“All marriages go through periods of disaffection, times when love feels distant, cold. What happens during these times will often set the course for the rest of the marriage.” (Tim Clinton)
Have you been there? We sure have, and who knows that we might not again if we don’t work on putting forth intentionality in building our love for each other? But thankfully, we’re doing well. And we pray that if you’re struggling, eventually you will be as well, knowing that marriage is so complex.
The following is something written by Tim and Julie Clinton, titled “How Disaffection Starts.” It was featured in Moody Magazine (which is no longer in print) a number of years ago. But what they write is still appropriate today.
Talking About Disaffection
“All marriages go through periods of disaffection, times when love feels distant, cold. What happens during these times will often set the course for the rest of the marriage. Unfortunately, disaffection often wins out and couples who get to the point of divorce never know God’s desire for their marriage. And many who stay in their marriages live unhappily behind closed doors.
But how does disaffection start? It actually begins with everyday life, with the six pressures we all face daily.
We’re pulled in every direction, busy and going nowhere fast, having to do more with less time. Before long, tempers flare, stomachs ache, hearts break. Hurried decisions become bad decisions. And bad decisions make people hurt.
Marriage becomes a perpetual uphill climb. And our hurt makes us irritable, discouraged, and very difficult to live with. Some have just flat-out been overwhelmed by life, wayward kids, financial pressures, loss, health problems, and demanding work schedules. Take an inventory. What stresses have been tearing at your relationship since you married?
Satan is the great confuser and the ultimate liar. He magnifies our weaknesses and fears and uses them as wedges that come between us. Peter described the evil one as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And he’s out to take as big a bite as he can out of your marriage.
• FALSE EXPECTATIONS
Here are a few of the most common: Marriage will complete me. —Life will be easy now. —My spouse won’t hurt me. —Love will keep us together.
Marriage brings together two people who have many human frailties that are at first magnified, then hopefully, in Christ, strengthened into godly traits. But it takes a lot of humility, grace, and constant work at understanding what’s reasonable for you and your spouse to expect from each other.
In our marriage we don’t really want to hurt each other. But we do. We fail each other. We say hurtful words. Marriage was designed to be a team effort, one of loving and giving, of making a commitment to our mate. But selfishness, so rampant in our culture, creates an “island of me,” when we should be sharing the “island of we.”
• SCRIPTS FROM THE PAST
A lot of our behavior is influenced by scripts that were written for us long ago. For instance, if one or both of our parents abandoned us when we were children, we’ll live today as if we expect those we love to abandon us in the here and now. We need, therefore, to look for those elements of our lives that are unresolved —physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; the effects of parental divorce. Then we need to deal with those losses and hurts in sound, biblical ways.
Intimacy takes time, but when we live in the fast lane, intimacy falls by the wayside. For example, maybe we think a date night will solve our problems. But what happens on date nights when things haven’t been going well? One lousy night! The result is loneliness, anger, feelings of rejection, and sorrow. A natural response to this pain is to create a gap between you and your partner—which can pave the way for destructive cycle of conflict and distancing.”
As we look upon the “disaffection” that occurs so easily in our marriages, especially in today’s world, we’re reminded of the scripture verse that says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
How much this needs to be ingrained in our thinking and lifestyle choices! In my (Cindy’s) prayer time, as I was praying for my husband Steve, I came upon a prayer that’s so appropriate for today’s message. It reads:
“Lord, don’t let our marriage conform to the patterns of the world. Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Let us abide in your will ALL of our days. So be it!”
Is that your prayer? We hope it is and recommend that you look over the pressures listed above and ask God to talk to your heart and show you if there is anything you can change that is causing darkness within your marriage. Work to be a “lamp lighter for Christ” poking holes in the darkness that the enemy of our faith works relentlessly to bring into your home.
To help you deal with disaffection this Christmas season and beyond, here are some resources to prayerfully read:
• From the Lifeway.com web site, please read: Are You Satisfied with Christmas?
• Also, from the Crosswalk.com web site, please read: Increase the Affection in Your Marriage.
• And on the MarriageBuilders.com web site, please read: How to Meet the Need for Affection.
As for your own “role” in all of this, during this Christmas season, as “peace on earth” is being emphasized, we encourage you to pray the words of the psalmist in 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.”
As We pray for you this week, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).
Steve and Cindy Wright
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