Saturday, July 30, 2016

Doing Good to Your Spouse Means You Might Lose Them

When Sara and I first started dating, there was a terrible revelation I had come to - doing good to her might mean I lose her.
Think about it.  Most of our self-protective styles of relating to each other comes down to one thing - we don't want to lose what we have.  People pleasing, controlling, or avoiding are three completely different ways of trying to keep what we have.  We are terrified to tell the truth to each other.  We are terrified to share our desires with our spouses for fear that it might drive them further away from us.  Better to please, control, or avoid in order to maintain the status quo.

I have an axiom when it comes to my relationship with Sara.  As much as possible, my desire is to tell her when I'm upset with her before I decide if I'm right or wrong.  I used to try to figure out if I was right or wrong in all my previous relationships, but this did the exact opposite of what I wanted - it further separated me from the other person.  In addition, trying to figure out if I'm right or wrong before I bring up an issue does a very strong disservice to my spouse - it disallows them to enter the process with me.  If I try to figure out whether or not I'm upset with Sara before I go to her with it, then I have essentially selected her out of the process.  If on the other hand, I go to her with what's been bothering me, letting go of the need to be right or wrong, then something glorious happens - we are able to connect in the middle of the conflict.  Entering into conflict, apart from trying to people please, control, or avoid, is one of the greatest ways to stimulate intimacy.  If two partners willingly practice entering conflict in order to meet each other at a deeper level, then they will traverse new dimensions of their relationship that was never thought possible.  The goal is never to prove who is right or who is wrong.  The goal is to meet each other intimately in the middle of the conflict, with an openness to being right or wrong, with an openness to moving through shame in order to endorse each of our God given personhoods.  On the other side of such movement towards each other is an intimacy that many have never thought possible.

This being said, raising what's bother us, raising our desires, and raising these things without the need to prove our points, risks our relationships with our spouses.  When I set a boundary, when I share my sin, or when I choose to bring up anything difficult, it risks losing our partner.  In this sense, we must decide that doing good to our partner might mean losing them.  This is one of the most difficult and tragic outcomes of such action.  To this end, our faith is crucial.  We must trust that God will walk with us wherever we go in our relationships.  The grief in such circumstances might almost be unbearable, but the potential for a deep, intimate connection with our spouse on the other side of the difficulties with doing good through honesty, vulnerability, truth seeking, and entering conflict is something that is unknown by many married couples.