“… and the Ugly”: part 1

ugly1

This is the first of a three-part series; here are the links to part 2 and part 3.

In my first Indifferent Muddle post, I referenced Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect, a book I recommend highly. I mentioned how he and the Byerlys, of Generous Husband and Generous Wife, speak of good-willed spouses, husbands and wives who do have goodwill in their hearts toward each other. It was in that first post that I discussed that not all marriages have spouses who are still good-willed, hence the Indifferent Muddle.

I tend to see things as being on a continuum instead of terms of black and white, and marriages are no exception. As I’ve been thinking about all of this, I see the marriage continuum as resembling this little graphic:

Marriage continuum

Having dealt with the Muddle, I want to address those marriages that have moved from generous good-will, past the Muddle into, erm, well…, for want of a better word, Hades.

As I’ve stated before, I highly recommend Eggerichs’ L&R; that being said, I do have one caveat. The book is directed toward “good-willed” marriages; not that this is a crime, mind you. He freely admits that the husbands and wives that he writes about, who are having communication difficulties, are still in love with each other and want to have great marriages together. These marriages aren’t really “on the rocks”; as Eggerichs points out, neither husband or wife hates or even dislikes the other, but through hurt and misunderstanding have come to a rocky place in their marriage. 

But he realizes that his audience isn’t in Hades.

The Fly In The Ointment

Okay, it’s time to “tell the truth and shame the devil,” as the old saying goes. None of us are ever keen on airing dirty laundry in public, and we in the Church are among the world’s best when it comes to evading uncomfortable truths and topics. We can mumble, harrumph, and mouth pious platitudes with the best that the world has to offer when it comes to avoiding the ugly truths we don’t want to talk about. But we all know that despite all our preaching about the blessedness of marriage, the dirty little secret is that there are some “christian” marriages that aren’t so much “made in heaven” as they are spawned in Hades.

As I’ve mentioned in past postings, I have been participating and posting in a non-Christian forum, and I am reading of situations in which all traces of good-will and generosity are gone. I’m talking about marriages where name-calling, disrespect and animosity aren’t just occurrences, but an entire way of life. But here’s what’s killing me; I’m also reading of similar marriages on christian marriage fora.

It’s heartbreaking. As I’ve said before, marriage isn’t supposed to hurt.

I am not the only person reading/dealing with people who are in Hades-type marriages. Recently, Paul Byerly, of Generous Husband, wrote a blog post that, for him, was quite unusual; it was entitled My Nightmare Marriage. Don’t let the title throw you; when he says “nightmare”, he means “nightmare,” as in a bad dream he experienced. In the comments section of his post, I asked if he knew what might have triggered such a dream, and he wrote of trying to help people who were in such marriages, in recent months; he thought it might have caused his dream.

Both Paul and I write for christian audiences, and so these nightmarish, Hades marriages that we come in contact with are “christian” marriages. We understand that the world gets marriage and sex wrong, and so we’re not surprised when non-christian marriages go south, but the truth that the church tries to ignore is that christian marriages go south, too. And people are hurting because of our desire to hide the, oh so ugly.

“Invested Selfishness”

In writing about the Indifferent Muddle, I spoke about marital drift. I said that no one intends to direct their marriage into the Muddle, but through indifference, care-lessness, and what I call “casual selfishness,” marriages end up in the backwaters and eddies that are the Muddle.

Care-lessness? – yes, not having a care, just drifting. Not being intentional in working on the marriage.
Casual selfishness? – yes, not intending to take from your spouse, but making choices that add up to “Me uber alles.”

But then there is Invested Selfishness, where one intentionally looks out for #1. For this person,  marriage has become a life-enhancement accessory. When it comes to trying to define someone who has come to invest in their selfishness, there’s no way I could begin to provide a catalog of the different methods by which those invested in their personal selfishness work to create a Hades.

I could try to come up with different character types, such as the Shrew or the Man-Child, the Terrorist or the Princess, to try to categorize the different ways by which a spouse makes a home a Hell, but again, I would run the danger of leaving your particular sin off the list. Instead, I think that a better indicator for judging your marriage is simply your reaction to being in your own home.

