Are my relationship problems normal? Countless women want to know.
Many women believe they are having normal marriage problems when they are not.
You see, we were spiritually and culturally discipled to accept immaturity, pride, and negative, chronic, and unrepentant behavior as “common issues” in a relationship.
As women of faith, we were trained to love our husbands no matter what.
To “respect them as the leaders of our home.” To “understand the weight of responsibility on their shoulders” and thus “lessen that burden by not adding our many needs” to “their full plate.”
We were taught men need unconditional respect, and we need love.
We were set up to believe that every problem we experience in marriage is something a couple needs to work on. Or something that can be fixed by more giving, more sacrificing, more prayer, more submission, more sex.
We were not taught to discern individual problems because, well, it was always about saving the marriage and loving that man no matter what.
We were told that ALL marriage problems are something the couple needs to work on. (Funny though, because we often bore the emotional/connection load.)
Are My Relationship Problems Normal?
Here’s the truth that many women need to know. Some relationship problems classified as “normal” are not normal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 27% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years who have ever been in a relationship have been sexually or physically abused.
27% percent. These estimates do not include emotional, financial, psychological, social, cultural, and other forms of abuse.
So here’s what women need to know. It’s not a “normal marriage problem” if:
1. Your thoughts, feelings, and opinions don’t matter as much as his.
2. You’re made to feel guilty for having a different opinion. Or just having a brain.
3. You feel your spouse is happiest or your marriage is “most peaceful” when you’re least yourself.
4. Your spouse doesn’t want you to talk to someone else about your problems.
5. Your recollection of events is constantly questioned, edited or dismissed.
6. You feel like he’s playing games with you. He was mature enough to get married but acts surprised, with deer-in-headlights-moments when simple basic responsibilities of marriage come up.
7. Your relationship is “mostly great” but it has bouts of rage or long simmering anger—huge emotional reactions to small events. He’s “a great guy” most of the time, but he has a devastating side you can’t wrap your soul around.
8. Theologically, he believes you were made to serve him (and he wasn’t.) That he deserves respect, based on his gender. All problems are to be addressed from that “understanding.”
9. He sulks and withdraws when you try to address issues. The sun comes out a few days later – he’s happy and “loving” – but before long, he’s irritated by something else, and you’re back to the bottom of the roller coaster.
10. You feel pressured to project the image of a good marriage, regardless of how you feel. Looking happy is more important than being happy.
11. Addictions like sex, gambling, substance abuse e.t.c are devouring your relationship.
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Now, I am not a therapist.
But as a marriage coach, I’ve seen women take these crazy rides and their community stood by and told them it was a normal day in marriage.
As someone committed to learning about and shining a light on destructive behavior in relationships, I’ve heard from hundreds of women who did life from those dizzying railroad tracks.
Working harder on themselves, trying to appease their spouses, making themselves smaller and smaller in the hope of pleasing someone who never got pleased until they get their way.
Dear friend, I want you to weigh the “normalcy” of your problems.
You can’t be dealing with the same immaturity, same pride, same hardheartedness, same zero accountability straight non-stop f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
That is not the way of Christ. That’s not a healthy marriage.
Marriage is meant to add our lives, not bleed us to death. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone..” Genesis 2:18. That text tells of the GOOD God had in mind for the married individual.
Anyone who tells you to accept immaturity, pride, neglect, toxicity or abuse in its different forms (the highlighted link leads to your free copy of all 13 patterns of abusive behavior, to help you pierce the fog and find clarity) as “normal things couples have to put up with” is blind, an abuser or allied to abusers.
The Bible (the whole of it, not just a few select verses on marriage) is clear.
“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:6-10 NIV
When we say we love God and then continue in unrepentant sin, we are not God’s children. Let that sink in. “Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child..”
Whose are they then?
Glad you asked “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.“
Yeah. They are of the devil.
In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, He records Jesus’s words: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”.. “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46, 49
It is not enough to call Jesus “Lord.” Doing what He says is the mark of a true believer.
“But Healthy Marriages Have Problems Too!“
Indeed, even healthy marriages are sanctifying. Healthy couples can have soaring conflict, or stressful seasons of profound grief.
Well-adjusted spouses can also make each other feel small and unheard. Pride, immaturity, and lack of understanding can cause deep hurt. Past trauma can throw a wrench in a relationship.
The difference is patterns.
So think about it. If you were to look back and write down the the stories of your conflict/problems, would it be the same story, same patterns, repeated over different areas of your relationship?
(I encourage you to actually do this exercise if you think it would be helpful.)
If you’re asking “are my relationship problems normal?” and as far as growth and change in concerned, is there a sense of responsibility by the problematic spouse? Do they own up without blame, deflection, or minimizing?
Are boundaries honored? Is there genuine repentance? Are we seeing real change, real growth or is it a crazy ride, up one day and down the next?
Is your spouse committed to change, and even more important, is there consistent fruit? Overall, do you feel safe? Heard? Seen? Are you thriving or surviving/dying?
If this blog post stirs something in your soul (or you know someone who might benefit – please share with them), I want you to know you’re not alone. Please talk to a therapist trained in abuse and trauma.
You can also start with these safe places. These incredible women have support groups for women going through what you’re going through:
It’s time to re-disciple yourself, discern the crazy and embrace wholeness in Christ. You’re not alone.
Unholy Fruit: Guide to Discerning Toxic Character Workshop
Are you in a chronically problematic marriage? Or perhaps you know someone who is and you desire to support them.
In this Workshop and Checklist (affiliate link), Coach Sarah McDugal empowers your ability to discern the Fruit of an UNholy spirit. If you have felt confused by the dissonance between someone’s pious words and their exploitative actions, this workshop offers clarity and some possible next steps in your healing journey.