Every Tuesday we’ll be posting an article about restoring and strengthening marriages that have been damaged by sexual sin. Hope it’s helpful.
The Intimate Enemy
“Husbands, love your wives”, Paul admonishes in Colossians 3:19. Well, we’ve heard that before, but then he adds an interesting challenge: “—and be not bitter towards them.”
Hmmm. As a former Pharisee, Paul had almost certainly been married at one time, then probably widowed. He knew something firsthand about men and women, and the dynamics that come between them, and from that knowledge sprang a command to men not to be bitter towards their wives – spoken, it seems, with the assumption that bitterness can be a common problem to husbands. And it can, and it is.
After a few years of marriage a man realizes his wife can affect him like no one else. A verbal jab from a friend or co-worker can be a minor irritation, but if it comes from her, it’s an injury. An irritated look from someone else? Who cares. From her? Trouble. It’s as though she’s somehow gained admission to parts of his soul no one else has ever touched, giving her unusual (and often unwanted) power. Of course, that works both ways. Because of her intimate position with him, she can provide comfort and encouragement like no one else. But closeness brings the power to heal and wound, and a wound from an intimate enemy strikes a horrific blow.
That’s because the one-flesh union between man and wife is an exquisite physical experience with untold emotional ramifications. To put it plainly, in sex, a woman has access to a man’s most private parts. That’s both scary and fantastic, depending on what she does with them. Hence the common vulgarity, “She’s got me by the _______s.” Clearly, anyone holding that part of a man pretty much commands the man’s attention and cooperation.
But there seems to be an emotional counterpart to the physical, in that a woman also gains access, as a wife, to the most private parts of her man’s soul: his insecurities; weaknesses; old wounds; personality flaws. As with the physical, she can be a source of comfort and healing to these parts, or, knowingly or not, she can bruise, injure and even destroy if she misuses her power.
Problem is, she may not have a clue how much power she wields. Granted, some wives delight in manipulating their men, and enjoy the power they have to hurt, dominate, humiliate. But most, to my thinking, simply don’t appreciate how deeply their words and actions (especially their words) land in their husband’s soul. And nowhere does this become more problematic than when a husband’s sin has created deep and abiding marital problems.
She’s in pain, pain that he’s created. She needs to verbalize her pain. He needs to hear it, too, and he owes her that. But in the process he also experiences his own sort of injury. Her words hurt, even if they’re spoken honestly and fairly. And when they’re not – when she’s bossy, rude, cutting or badgering – he resents it, hence the bitterness Paul warned against. What to do?
First, be honest. Don’t sit on it when you feel insulted or demeaned, because your own experience has taught you that you’ll simply poison yourself with resentment it you keep it all in. Let her know specifically what she said or did that hurt, and (without whining or accusing) let her know you two won’t get very fair by verbally punching each other.
Second, be humble. Make sure she knows you’re more than aware of your own sin and realize it has played into her actions, and you take full responsibility for that.
Third, be proactive. If this pattern is common in your home it’s probably time to get some help from a pastor, counselor or trusted mentor. Find someone with experience in helping couples rebuild, set the appointment and make sure you stick to a recovery program that’s Biblically based.
Bitterness is a preventable disease, and a treatable one, too. But above all, it’s lethal. So if it’s gotten a foothold in you and your marriage, rally to action now, Because inaction in the face of bitterness is a set up for disaster.