Decades ago, I heard a minister say that Christians are ambassadors of Christ’s kingdom here on earth, and that a christian home is like an embassy of heaven. From that statement, I’ve had the idea that a christian home should be a sanctuary, a place where the stresses of the world can’t enter and where God’s peace and love abides. For me, leaving work every day and driving about twenty miles to my home was just that. Entering my home at the end of a workday was pure heaven for me.

Contrast that to someone whose home is a Hades. In my reading, I’ve come across such statements as:

“I have to take Tums in order to enter my house.”
“Lately, I realized that I started driving slower as I neared our home. Apparently, my subconscious mind didn’t want me to arrive.”
“I’m spending more time at work or at the gym in order to spend less time at home.”
“I find that the best part of my life is when my wife has to travel on business. Is that wrong?”

I realize that, as Christians, we are expected to put on our “I’m blessed” face for the world and make like everything is just peachy-keen, but be honest with yourself: can you identify with any of the above statements? Or maybe you have your own version of these aversion statements? Plain and simple, if your home is not your sanctuary from the world, where do you see yourself on the Marriage Continuum?

In my Indifferent Muddle post, I gave some suggestions for trying to move your marriage from the slough of the Muddle back onto the road of a good marriage. In my next post, I want to piggy-back on some ideas that Paul B. made in HIS follow-up post, and resurrect some of my old posts that can help someone dealing with a Hades in their home.

More to come…

CSL

Disclaimer: I am not a counselor, doctor, or pastor. For that matter, Wife says I don’t play well with others. My advice and comments come from my concern for hurting Christian husbands and wives. Someone once said to me, “Church shouldn’t hurt”, and I believe the same thing goes for marriage. I’m going to call ‘em as I see ‘em, but please, don’t take my word as gospel. Yes, read what I say, pray about what I say, but do your own “due diligence.”

 

3 Comments

Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

3 responses to ““… and the Ugly”: part 1

  1. WhereIwas

    Thank you for being willing to wade in the muck. So many Christians don’t want to go there. They insist there are always two sides to every situation. Pastors and laymen alike frequently deny that a “Christian” marriage can be toxic or be a harbor for hidden evil. Most seem inclined to trivialize abuse and destructive neglect or selfishness. “Preserve the marriage at all costs because God hates divorce” is used as a shame tactic to promote maintaining the status quo. Virulent verbal and emotional attacks are brushed off as just relieving stress in an inappropriate way. Pat solutions of communicate better, have a date night, love unconditionally as Christ loved you, forgive and SUBMIT, are smugly distributed to any and all troubled marriages with little effort to analyze each relationship on a case by case basis.

    Personally, I think the majority of destructive marriages have a perpetrator and a “victim”. Most frequently it is the victim that seeks advice and tries to implement it in futile efforts to preserve the marriage and make the burden bearable. They, as a whole, want to do what is right no matter how much pain or personal sacrifice it requires. The perpetrator may give lip service to personal responsibility, repentance, or the need for change but give little effort to achieving sustained results. And almost always, the blame and responsibility is somehow shifted back to the victim and the cycle continues over and over. Once again, the victim “picks up their cross” and asks God for strength and a loving heart in the hopes that one person can preserve the marriage and enact change if they can perfectly follow 1 Corinthians 13:7. This can be hoped for in a relationship of flawed but relatively normal individuals. In a relationship filled with unrepentant sin, untreated mental illness or emotional baggage, or narcissistic selfishness, success is unlikely.

    God can change any heart if there is true surrender and a willingness to do the work that he requires. Unfortunately, I think most perpetrators in a destructive relationship are unrepentant sinners and have little interest in making their marriage a true partnership that glorifies God. Oftentimes then, the victim sacrifices their emotional, physical, and sometimes spiritual health on the alter of “Christian Marriage” and usually the wellbeing of their children also.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: “… and the Ugly”: part 2 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Pingback: “… and the Ugly.”: part 3 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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