Marriage in Winter

winter-tree

Marriage where conflicts seem to outnumber the joys can feel like walking without a coat in the biting winter wind.

In response, we may find ourselves hunkering down wrapping ourselves into ourselves and distancing ourselves from our spouse. We do this out of a sense of self-preservation. We want to avoid or minimize what we perceive to be the biting words or actions. We hold onto ourselves, assume and assert our rights and react against the wrongs of our spouse.

While there is certainly a place for making sure that we have healthy self-care, an ongoing pattern of focusing on the “wrongs” of our spouse can, over time, actually seem to increase the winter wind speed, making the marriage even more miserable to our perception.

Leslie Vernick, in her book “How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong,” offers this helpful advice to decrease the wind chill:

Instead of looking at what our spouse is doing that is upsetting, hurtful, or wrong to us, we must begin by redirecting our attention towards what our spouse’s wrongs reveal in us. God may be using his or her imperfections, differences, weaknesses, and sins to teach us valuable lessons on how to forgive, how to forbear, how to have self-control, how to speak the truth in love, and how to love our enemies. Jeanne Guyon compares this exposing process to a tree being stripped of its leaves in preparation for winter. She says: “The tree is no longer beautiful in its surface appearance. But has the tree actually changed? Not at all. Everything is exactly as it was before. Everything is as it has always been! It is just that the leaves are no longer there to hide what is real. The beauty of the outward life of the leaves had only hidden what had always been present.” She goes on to say: “We can each look so beautiful…until life disappears! Then, no matter who, the Christian is revealed as full of defects. As the Lord works on you to produce purification, you will appear stripped of all your virtues! But, in the tree, there is life inside; and, as the tree, you are not actually becoming worse, you are simply seeing yourself for what you really are!” 

…Often we are not even aware of the imperfections in our heart until we are put in the fire of a difficult marriage and the dross rises to the surface. During this time, I believe God’s intention for you is to examine your own responses to your spouse’s wrongdoing. God may use the very actions of your spouse that you find so annoying or troubling to reveal the contents of your heart to you so that you can grow and change. That is part of the purifying and refining process. 

As we begin to take a look at what our spouse’s wrongs reveal in us, a jumble of emotions, thoughts, expectations, and personal sins is likely to surface. Honesty about this is necessary for those of us who want to clearly see what or who we rely on for our happiness, security, and well-being. Is it God? Or is our welfare more dependent upon getting what we want? (pp 34-37)

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