Human being are dynamic creatures. Every one of us changes in response to situations and circumstances. It is part of how we were designed to adapt.
Particularly in response to relationships.
To some degree, all relationships challenge our perception of self as competent and worthy of approval. But marriage is unique in the depth of vulnerability and commitment.
Marriage will make very clear to you all the things you are clinging to for a sense of wholeness. Your spouse is the one who sees you with your guard down. It is your spouse who knows your struggles and weaknesses.
Knowing your struggles and weaknesses and brokenness, it is your spouse that carries with them the potential to hurt you more than anyone else.
Similarly, anything you do that disappoints or hurts as your brokenness interacts with your spouse’s gets reflected back to you by our their reactions.
It is in that way that we get almost constant feedback about our adequacy. Because of that, the marital relationship is a reminder that you are not as perfect as you think you are. Hence the reason for God’s desire that those who are married to not separate (Mark 10:9). It is not a curse, but rather a blessing so that you do not miss potential for growth.
There tends to be two typical responses:
- Change for self-protection.
This can take many forms. Some people attempt to become exactly what their spouse wants in an effort to earn approval and love. For me, this was a way of life for a long time, until I burned out from trying so hard.
Others develop coping strategies that limit how much they have to reveal of themselves. Maybe it is a focus on the kids, or work, or things to do around the house. Any way to avoid having to interact with a significant other. These strategies are a wall that prevent intimacy.
When these things get difficult to maintain, it may be judged to be time to find a new relationship that will work better. Only problem, you will carry your brokenness to the next relationship too. I’ve tried this strategy as well.
Changes for self-protection cover fear, insecurity and a need to maintain control. They are a response to core lies; the false narrative we tell ourselves about who we are and what we mean in the world.
In any case, this is a person that does not want to examine the root of their own behavior and expectations. They expect others to carry the burden of sustaining their identity for them.
Living in self-protection will result in growing distance, anger and resentment in the marital relationship from both spouses.
- Change for growth.
Until you understand your own motivations, brokenness, and tendencies, it is both difficult to love someone selflessly and allow yourself to be loved.
Changing for growth seeks to understand what is at the root of fear, insecurity and control so that the truth of the gospel can be substituted for the lies.
It requires rooting an identity in Christ so that instead of shame, feelings of inadequacy can be met with compassion. This is a much more difficult path to walk in relationship.
What reflection of yourself does your closest relationship provide?
How do you respond?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.