Marriage Missions International

Protecting Each Other Emotionally – Marriage Message #260

“You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love —the running across fields into your lover’s arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip.” (Jonathan Carroll)

God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV) that love “always protects.” That means more than physical protection. It also means emotional protection. Sometimes emotionally protecting your spouse is as important as giving physical protection. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” just isn’t true. Being on the receiving end of name-calling and emotional abuse is an entirely different hurt but the pain is deeply felt, for sure!

Be aware of what you say to your spouse:

“We should also realize that like dropping a fine piece of china, words can break someone and no matter how well your gluing abilities are the china is now just a broken glued plate. Be careful what you say …think first” (Archie Spangler). “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing(Proverbs 12:18).

And, if someone else speaks badly about your spouse, remember:

“No matter who it is, we shouldn’t allow anyone to speak negatively to or about our spouse, even if it happens to be our own family. We have to show others we will not tolerate any disrespect toward our life partners. When a family member does speak ill of our spouse do we step in and speak up for them? Do we combat negatives with positive? Does our spouse know that we will support them even when it’s not a popular choice with our family or friends? Real security arrives in a relationship when we know we have a spouse that has our back.” (Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, from the article Do You Protect, Defend, and Honor Your Spouse)

Do you “have your spouse’s back?” Are you protective? The partnership of marriage is such that when something or someone hurts or bothers my husband Steve, it should bother me also, as his marital partner. And the pain should certainly not be something that is delivered by me. We’re “cleaved” together because of marriage. (See Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6.) My husband’s hurt becomes my hurt when we marry, and my hurt becomes his.

Husbands are told in Ephesians 5:29-31, “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church —for we are members of His body.”

I believe this also applies to wives in treating our husbands as a part of ourselves. When my finger hurts, I know it! It’s not something I can ignore. It’s such a part of me that I’m aware that I’m suffering because of it. It’s the same in the marriage relationship. If Steve hurts, I should know it and help in the healing process as much as I can and as much as he allows. If something bothers him (physically or emotionally) and it doesn’t bother me, then something is definitely wrong. Sadly, “something is definitely wrong” in too many marriages, which is not what God intends at all.

I agree with something Annie Chapman wrote, “God never intended marriage to wear the shine off of love. He designed marital oneness as a haven where love can blossom into its full beauty. He intended that husbands and wives be lovers and friends for all of our lives together.” You read throughout the Bible how much God requires of us as friends and neighbors. We are to support and help each other. How much more so should this be true within the marriage relationship!

Is your marriage a safe haven where your spouse knows that when he or she stumbles in some way, you won’t be among those who would laugh and jeer (unless your spouse is sincerely laughing too)? Can he or she do even the stupidest things or ask questions that “appear” to be dumb and still feel safe with you? Do you see beyond the surface of that, which is said and done, and protect his/her feelings where you give grace to him or her (grace you want too)?

This principle applies to how we tease each other too. Beware of using hurtful humor, where”

“you inflict intentional pain and then hide behind a phrase such as, ‘I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?’ Humor that’s based on ridicule is using joy destructively in your relationship. True joy comes when we laugh with each other, not at each other. Personal shortcomings, areas of tenderness, are not material for jokes or the use of humor.” (Nancy Ortberg)

When our sons were younger and still living at home we used to have a rule in our home (and still do) that “Home base is safe.” As we told our sons, “the world out there is crazy; but in OUR home, we’re safe with each other.” We didn’t (and still don’t) allow name-calling or de-valuing each other with words or with actions. We’ve made it a point that everyone who enters our home is safe from ridicule. Our home is a haven the Lord has given us for everyone’s protection

So let me ask you: Is your marriage a safe place for your spouse? And when they hurt in some way do you treat them in a loving way so that they don’t need to look elsewhere to find comfort (unless it’s a gender thing that requires a friendship kind of interaction)? Do they know that you’re waiting with open arms and an open mind and heart to listen to and comfort them when they need it? And do they know that you won’t make them the object of being further humiliated?

Some spouse’s will look for comfort and pleasure in all the wrong places. You may not be able to change that. Prayerfully you can. But even if you can’t, you don’t want to give them any excuse or push them further into temptation by your hurtful words and/or actions. That much you CAN do. It’s important not to be a “stumbling block” contributing to helping our spouse fall all the further.

In marriage, we’re supposed to act like partners TOGETHER to fight against any storm that comes our way. Let’s face it; if we use our strength in fighting with each other, then how much energy do we have left to fight against the various types of storms that WILL come upon us?

Even if you have a spouse that doesn’t cooperate in easing the tension, it’s still important NOT to contribute to the frustration level that’s happening within your marriage. That doesn’t mean that you can’t voice your opinion when things aren’t going in a good direction. But is your “speaking the truth in love” truly loving in spirit, or do you step over a line where you are contentious?

It’s amazing the amount of times we hear the statement, “I know I’m not perfect —I have my faults too, but my spouse…” and out comes a list of his or her faults. For some reason we think our faults are excusable (just as our spouse thinks his or hers are excusable), and yet we don’t give him/her the same grace that we want given to us. Many of us need to rethink this.

We hope you’ll pray about the way in which you interact with your spouse and the “safety” you contribute to the relationship. Every issue that comes up in our marriage gives us the opportunity to respond, on our part, in a God-honoring way or in worldly way. We hope you will choose God’s way, even if your spouse doesn’t.

We encourage you to ask God to convict your heart sinful attitudes and actions that you need to change. Pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

May the Lord put a spot light upon your attitudes and actions to reveal that which you need to confess to Him! And may He bless as you confess to help you live in a way that is “everlasting” within your marriage and beyond.

Cindy and Steve Wright

— ALSO —

Here’s another article you may find helpful to read:

MAKING YOUR HOME A SAFE PLACE

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Marriage Missions International