Intersect’s Marriage Q&A Series no.5
The final week of I Said What? was all about this part of the wedding vows…
I hereby with these words do promise and covenant to take you as my wife/husband. I commit from this day forward, to pursue peace in times of comfort and hardship, whether in plenty or in want, to remain faithful in a loving Christian marriage, to be understanding and forgiving, and to put your needs above mine as long as we both shall live.
…to be understanding and forgiving. We celebrated our differences and gained a better understanding that we are each made differently and uniquely by God. These differences can either bring us closer together, or they can cause tension and friction in our relationship. If you missed Sunday’s lesson, listen online to week 5’s teaching and download the notes and Home Work for your notebook:
Now, let’s get to what you came here for!
Q & A
Q: What do you do when you don’t feel loved or respected? What do you do then?
A: (answered by Micah Barnum) I appreciate you asking such a hard and honest question. God’s design for marriage is that a husband and wife would enjoy rich fellowship and intimacy together – when this happens it is a beautiful thing. But what do you do when this doesn’t happen? How do you move forward when all you feel is brokenness?
To be honest, the answer is not easy. In fact, I’m hesitant to try and offer a response here because I know what may lie behind your question. Using words on a screen is a wholly inadequate medium to try and tackle such a difficult topic, but I want to offer an answer. These bullet points are very condensed; if I didn’t, the answer would run to 10 pages. Know there is much hanging on each of these points.
Good news: God has given you a gift in your spouse.
- God made marriage.
- Marriage is good.
- Marriage is worth fighting for.
Hard news: Marriage is difficult.
- You are married to an imperfect person that, given enough time, will disappoint you.
- You cannot change your spouse.
- Your spouse cannot save you, meaning, making your happiness dependent upon your spouse will crush them and disappoint you.
- Even though you cannot change your spouse, you can ask the Lord to change you. Even if they are 90% at fault, you can begin working on your 10%.
Good news: God redeems hearts (yours and your spouse’s).
- God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Even in the absence of what we may truly hope to receive from our spouse, we can still live a life that is joyous and full.
- The Lord is using your spouse to help you grow in your love and trust of the Lord. Sometimes this comes through good times, sometimes through hard times.
- The Lord changes hearts, so there is hope that the Lord will not only work on our hearts but our spouses.
These bullets only scratch the surface. If you’re reading this and this is a struggle in your marriage, I’d be delighted to get together and talk. E-mail me at MicahB@christchapelbc.org.
Here’s another perspective:
(answered by Michael Koiner) This is a tough question, and I feel deeply for the people who are asking it, wondering what to do. I hope I can provide some general help and clarity. (Emphasis on “general” because so much of this depends on the personalities involved. I would definitely recommend counseling in some form, whether it’s with one of our pastors at Christ Chapel or through our Soul Care ministry.)
The first thing I would suggest you do is communicate your feelings. Talk to your significant other about your feelings. If they don’t know they are a part of why you feel the way you feel, you cannot hold this against them. Try communicating it in a way that shows love and respect to them. Oftentimes if I focus on the way I feel and let my attitude of frustration or sadness color my communication with my wife, she ends up feeling berated, corrected, defensive, and/or disrespected. If your spouse is simply having a hard time grasping the concept of love and respect, then perhaps using some of the “love languages” terminology will help put some “handles” on the thoughts you are attempting to express.
In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman describes five major ways (“languages”) we communicate or receive love in any relationship—particularly applicable in marriage. It’s a really eye-opening book that can be useful in practical matters where one person needs a little help interpreting the love of another. When Jessica and I were engaged we were caught up in all of our similarities (there are a bunch of them—we are very, very similar!), but we didn’t realize the subtile differences that would come to light later on. For instance, I would sometimes be late coming home because I’d stop by the store to get something small, or groceries to make a special dessert for Jessica and I to share. It was my way of showing love to her, but Jessica didn’t realize the heart behind my grocery trip that prolonged my time away from her. Likewise, I didn’t realize that my errand was keeping her from spending quality time with me. (Quality Time and Gifts are two of the five love languages Chapman discusses.)
The book is great for discovering how to solve some communication discrepancies, but it’s not perfect. It can put too much emphasis on our spouse’s love, or lack thereof, and make us feel cynical or gypped when we go though seasons of not feeling as loved or respected as we’d like. We start to feel as though we deserve love, and we forget what Jesus says (Matt. 5:39; Luke 6:28; Matt. 5:44; 18:22; Rom. 12:14, 17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9). While I don’t believe it’s a spouse’s duty to constantly monitor the “love tank” of their husband/wife and be solely in charge of filling it whenever it’s below an acceptable level, I’m not suggesting that we ignore or neglect to think about what’s filling and draining to our spouse. Much like Josh and Amy shared this weekend, we are not the one to “complete” our spouse (see Jerry Maguire). The reality is, Jesus should fill your love tank. It won’t always feel like that because, well, we’re not perfect! (News flash!) And we’ll continue to reach out to things that we hope will fill that void in our hearts; but God also designed people to carry out His will, and He designed marriage as a picture of an eternal promise He has made to us. It’s an imperfect picture, so there will be ups and downs depending upon how our brain is firing on any particular occasion, and how we’ll choose to react to the imperfect person we’re married to. That’s fine. That’s why we need a perfect Savior—someone we don’t refer to as “honey-bunny.”
To get back to the heart of this question… Love and respect are choices. If a person continues not to choose to love or respect his/her spouse, it’s just more difficult. Why make life so difficult? Skip to chapter 10 of Chapman’s book for a story about a couple who reaped the damage of not choosing to love.
For the believer, there is hope in Jesus. His love will never run out on you! His grace is new every morning! And His arms are always open. Pray for your spouse to recognize the great plans God has for their life, and for the power of God’s love to soften their heart.