We know a lot about cactus points living here in the desert southwest! We’ve been poked, stabbed and have come away bleeding. We’ve also helped others who have been injured after they brushed up to or have fallen into those pointy barbs. OUCH! As a result, we, and they have learned some painful lessons on how to better protect ourselves. One of them is to keep a safe distance away from Cactus. We see them when we’re out walking or we’re out taking a drive, but we’ve learned to no longer get too close, and we definitely do not touch them.
It can be tempting though. We’re tempted sometimes to get closer than we should—especially when a cactus is flowering. They can be so alluring to step closer “just to see.” And then there’s the cute “Teddy Bear” cactus and other fuzzy ones that look so “innocent” to touch. There is also the “Jumping Cholla” cactus, which isn’t always easy to spot along the walking trails. These cacti appear to jump out and the barbs attach themselves to anyone who even gets near. After some painful lessons, we’ve learned to watch, keep our distance, and be more respectful and careful.
Cactus Points in Marriage
Please know, though, that all of these cactus points can apply to marriage as well. We need to be aware of the “dangers” and be more respectful in how we deal with them. If we aren’t careful we can hurt each other. Sometimes we do this on purpose. We want to hurt our spouse who has hurt us. (Hopefully we learn better afterward.) There are other times when temptation just seems to jump at out us and we “fall” into the situation that can damage our relationship.
Here’s an example of a sticking point you need to stay away from in your marriage:
— Just because you are married, it doesn’t give you a license to be mean-spirited and disrespectful in the way in which you speak to your spouse. That applies, no matter how he or she speaks to you. We’re told in God’s word, “Put away perversity from your mouth. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” (Proverbs 4:24) Treat your spouse “as unto the Lord” and you will do well. Keep in mind: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)
“If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 30:32-33)
Here’s something constructive you can do, when you are tempted to stick it to your spouse:
“Practice the pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. Plus, when you’re tired, pause. When you’re stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.” (Toby Mac) “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Make sure you:
“Utilize your teeth as gates that prevent ugly speech ‘creatures’ from getting out and gnawing on your spouse (or anyone else). Worse than having poor communication skills is having the ability to clearly articulate your thoughts if all you want to do is say something mean or demeaning. Never say anything that will confuse or hurt anyone and start being good by practicing on your spouse. Think of mean speech as a verbal dagger aimed for the heart. Never is there an acceptable reason to be mean.” (Paul Friedman, from “Lessons For a Happy Marriage”)
Another Cautionary Cactus Point in Marriage:
—Sometimes we can use sarcastic “humor” in such a way that it throws barbs at our spouse.
“While humor may appear to soften the blow, the unseen emotional damage of sarcasm can be devastating. I’m convinced many marriages die of a thousand emotional cuts instead of one deadly blow. A steady diet of sarcasm poisons a marriage. So it needs to be eliminated. No good comes from using it.
“Trust, a vital ingredient in a healthy marriage, won’t be present when a husband or wife is always braced for the next public or private cutting remark from a spouse. And respect won’t be found in the midst of ridicule. A sarcastic environment robs a marriage of peace and joy, two parts of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life. (See: Galatians 5:22-23.) In essence, sarcasm severely limits the intimacy between a husband and wife. There are plenty of healthy ways to fit humor into your marriage.
