Turning Towards One Another
It is no secret that relationships are what adds flavor and brings color to our daily lives.
After praying several years for a wife, I was married this past summer. Being newly married (almost 6 months now!) I am always eager to learn everything I can to become the best husband I can be. This usually comes in the form of devouring books, listening to different speakers teach on the topic, and learning from older married couples. More recently though, I have found value in marriage retreats.
My wife, Veronia, and I just returned from our first marriage retreat last weekend. To be honest, I was expecting something entirely different than what it ended up being. It was far from a romantic weekend away, but I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything. In the same way the retreat was not what I imagined, the lessons I learned weren’t earth shatteringly profound either. However, it has been my experience that many times the ordinary can be extraordinary if you let it; many times the simplest truths are the ones that are the most insightful if you are willing to spend the time to look closely enough. After all, Jesus spoke in simple stories.
Throughout all of the talks there was a recurring theme: choosing how to respond to your spouse. We all think and act in different ways and this will inevitably cause tension when two people share their lives together. When communicating with your spouse, whether generally or when there’s a disagreement, you only have three options: turning away from, turning against, or turning towards your spouse.
This is when you don’t want to deal with the issue. It has surfaced a couple of times but every time it does you just want to avoid it so that there’s peace, or at least a counterfeit form of it. You choose not to confront the problem, and repress your emotions instead. You are tired of the disagreements and the bickering so you keep quiet on the topic and try to move on.
Turning away from your spouse is dangerous because of the two negative responses, this one seems permissible. It seems ok. At least I’m keeping the peace, you think. At least we don’t have to fight.
Sure you’re not fighting externally, but the internal struggle within yourself is fierce. Bitterness builds up. Unkind words left unspoken are thought against the other instead… until you turn against your spouse.
We all can picture the scene in our heads. It involves shouting and possibly actions done in anger: slamming doors, throwing things, and even physical abuse. It doesn’t always manifest in a fit of rage though; it can be sarcastic comments that wound the other deeply or disrespectful criticisms uttered to make a spouse feel small.
Turning against your spouse usually happens after a prolonged period of turning away and letting the poison of unforgiveness linger. When one person turns against the other it’s not long before the other feels the need to defend themselves, until they too succumb to attacking the person they vowed to love.
When we turn against one another we forget how our weaknesses are complemented by our spouses strengths. We wound the other and our relationship. If left on this path, two people who were initially committed to the other will feel that there’s nothing left but to leave the relationship they had a hand in destroying.
This, of course, is the desired response. We need to learn to respond to our spouse by turning towards them.
Instead of neglecting the problem out of fear, you face it with courage.
Instead of talking in a harsh way wanting to be heard, you speak tenderly with love wanting to hear what’s on the other person’s heart.
This doesn’t have to involve words. The language of touch is a powerful tool. A hand placed tenderly on a knee or a gentle touch on the back can sometimes do things that many words can’t. A small gift thoughtfully placed or a small act of kindness for the other can also communicate a loving message without using words.
Turning towards the other is the hardest of the three choices because it requires humility and selflessness. You have to think of the other person’s needs and desires before your own. You have to be willing to sacrifice for the good of the other. You have to really push yourself to serve the other. It is not easy.
Thankfully, we have our entire lives together to practice and get it right.
These concepts are especially true of marriage as it is the most intimate relationship we will experience with another person, but it’s true of all our relationships: with our children, parents, siblings, friends, and even the beggar on the street.
What will you decide to do? Turn away, against, or towards?
(photo courtesy of Gable Denims)