How Relationships Work Part Four

Marriage relationships are strained by choices which people make or situations which people allow to operate to the harm of the union. In part three of this series we looked at how a person’s automatic ‘reactions’ are a big problem.

When someone presses our buttons we can shift into automatic mode and say and do things which are not good for the relationship, because we cannot control our reactions.

Making Demands

Relationships are also strained by the demands made by one or both of the spouses. Demands can be made overtly or almost subliminally, but still bring great pressure onto a marriage relationship.

When people don’t fit in with our hopes or expectations, or our perceived needs and wishes, we can easily look for ways to make demands on that person. I have seen it done very openly and boldly at times, to the point of public argument and putting on a ‘scene’ (as we call it). Yet I have had others seek help to deal with the insidious demands made on them by a manipulating spouse, even though no-one would ever suspect.

Making demands on our spouse is potentially a form of abuse. This is especially true if the demands spring from selfishness and wilfulness, rather than from a genuine concern for the good of others.

Idol or Idolater

Some people make demands on their spouse because they actually have an idol in their heart.

They may have thought at some time in the past that having a husband or wife would solve some of their personal pain and inner needs. By coming to that conclusion they have made their spouse into an idol.

When a person has made their spouse into an idol, expecting them to bring important blessing into their life, then they are likely to make extra demands on their spouse. They will have heightened expectations and be hurt and disappointed if the spouse does not fulfil their hopes.

Being an idol to your spouse is a tough role, since you are not God and will certainly fail them. Making an idol of your spouse sets you up for bitter disappointment, because they are just as human as you are and they will never be able to do in your life what you need God to do for you.

Disengaging Authority

It is possible in a marriage for a couple to disengage the correct authority structure which God has given them. When this happens the relationship gets tangled up and the couple are unable to resolve some of the tensions and problems which are created.

Authority is a divine mandate, so when it is violated in a relationship the union is damaged.

When a wife takes matters into her own hands she is violating her place of submission to her husband. When a husband turns off to the problems and needs he is violating his place of responsibility for his wife and family.

Authority in the home is clearly prescribed in the Bible and it does not work as well any other way. While there are many dysfunctional homes in which the authority structure is totally mangled, there is still no better way to run a home than according to God’s authority hierarchy. That hierarchy puts God at the top, Christ next, then the husband, then the wife, and then the children. Parents have authority over their children. Husbands have authority over their wife. Men must be under God’s authority.

Often in today’s Western relationships there is an agreement to share responsibility. This comes from the feminisation of our culture. Men have become ‘snags’ (sensitive new-age guys) and women have become assertive. But today’s Western preference does not discharge reality. Do not disengage the authority which God established in the home.

Diffusion Strategies

When a couple or family is given to arguments and upsets they need effective strategies to diffuse the tensions that otherwise emerge.

A key to effective diffusion strategies is to acknowledge godly authority in the home. God requires the husband to be the head of his wife and the children to submit to their parents. A wise and godly husband should recognise when tensions are developing, even if he created them, and he should employ godly diffusion strategies to protect the marriage and family.

A simple strategy is to acknowledge that tensions are mounting and feelings have become aroused. He can then insist that the matter be stopped immediately. If the issue is important, such as someone being offended, or some similar issue needing to be resolved, the father needs to determine the time and place when the matter can be followed up, without the current elevated emotions. He may dictate, “We will all have a fair say on this matter after dinner tonight, but I don’t want to hear another word about it until then”. Note, he must follow through on such arrangements, or he will be despised in his home.

He might diffuse a situation by referring the matter to God. “We’ve all had our say and we all know where we stand on this matter. I can’t see any happy way to resolve our differences, so we are going to all pray together about this and give the problem to God. We will then expect Him to bring us His wisdom in the coming week.”

Diffusion strategies are not designed to remove the problems or to bring the much needed healing. What they achieve is putting the brakes on run-away emotions and escalated tensions which will only lead to argument and further hurts.

Working Relationship

In a working relationship each person is a mature, responsible person, living in the fear of God. They are human so they will make mistakes, tend to selfishness and create problems in their relationships. However, they will be humble enough to admit that something is wrong, identify and rectify their fault, take appropriate responsibility for themselves and others and work proactively and constructively toward a godly solution.

The Relationships Series of Articles ….
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:

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