“Choose to break the sarcasm habit, and die daily to yourself. (See: 1 Corinthians 15:31.)” (Rodney A. Wilson) Always note: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
Again, “Practice the pause.” When you’re conflicting with your spouse and it starts to go in a bad direction follow this rule:
“Either spouse can raise a hand and call for a stop. When one of you asks for a stop, it must be honored. Usually, one spouse wants to stop and the other does not. The spouse who does not want to stop has to stop. Take a temporary break; get some space. When you both signal that you are ready, go back to your neutral conflict place and pick up where you left off. This Stop and Stop method will save you from doing damage and get you back on track in the conflict process.” (Dr David Clarke)
Another Cactus Point in Marriage
On this same issue, here’s another “cactus point” to ask yourself, remember, be aware of, and then act upon:
“Are your words controlled by a desire to seek peace and unity, or are they driven by your fleshly desire to sting, aggravate, retaliate, control, alienate, shame, and manipulate through sarcasm? The enemy is camping out at the gate of your marriage. He is lurking about, seeking to find that one open crevice where he can enter. If he has been entering in and camping out in your home through the use of sarcasm [or any other verbal barb], it is time to cast this verbal enemy out and lock the gate behind him. Die to yourself. Fill your heart and mind with the words of Christ, and allow His love, peace, and compassion to be the source of every word that proceeds from your mouth.” (Dale and Jena Forehand)
Dr Gary Chapman gives this advice:
“Proverbs 18:21 tells us, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ (NKJV). Words are powerful. You can kill your spouse’s spirit with negative words—words that belittle, disrespect, or embarrass. You can give life with positive words—words that encourage, affirm, or strengthen. Say something kind and life giving to your spouse today and see what happens.” (From: The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional)
Make sure you are “life giving” in how you speak, but also in how well you listen to what your spouse is saying.
“Like most, I have some significant regrets in my marriage! They are mostly verbal regrets. I’ve said things to my wife in the last 30 years that I wish I could take back. Too often, I’ve used misguided words that stung and wounded her. I feel terrible about those moments and unfortunately I can’t take them back.
“But I have no regrets in my marriage over listening! I’ve never thought, ‘Why did I pay such good attention to her? Why was I so patient and empathetic in showing my wife the respect she deserves?’ Why? Because listening does not lead to regret! Would your spouse say that you’re a world-class listener or are you normally doing all the talking?” (Doug Fields) “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” (Proverbs 1:5)
Another Cactus Point to Heed
— Don’t let others poke at your spouse either.
“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)
God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love “always protects.” That means more than physical protection. It also means emotionally protection. Sometimes emotionally protecting your spouse is as important as giving physical protection.
Another Cactus Point to Protect Your Marriage
— “Don’t just be physically monogamous; be mentally monogamous, as well. True intimacy begins in the heart and the mind—not in the bedroom. When you’re acting out sexual fantasy apart from your spouse, it’s an act of mental infidelity. All true intimacy and all infidelity begins in the mind. If your eyes and your thoughts are wandering away from your spouse, then your heart is going to follow. Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught that ‘…to look at a woman lustfully is to commit adultery with her in your heart.‘ Don’t just be physically monogamous. Strive to be mentally monogamous.” (Dave Willis)
Last Cactus Point We’re Making Here
And then here’s one last point we want to make within this Insight:
—There are some times in your marriage you are to be aware of, and to lean away from within marriage. (Abuse issues would be some of them.) But there is an important time when you should lean in. When we go through a really tough time in our marriage, like the death of a family member—it’s a time to lean in. It could also be the loss of a job, home, friend(s), or an illness. In the midst of tough times:
“Lean in. When it gets hard in a relationship, our tendency is to protect ourselves, to retreat, to ‘lean out.’ Leaning out when your spouse reaches out creates distance and dissonance. If instead you ‘lean in’ to the uncomfortable feelings, to the unknown and your own vulnerability, and meet your partner, you can actually strengthen your relationship through the struggles you face together.” (Christine Arylo)
“Grief is an incredibly personal experience. It can draw your closer or create friction or tension between you. Don’t allow loss to separate you. Be patient and sensitive to each other as you process it together. …Use this crisis as a catalyst for increasing your spiritual and emotional intimacy. Sharing grief can be a deeply spiritual process. As the Psalmist shares, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit‘ (Psalms 34:18). Explore how this loss affects you both spiritually as well as emotionally.” (Dr David Hawkins)
In all of this remember:
“Marriage includes cacti as well as roses, rough times as well as good times, tears as well as laughter and shadows as well as sunshine. However, self-sacrificing love for one another will carry a husband and wife through every trial and reflect Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church.” (Marlene Bagnull)
We hope this helps.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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