Written by Karen Carlson
Isn’t it interesting how some marriages seem so naturally connected while others appear tense and distant? If there is one thing we all crave its closeness with someone—emotional closeness. Feeling loved and wanted is an innate human desire; and more importantly, it is an actual need for healthy emotional development. Genuine emotional closeness is a natural component of loving relationships, especially as it applies to our children and our spouses. In healthy marriages, the giving and receiving of heartfelt appreciation, resulting in each person feeling truly valued, is paramount.
Sadly, being a part of a loving marriage is far too often not the case for so many. With the divorce rate in America hovering at 50%, it begs the question: How many of those people still married truly feel close with one another and love each other unconditionally? Any kind of rubbish can enter a marriage and reek all kinds of havoc, but sometimes a marriage-killer called ‘withdrawal’ can begin to grow in a spouse’s heart; and it can be a physical, emotional or communicative type of distancing. Prolonged withdrawal is dangerous; and it indicates that one or both spouses have reached a point of deep emotional pain where joyfully functioning in the relationship has become a distant memory. Unless that toxic ingredient of withdrawal is addressed, the marriage will begin to shut down. The vital organ of any marriage–the heart—begins to beat more and more slowly.
Why Withdrawal Is Serious Stuff:
If a spouse chooses to withdraw from his or her mate, it can indicate the withdrawer no longer feels emotionally bonded; and the reasons for this can be many. If the other spouse has given up on the one who initially withdraws, husband and wife can become mere roommates under one roof. When the other spouse feels like giving up and becomes a co-withdrawer, emotional divorce begins to set in. Sleeping in separate rooms, eating in silence or not eating together at all, and even taking separate vacations can be a viable consideration for both partners–pretty sad, isn’t it? I experienced that with my parents, years ago. It’s a lonely existence for any married couple; and aside from debilitating loneliness, one can expect buried anger, bitterness and depression in a co-withdrawal setting where communication no longer matters for either partner. When communication dies, everything else dies with it.
Paradoxically, however, if one spouse hasn’t given up completely and still has it ‘in him’ to debate in non-violent ways, there exists a sliver of hope that the marriage can possibly be restored. Mild arguing or debating indicates some emotion is still left and some hope still exists—the heart of the marriage hasn’t gone into full-blown cardiac-arrest. The relationship hasn’t, yet, reached DOA status (Dead-On-Arrival) on the way to the attorney’s office. A sliver of hope is just that—a sliver of hope—and something needs to be done quickly to get life back into the relationship.
Can The Damage Be Repaired?
The good news is that if the marital heart still has even a faint beat, there’s exists some wiggle-room for encouragement. If a person is admitted to an emergency room with even the slightest pulsation of the heart, the defibrillation paddles are administered to give possible life-saving doses of electrical energy–there’s still hope for survival! If your marriage has reached the ‘defibrillation stage’, sincere prayer and marital counseling from a Christian therapist combines the best of both worlds. Prayer should be first and foremost since God, after all, is in the business of creating miracles. If He has the power to speak-into-existence the entire Universe, split the Red Sea and raise people from the dead, He can raise a marriage from ‘the dead’ as well. Turning to God when a marriage is in crisis-mode should never, ever be overlooked. Many Christians might be seeking the Bible for answers yet not be familiar enough or feel comfortable enough to seek God’s Word on their own. It is here, where a professional Christian counselor can combine his or her expertise with the wisdom, hope and truth that the Bible so comprehensively offers.
Within a Christian marriage, one’s spiritual life can suffer greatly when the relationship has taken a detoured back-road filled with potholes, steep inclines and dangerous twists and turns. 1 Peter 3:1-27 is worthy of reading in its entirety; and part of what the Apostle Peter says is this: “Wives, in the same manner be submissive to your husbands…” This is not synonymous with being controlled! The passage goes on to say, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heir with you of the gracious gift of life…” this is not synonymous with being a controller! A professional counselor can provide clarity on passages like this and open up new avenues of understanding so the healing potential of a hurting relationship can take place—and that, of course, is assuming both husband and wife genuinely desire for that to happen. Hopeful couples can learn how God’s Word and His wisdom are intended to be applied to every single marriage that has ever existed since the dawn of Adam and Eve!
Questions You Need To Answer Honestly:
If husband and wife still have a glimmer of hope their marriage can be saved and seek professional guidance, a bearing of one’s soul, along with absolute honesty and true emotions, would need to be embraced. At the same time, one has to be willing to relinquish feelings of pride, vengeance and blame. How would you answer these questions if you were asked? This list is, by no means, complete and is only a sampling of what one could expect during counseling sessions:
1: Do you feel your spouse should be viewed as a God-given gift? Is your spouse viewed this way?
2: Do you think of your spouse as your best friend? If not, would you like to think of your spouse as your best friend?
3: Do you try to understand your spouse’s needs?
4: Do you trust your spouse?
5: Do you forgive your spouse?
6: Do you place unrealistic expectations on your spouse?
7: Are you willing to state how you feel?
8: Do you listen?
9: Do you avoid being negative or critical?
10. Are you affectionate and loving?
11: Do you give of yourself emotionally?
12: Do you avoid rehashing past hurts?
13: Do you trust the Lord with your spiritual life, marriage, children, finances, concerns etc.
The sacrificial kind of love God intended for us with one another is beautifully illustrated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7~
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Loves bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Is it difficult to live up to God’s definition of love?—If you truly sacrificially love someone, no it’s not.