Please forgive the long post, but
I wonder if I’m not making things worse for myself by reading so much about marriage on the internet. We all know what opinions are like, and everybody has one.
For example, this was my morning scripture/devotional reading this morning…
January 31, 2014
Secrets of Happily Married Couples
By Shaunti Feldhahn
“If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)
My dear friend’s marriage was crumbling; her husband’s heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.
Despite my friend’s deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.
For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn’t deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn’t … he doesn’t.
Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn’t care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.
Have you ever believed someone didn’t like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?
There’s a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”
My research confirms this truth. I’ve spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?
Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person’s intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn’t completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.
And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I’ve anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don’t.
For most of us, “searching for good” when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!
Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren’t good. But in most cases, they don’t want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.
The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the “good” explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is “for” you.
Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it.
and then reading something else tonight…
Your partner may state they love you, but this is trick: remember that actions speak louder than words.
The cruelty of all:
I read many variants of the following: “Lack of intimacy with my partner makes me miserably unhappy, damages me psychologically and physically, I am desperate, I am going out of my mind, but I know my partner loves me in so many other ways, they are such a good person”. If spoken out loud this argument sounds insane. If you pause for a moment and think about it, you may uncover a substantial misalignment between what your partner says and how your partner behaves; there is often an incongruent intention-behaviour association. Your partner is using misdirection to confuse you and point you away from this brutal truth; they may love what they can attract in their life by being with you, but they do not love you.
For simplicity purposes lets translate the above to a hypothetical animal model. Imagine denying water to a dog (something obviously essential to its well-being), and taking pleasure in otherwise feeding, grooming and petting him, giving him rewards, showing him all kinds of niceties, while he is severely dehydrated and suffering. The animal will probably show loyalty to you to the very end. It will come to you for support, it will desire your company and closeness even more because it intuitively believes you can ease its pain. It will falsely believe you are kind to it while in reality you are slowly and consciously torturing it by depriving it of something you are fully aware it desperately needs and that is entirely in your power to provide. It will gladly die in your arms- the arms of its torturer- feeling cared for and loved.
Understand that the nicer, more caring, more intelligent, more charitable and a decent human being your partner is, the crueller their neglect and indifference to your pain is. If you have suffered in sexless marriage for any considerable amount of time, then the love you may feel for your partner may actually have converted to a form of traumatic bonding without you even realising it.
In an otherwise healthy relationship, namely in the absence of an underlying physical or psychological abnormality, the chances of reversing your partner’s indifference towards you are very small. You cannot make someone love you simply because you desire it. On the other hand if you are not desired you are not loved. Period.
If your partner does not love you, save yourself from years of misery and give additional considerations to strategies that will facilitate moving out your dysfunctional relationship and into a new, more rewarding one.