under your heel, you will find that just like a grape carelessly stepped on – she will speed away from you under such pressure. More important still, true love can only be given not taken. So if you try to force her you will loose everything. Instead, remember that you signed up for a lifetime of joyful servitude when you said “I do”, and act accordingly. I know that she comes first before everything in my life but God, and I want her to be with me because that is where she wants to be. You wife cannot love you if she fears you, fears that she could not survive without you financially, when she suffers from low self-esteem, or feels smothered by control. As a husband you should only make a demand on her when it is truly that important to you, or because something she is doing something that could disrupt your marriage and/or your trust in each other. If you can’t let your spouse do anything without you, then consider strongly that you have control issues or trust issues and talk to her about it. It’s not pretty to think about, but talking to her might help clear things up for both of you and prevent you both from each thinking the other is being a controlling jerk for no reason. If your spouse approaches you about an insecurity, never laugh it off or dismiss it. Take great pains to ensure that you respect your spouses boundaries and wait for the trust to build enough for them to let you know the issue is resolved. The best medicine is to be loving and supportive while you grow together. This will take time, but without self-esteem and security you cannot have love, only fear and empty sex.
5. Try to love them as God loves you. This one is huge, if you have children then you can manage this for them – so why is doing the same for the mother of those children? How can you love God if you cannot love your spouse? Your children grow with you, so should you and your spouse grow with each other. Do not let adversity pull you apart,but instead let it bind you more tightly. There is a quote from the television show Firefly which sums things up “…once you have experienced the strength of such love it becomes impossible to leave, and you never want to….”. This very well describes God’s love and we should use that as a model for our marriages.
As spouses grow together sharing both joy and adversity they get to experience first hand why God said ” It is not good that man should be alone”. We need each other far more than we realize, but that which we need most can only be given freely to each other. It cannot be bought, bartered, or sold. It can however be lost, but it can also be found again if we’re willing to search for it. Such is the wonder and majesty of God’s plan. It is in the shared experiences that we grow together, in the shared joys and sorrows that we are bound together in the very union ordained by God for our species.
**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, and their lives.