Fighting Against the Demise of a Marriage

For the last two weeks, I’ve posted blogs about aspects of our own sin that are dangerous in their ability to slowly wreak havoc on our marriages. In the first week’s post, I discussed the failure to consistently value the covenant relationship with your spouse above all other relationships. Last week, I pointed to the ways in which unforgiveness over the inevitable “small” sins we commit against each other can create a divide.

This is the third and final post on this topic, but rather than dissect another issue of potential demise, I want to turn and look at what I believe could be one helpful commitment to help husbands and wives avoid some of the common ways in which marriages become damaged.

As I’ve said before…I’m no marriage expert. I know there are many books on marriage that espouse their own solutions, and because people are so different, no one “helpful tool” is going to work for everyone. But for Warren and me, the key has been to ground our behavior in our marriage in what the Bible says about how we should behave toward each other. To that end, we have committed ourselves to the Biblical call to live in the light with each other; this is what we call “total transparency.”

Total transparency, to me, means that nothing is hidden from my husband. If a man attempts to flirt with me in the dairy section at HyVee, I tell my husband. If Warren gets a phone call or an e-mail from an old girlfriend, he doesn’t hide that contact from me. If someone speaks ill of one of us to the other, we first defend our spouse…and then we resolve to share that difficult conversation as well. (These things have all actually happened; don’t even ask how many ex-girlfriends contacted him in the first year of our marriage!)

Transparency also means that Warren has complete freedom to log in to my e-mail, check the call log on my cell phone or read the texts I receive, if he wanted to. I have that same access to all of his communications with the outside world.

Transparency is not just a commitment to run down the list of things that happened in our day; it also involves confessing sins that may only live in our thought lives, but which threaten our relationship with others. It involves sharing fears and frustrations toward each other in ways that are ideally confessional, not accusatory. It’s a transparency of thoughts and emotions, as well as deeds.

This level of transparency may seem over-the-top to you. It may seem as though we are attempting to control one another, or keep impossibly close tabs on one another. You might even consider this as a symptom of mistrust.

But interestingly, we have found the opposite to be true. A commitment to transparency ends up fostering a level of trust and confidence in each other that brings freedom and peace to the relationship. Note that I didn’t say we do log into each other’s e-mail accounts or make a daily review of the calls the other has made on their cell phones. I said we could – we’ve given each other unconditional permission to do so.

The goal of transparency is not to control each other, but to work together to protect ourselves from ourselves. By committing to live in the light (Ephesians 5:8-10), we are attempting to guard ourselves from our own desperately deceptive hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) which, unchecked, can talk us into hiding things from each other “for the good of the marriage.” Slowly, over time, hiding things from each other – even “little” things – moves us from living in the light to living in darkness, and this obviously does not protect the marriage; instead, it does just the opposite– it damages the marriage by slowly creating a divide, it destroys that sense of togetherness and of being on the same team. Ultimately, it’s living in the darkness, not transparency, that fosters mistrust. After all, if you are hiding thoughts and actions from your spouse, you wonder…what is he/she hiding from you?

We are all tempted to avoid the difficult conversations with our spouses that we fear will only make an uncomfortable situation worse. See if any of these examples ring a bell with you:

  • A family member says something derogatory about your spouse. Whether or not you defended him/her, you choose not to tell your spouse about this conversation, rationalizing that it will only breed more resentment toward your family – something there is already plenty of.
  • You spend time one evening surfing Facebook for people you went to high school with, some of whom are old girlfriends. Because you didn’t actually talk to any of them, you decide not to tell your wife what you learned.
  • Every time you and your husband argue, you feel this fear rise up in you that he is going to leave you. You keep this fear a secret from him, however, not wanting to appear weak, or perhaps fearing his response will only add to your insecurity.
  • When talking with your friends, you find yourself saying things about your spouse that, if you said them to her face, would hurt her. Calling this a “vent session,” you tell yourself that not sharing your frustration with her in the same way is the loving thing to do, as you’re protecting her feelings.

Conversations necessitated by situations like these are hard to have. It would certainly be easier to continue to hide those thoughts or events from our spouses and maintain the smooth path our lives are headed on for that particular day. Sometimes we avoid transparency because we don’t believe our spouses will respond in a grace-giving or even rational way. Perhaps there’s even evidence that your mistrust is well-founded, grounded in past experience.

Go back to the idea I mentioned earlier of your spouse having complete access to your e-mail account, or the ability to read every text you send. Did you balk at that idea? If so, why? What are you saying to others that you wouldn’t want your wife or husband to know? This desire for secrecy is a dangerous indicator that we don’t really want our spouses to know us as we really are.

I believe every time we choose to keep something in our lives and hearts out of the reach of our spouses, we are living in darkness. In the Gospel of John, the disciple calls the darkness evil John 3:19-21). If living in darkness is evil, that sounds like something I want to avoid!

In direct opposition to the evil of darkness, Jesus himself is light (John 1:4-5). God’s Word calls us to walk in the light as children of the light. We are called to live our entire lives transparently, glorifying God by renouncing the sin and darkness within, and walking in the light of Christ (1 John 1:5-8).

This call to walk in the fellowship of light with each other isn’t specific to our marriages, but I have to ask – as Christians, why wouldn’t we choose to begin living that out – first and foremost in that unique covenant relationship that God created as a picture of His love for and commitment to His church?

1 John 1:5-8
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Ephesians 5:1, 6-14

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

Therefore it says,?? “Awake, O sleeper,? and arise from the dead, ?and Christ will shine on you.”

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