Tension in the home is generally felt by everyone under the roof, but sometimes one spouse will experience it much more acutely than another. Everyone experiences things differently, so it is not uncommon for spouses to have different perceptions of how things are going in the relationship.
If one spouse is expressing frustration in the relationship that the other spouse does not feel, it does not mean one person is wrong, but rather their experience of things is very different. It may be that we are just different people who don’t think the same and are not sensitive to the same things. Something that communicates love or insult to one person might not communicate love or insult to another. Another reason may be that we process differently--if a time of relative silence passes between spouses, for example, they may each read into that silence very different motives or meanings. Another reason might include different comfort levels with disagreement. A difference of opinion might not feel significant to one party, but to the other it feels like a glossing over of major conflict. In any case, we are out of tune with how our spouse is feeling, and are called to walk more closely together.
If one member of your marriage is unhappy, there are two needs to be addressed--the first is a call for the content spouse to show some attention and empathy, and the second is for the unhappy spouse to reflect on their own hearts as the source of the unhappiness. We want to be attentive to our spouse's feelings, but each of us bears the responsibility for our own feelings.
It should be your desire that your spouse feels loved and cared for in your marriage relationship. Take time to listen to your spouse's concerns and earnestly seek some resolution. To brush off their concerns because you don’t share them will only serve to widen the gap between you. You may not understand why your spouse is unhappy, but choose to seek understanding. Ask how you can come along side and show you understand your spouse's experience. God has made you one, so seek to bear that burden together. Don’t hesitate to involve a Christian counselor to mediate if you are having trouble. Counseling will help you discover what work you both need to do to assure that each party in your marriage feels loved.
No one makes us feel anything--our feelings come from our own hearts. We all have buttons that are easily pushed, and much of the time these buttons are sore spots we have carried a long time. If you are hurting, ask yourself why. What has been hooked in you in this situation, and how is it like past situations? Why do you feel this way when others don't? Sometimes new hurts are rehearsals of old hurts, reminders of past pain still in need of healing. Others can push our buttons, but they are our buttons--our spouses can walk along side us, but they can never solve these issues or heal old wounds. Only God is the Great Physician.
We are called to love one another with God’s sacrificial love as one flesh. Jesus instructs us in John 15:12 saying, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Listen for your spouse's heart, and reflect on your own. Seek to walk alongside your spouse, ready to help them bear their burdens. Laugh, weep, shout, and walk together, and do it always leaning on the strength of the Lord.
Rev. Deb Koster
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra