Sunday, June 30, 2019

Marital Minefields

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.”  John Lennon

  For decades the Afghani people have lived through war and instability. One of the biggest threats they now face are landmines, left from either the Soviet invasion or the fight against the Taliban. In 2017 alone, more than 2,000 Afghans were killed or injured by landmines. That’s about five times the number of civilians killed in 2012. The aid group, Halo Trust, estimates there are up to 640,000 landmines laid in Afghanistan since 1979. Although most recorded battlefields have been cleared, Afghanistan still remains one of the world’s most mined countries.
  For some that’s a picture of their marriage. He or she feels like they’re continually attempting to navigate marital minefields. Often it shows in that they’re anxious, nervous and unsure when their next step might be innocently stepping on a “landmine.” Like those in Afghanistan, what is perversely abnormal frequently becomes their marital normal. It’s wrong, it’s sin and not how God designed for marriage to be. Here are some landmines that many couples have to negotiate through.
  Fear of explosive anger. All of us know someone who has a sinful anger problem. Hopefully, it’s not someone you’re married to. Explosive rage has no place in marriage. It creates an atmosphere of insecurity and anxiety. There can be no intimacy if there is anxiety. Often the explosion is over something insignificant, like running late or forgetting to put gas in the car. Angry rants are driven by pride and selfishness: “How could you be so stupid! I never do things like that!” Because explosive attacks get a response, they easily devolve into a vile habit.
  Fear of an inquisition. A healthy marriage is dependent on two mature adults with integrity. Some spouses are anxious about doing nearly anything for fear that it will be the “wrong” decision. If you can’t trust your spouse, there are serious issues. But treating your spouse as if you can’t trust them is just as bad, if not worse. Sometimes the inquisition is a shell game. The spouse putting their mate in the “hot seat” uses it as a cover for their own sinful behavior. For example, they’ll grill their partner: Where have you been? What were you doing? Why didn’t you answer your phone? Why were you late? It’s an attempt to keep their partner on edge and on the defensive, so they’re never questioned…because they know that what they’re doing is wrong.  
  Often the inquisition is over finances or time management. If you can’t trust your spouse to wisely use money or manage their time as an adult, those are symptoms of bigger issues. Too often it’s not a lack of trust, it’s intimidation, and the one spouse is chronically anxious about making any decisions for fear of stepping on a landmine.
  Fear of the machine gun fighter. In a war movie, there may be an unknown machine gun nest where soldiers are gunned down but never saw it coming. Opposites tend to attract in marriage and that’s healthy. It helps compensate for our inabilities and weaknesses. Frequently, one spouse is a processor while the other is a quick thinker. Both are good…until there’s a fight. And while the processor is still looking for ammo, the other partner has already blown them away. They’re a machine gun fighter and their spouse never knew what hit them. It’s embarrassing and humiliating for them. Often resentment is buried for fear of sharing their true feelings. They’re walking through a minefield, nervous about a misstep.
  Fear of the passive-aggressive spouse. Pity the poor person married to the passive-aggressive. They innocently attempt to problem-solve only to find they’ve stepped on a landmine. Passive-aggressive spouses have an uncanny ability to make you feel you’re continually wrong, but you’re not quite sure how. They’re masters of second guessing and manipulation. Sometimes it’s by obstructionism, committing to cooperate but undermining and sabotaging, all the while pointing fingers of accusation and claiming innocence. They make excuses yet blame their spouse for holding them accountable. The outcome is confusion and chaos. By sending mixed messages, pouting or playing the victim, their mate is uncertain whether they’re own perceptions are real or whether they truly are in the wrong.
  William Sloan Coffin said, “I am sure the Bible is right: the opposite of love, is not hate but fear.” Or, as 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” It’s impossible to have a healthy marriage that’s permeated by fear. God has designed us so that our greatest needs are for love and acceptance. Fear causes us to close ourselves off and eradicates true intimacy. So, how can we dispose of these landmines?
  Point them out. Acknowledge the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Get it out in the open. Lovingly share with your spouse, “This makes me feel afraid.”  
  Take personal responsibility. Most couples think things will get better once their spouse changes. Focus instead on how you can change. If you change, they have to change.
  Give it all to God and trust Him. Your needs, your hurts, your desire to change your spouse—instead of hiding them, turn them over to the Lord. Tell Him, “Lord, I’m afraid of _________. I give that fear to you.”
  Get outside help. I’m continually amazed at those who maintain their cars better than their marriages. If your car starts making a funny noise, or the warning lights started coming on, you’d have it serviced. If there are chronic issues in your marriage, do something. Yes, first pray and ask God to work. God though gave you a brain and expects you to use it.
  Francis de Sales was right, “Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall us except sin.” Be wise, be godly and refuse to live in a marital minefield.

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