This week, a year ago, my world fell apart when Eric went into the hospital to undergo three surgeries. When they admitted him for what started out as a relatively small problem, we had no idea the fear and uncertainty we would face in the coming weeks. As I sat by his bed weeping one night, I remember thinking, “All of our fights have been so stupid. None of that matters now.”
My tears finally dried, and before we knew it, we were home. Eric was on the road to recovery. Our world has not been perfect since that tear-filled day by his hospital bed, but I sometimes return to that moment in my mind when Eric and I are struggling to see eye-to-eye. When the sky appears to be falling, the little emotional hiccups seem so insignificant. You just want to hold onto your special someone and feel safe.
Thankfully, we are not dealing with a hospital stint this September, but we are struggling through another difficult situation which impacts our lives deeply and the lives of many we love. Our hearts are grieved and we cannot help but ask, “Why is this happening?” A few weeks ago, we were happily trucking along in life – and then, the road caved in… forcing us to find an alternate route than the one we had been taking for the majority of our marriage.
Once again, I recall our insignificant arguments and my thoughts from a year ago come rolling back in. So many of our fights have been stupid. Those disagreements do not matter now. All I want to do is hug Eric, cling to God and him, and feel close to the man I married. When life is uncertain or completely gut-wrenching, being in sweet fellowship with your significant other or spouse is so very necessary and precious.
Along the way, the enemy of our souls has targeted our marriage and tried to force a wedge between us, often using good aspects of our lives – our faith, our church, and even PreEngaged. We both believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and that repentance and faith in Christ is necessary for salvation and eternal life; but, we have argued over some of the finer points of our faith – and not always kindly.
If ever a random argument breaks out between us, it seems to be in the car driving to church on Sunday morning. We are doing something good! We are going to church! These fights do not happen sneaking in the back door of a sketchy club. The enemy targets us in our positive moments. He may not be able to keep us from church; but, if he can poison our minds on the way to church, chances are we will be too preoccupied to learn anything of value or encourage others while we are there.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8, ESV)
Our work with couples is good. We are thankful for our clients and it blesses my heart when people contact us and thank us for a blog post which impacted their lives. Because we are endeavoring to help couples get off to a solid start in their marriages, to glorify God, and to strengthen the marriage bond He created in Genesis, the enemy wants to deteriorate our marriage so our efforts are less effective. If there is segregation between our hearts, it affects our impact. If there is tension between us as we work, it weakens our ability to minister to couples. If we were to divorce, it would leave many of our couples in disbelief wondering if anything we taught them was true.
When we are not vigilant, we allow the enemy a foothold in our lives; and, the damage done when we yield to temptation not only harms us but ripples and affects those around us – probably more than we can understand.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV, emphasis mine)
Guard Your Intimacy
When hurt feelings, anger, or misunderstandings linger too long, it begins to chip away at your closeness; and, while a hug and a kiss may be all you need to make up at the beginning of your relationship, over time the hurts grow bigger and it takes more to mend fences. While your relationship is still new, start guarding against emotional erosion now.
- Clear the air – often. Though we do not recommend bringing up every tiny injustice, (e.g., tracking in mud, leaving the toilet seat up, etc.), we do strongly recommend that couples open up to each other often (maybe even daily) and say, “How’s your heart?” I love that question because it gets to the core of the matter.
- Determine now that you will develop a culture of honesty in your relationship. For some, it may be easier to lie in the short term; but, in the long term, those lies can wreck your life. If you are upset and your significant other says, “Is something wrong?” refuse to play the “I’m fine” game (and yes, it is a game). If the timing is poor, you can say, “I am a little bothered by something you said earlier, and I will discuss it with you as soon as the party is over.” Honesty leads to trust and trust in a relationship is essential for closeness.
- Take your moods to God and your anger to your husband. Eric and I had a professor in our undergraduate program who said this phrase one time and it stuck! (Note to men: this principle applies to you too!) We all have moods. Sometimes, we do not sleep well, we get hungry, our team loses, we receive an unexpected bill, or we feel grouchy because of a hangnail. When we feel our inner-lions roaring towards our sweethearts, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I angry with my partner or am I just in a mood?” If you conclude that your negative feelings are simply a mood, go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you with your mood and lighten your spirit. If you are angry towards your loved one, then confront the problem calmly and respectfully – and do not let the negative feelings linger.
- Pray together and for each other. At the beginning of relationships, we recommend couples refrain from praying together in an emotionally intimate way. When spiritual intimacy grows too quickly, it becomes more difficult to discern if the relationship is a good match (and it can also incite physical intimacy). However, you can pray for each other. Once you are on the road to matrimony, begin praying together daily on the phone, in a park, or somewhere you will not be likely to slip into temptation. When you are attracted to each other, even praying alone can set you on fire! ~smile~ Once you are married, pray together daily if not several times a day. It is difficult to go before the Lord in prayer when you are harboring anger in your hearts towards each other.
It is tempting to ignore your health when you are young. I will eat this terrible diet now and deal with the consequences later. Then the consequences end up being far worse than you could have imagined. In our early days, I made the same mistake with my marriage. It is not always convenient or emotionally “safe” to confront your significant other (especially when your lady or gentleman is as strong willed and quick-minded as Eric). Many times I have ignored issues and thought, “Maybe it will just go away” or “I will deal with it later.” But, by the time later gets here, the issue is far larger and more overwhelming than it ever needed to be.
If you do not maintain an open communication line with each other, your relationship will wilt. Sure, you may be able to keep up appearances for a while, but if your hearts are not connected, your oneness will suffocate. And, honestly, that does not always seem like such a big deal. At times I have thought, “Fine, we will just live this way. I will live my life, and he can live his.” But, when tragedy strikes or heartbreaking circumstances arise (as they have for us over the past few weeks), it is not enough to just live in the same house. We need each other. We need mutual support. We need hugs. We need someone with whom to cry and pray.
A few mornings ago before heading off to work, Eric hugged me and said, “I am so glad I have you by my side as we go through this difficult time.” Ditto, sweetheart. Now is the time to come together and guard our unity more than ever because Satan would love nothing more than to see us fall apart and take others down with us.
Now, while your relationship is fresh and new, take steps to guard your closeness because if you seek to honor God with your relationship, you will surely be a target for the adversary (Ephesians 6:10-20). But, you can also be encouraged because we know Who wins. God is in control.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)
Can you identify what robs you and your significant other of your unity?