The Problem With My Marriage
Matthew 19:5,8 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh… Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
When reading Jesus discussion on divorce, it is easy to come away with rules on divorce and miss this principle: The reason marriages fail and the reason I have conflict in my marriage, is the hardness of my own heart. It may be important that I know the acceptable reasons for divorce, but as I am not getting divorced, I may think this passage is only for others. Jesus’ point to me though, is that if I have conflict in my marriage, my job is not blame my spouse, but to look to myself.
It is natural for me to blame my wife for conflict. I am sure I am a handful to live with but I do not see it that way. I see myself as 100% reasonable and loving. I am slow to see my own fault in any conflict and I am quick to take credit for any success. If my wife and I each did 50% of a project, I would walk away thinking that I did 80% of it. In my self-focus, I am always very biased in my favor. I can’t be the problem, can I? The reality is, if I have conflict, my problem is not my spouse but me.
Jesus said the reason I have conflict is the hardness of my own heart. It is not that my spouse may not have defects, it is just that my responsibility in any conflict is not to fix her. It is to fix me. If my plan for making my marriage work is to fix my spouse, I am headed for more conflict.
This does not mean that your spouse may not have serious issues that need to be addressed or that you do not need to create boundaries. If your spouse is engaged in highly destructive behavior, you may have to go so far as remove yourself from the situation.
I cannot however, fix my spouse. I can only work on my addiction to self. If I feel that my needs are not being met, I do not create a more loving marriage by demanding more from my spouse. I do it by working on what I need to do to create a more loving marriage. I love my wife, it is my job to act like it.
In our marriage, we often need to perform this exercise where we ask, How would it make you feel if I did this? The temptation is, of course, to think that it is different when I do something destructive. I’m justified in acting like this. It’s different when it’s me. In my bias towards me, I fail to see the corruption of my own behavior.
As in the rest of life, it is my focus on self that brings destruction. If I want to continue to grow life and love in my marriage, I need to focus not on me, but to turn from self and follow Jesus’ instruction.