Abuse of the marriage covenant

Here’s a great marriage vow:

“I will be with you, no matter what happens to us and between us.  If you should become blind tomorrow, I will be there.  If you achieve no success and attain no status in our society, I will be there.  When we argue and are angry, as we inevitably will, I will work to bring us together.  When we seem totally at odds and neither of us is having needs fulfilled, I will persist in trying to understand and in trying to restore our relationship.  When our marriage seems utterly sterile and going nowhere at all, I will believe that it can work and I will want it to work and I will do my part to make it work.  And when all is wonderful and we are happy, I will rejoice over our life together, and continue to strive to keep our relationship growing and strong.” ~~ Elizabeth Achtemeier

I don’t know how different it is from the usual “for better for worse, till death do us part” Church vow. But when we say the marriage vow in Church, we are literally saying our spouses are supposed to love us “no matter what” and always find us beautiful or handsome, no questions asked. Of course, that’s the essence of the marriage vow.

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But sometimes we take advantage of that binding agreement and just let ourselves go intentionally in so many ways. We go like, oh how great it feels that we’ve just signed a contract that binds the other person to us for their whole life and nothing, except sexual infidelity, can save their skin! Sweet! Now I can relax, for every bad action or inaction of mine as long as it is not infidelity, should technically be coped with, endured and at best forgiven. Per the vow or covenant we’ve just entered into, everything is allowed as long as it does not border on infidelity…Hurray!

I vowed to love you “no matter what” so now you are at liberty to take your looks for granted! You can now just let yourself eat all the junk foods ever made, grow fat and out of shape. Oh, he should just understand that I’m now a mother and childbirth, raising children, taking care of him and all that just makes many a woman get out of shape. She should just understand that the ever-increasing responsibilities, stressful nature of my job, late night eating and all that just makes many a man develop a pot belly. Just understand and accept it as it is…so I wouldn’t have to put in any effort.

The deed is done, you have now taken the “no matter what” vow, so you can now stop giving much attention to your physique and every other thing as you used to and just corner your partner with the “no matter what” attitude whenever he/she raises a concern. Just remind him/her of the “no matter what” vow they took so they can stop whining about things you feel you cannot change. You think that’s a really safe zone? How sweet!

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Well, these and many others are the sentiments/frustrations shared by many. Problem is too many people treat marriage as a place of arrival, acceptance and comfort; a kind of destination that they arrive at and then everything else in terms of effort stops. People don’t put as much effort into bettering themselves in marriage like they did in the dating phase. After all, if it’s Christian, it never should be broken on any other grounds, right? And then upon that, if you are a man, you are allowed to force your wife into subjection no matter all the ills you do, right? How sad. That’s how God wants it?

“It is so easy to take a spouse for granted, and to take intimacy for license. We can subconsciously think since we’re married, I don’t have to be careful to be polite. We have to love each other regardless, so I can just speak without thinking about how it is perceived” ~~ Shaunti Feldhahn

Right after marriage, many people begin to take so many things for granted. The problem is not the reality that the “no matter what” covenant marriage puts us in. The problem is to be a Christian yet hide consciously or unconsciously behind that and not put in any effort to better anything. I think that is a way of dishonoring your partner and your marriage and making God look stupid for instituting marriage and giving ground rules. Nothing must be taken for granted in marriage. Marriage (and all that comes with it) should not put an end to personal development. We must not pick up a habit of putting our spouses through the “no matter what” test, especially when it is something we can make the effort to change for the betterment of the union.

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The caution is that sometimes it becomes too late to salvage anything and we must not let ourselves get to that point. And I hope it is the Bible that said:

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”
~~ James 4:17

 

© Mark Gadogbe (McApple), 2017

Marriage & Personal Development Author

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Image source: www.federalna.ba

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Spousal criticism…

Everybody has their own ideas about love and how to show it in their relationships. These are things people have naturally grown up with and thus, a man who perhaps gets home late everyday bearing flowers or gifts has grown wired to the idea as the way love must be shown. So is another man who chooses to get home early so he can spend time with his wife, yet never going home with any gift. What should be more important however is not how you think love should be shown to your partner/spouse but rather learning and focusing on how the other person needs and wants to be loved. Most often it gets communicated but we often are not alert or really listening so unable to see or hear it.

Criticism in marriage has often carried an overly bad image but not all spousal criticisms are aimed at undermining or belittling a spouse or targeted at destroying their self-esteem. Many times, some are simply small pleads for love…in the way the other person wants or desires to be loved. They are like guidelines trying to show a spouse how to do things in a way the other person likes. Not all of them are unnecessary complaints but rather genuine expressions of concern over how things should play out. At least that’s how it often starts, until when the plea goes unheeded too many times, and then it begins to graduate into something unpleasant.

I like the way T.D. Jakes puts it in the lyrics of one of his songs:

“If you want to love me the way I need to be loved, you need to learn to love me from MY side”

See? Not from YOUR side but MY side…what means and communicates love to ME. I’m sure as both partners develop a mentality of focusing rather on the other person, both will have their love needs met better than trying to show love just how you understand it and risk being criticized for it. Then also, there won’t be room for too many “unnecessary” criticisms or if you like, too many pleas or outcries for love that become unpleasant in the ears because of it being heard too many times.

Most people express love to another based on their understanding of what means love to them and as long as God has created us different, male and female, we are sure to hold different views of love and the exercising thereof. And we are sure to have misunderstandings even over our partner’s acts of love just because that’s not how we would love to be loved. We just can’t relate to their way of love; we want what we can relate to.

The way we want to be loved is usually the way we express love to others. It takes time to learn how to love someone exactly the way they want and not just how we feel love is to be shown. That requires a lot of patience and attention to detail and a great deal of communication on what works and what doesn’t work for each other. Otherwise, we will always battle with the issue of many unpleasant criticisms because we would not yet know what works and what doesn’t, and we will keep not being able to satisfy their needs.

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“So you brought home your sheets and God knows you meant well. [But] You just can’t figure out, how did things still fail? Well, in the art of relationships, communication is the key. You both have different needs so understanding is a ministry. This time, start talking before you start giving so that you can see how much better a marriage is supposed to be”
–T.D. Jakes

T.D. Jakes again rightly captures it so well. And that’s a good foundation we must lay if we want to eliminate the unnecessary criticisms and experience ultimate joy and peace in our relationships and marriages.

Imagine the man who thinks bringing home gifts or flowers each day to the wife is what communicates love yet the wife receives it each day with smiles on her face but unfulfilled in her heart because deep down she wishes her husband knew what would have meant more to her than the flowers is he coming home early to share a lot more quality time with her. Over time, one wouldn’t need a magician to tell this could degenerate into something bigger and unmanageable when her constant pleas (imagine communicated) go unnoticed, misunderstood or taken for granted.

“We are trying hard, but we simply don’t know some of the things that matter most to our mate. We don’t “get” some of their deepest needs. We honestly don’t recognize their hidden vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities. So we are trying hard in the wrong areas. Or worse, we hurt them without intending to. So we get upset and demoralized that she doesn’t appreciate everything I do for her. Or he doesn’t care about me. We respond defensively, or out of our hurt – and the whole thing spirals down”
– Shaunti Feldhahn

So here’s the key. What works for you may not work for your spouse/partner, so begin to watch your partner closely to understand even what they are not verbally communicating but could mean so much to them. Those many complaints or grumbling expressions that worry you so much could merely be communicating a plea for love in a way you have closed your eyes on.

 

© Mark Gadogbe (McApple), 2017

Marriage & Personal Development Author