Spouses in destructive marriages are often accused of having an aversion to marriage conflict.
They are told to develop relationship muscles to help them address and solve relationship problems.
“Everyone says something they don’t mean. Everyone forgets sometimes. Come on, he’s begging for forgiveness” is said to the wife, who confesses she no longer trusts her husband, who has a history of lying and saying he’s sorry.
“But my husband did the same thing when we were newlyweds. We went for marriage counseling, I forgave him, he changed, and we’re stronger than ever. Some men just have a hard time disentangling from their ex but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. He chose you over her, didn’t he? Focus on that; it’s going to be okay” is said to the heartbroken newlywed wife who has discovered her husband’s secret ongoing friendship with an ex-girlfriend.
Averse to Marriage Conflict: Projecting Virtue
Christians love to project virtue onto other marriages – The unwavering belief that all Christian spouses are decent human beings who will sometimes need support or strategy to get over a hump.
Even where severe issues are at play, people who project virtue nurture an everlasting hope that perpetrators will most definitely turn around and everything will be fine…with just the right amount of prayer, grace and hand-holding by their spouse.
It’s an alien concept to many that
- someone can call themself “Christian” and be wicked and immoral.
- the errant behaviors already witnessed are the veneer cracking.
- no amount of hand-holding, prayers and grace can change people who don’t want to change.
Here’s the truth. Spouses in harmful marriages would have relished “normal” marriage problems.
They would have loved it if all their issues were around dirty clothes on the floor, missed dinners, and the 4 Christmas trees. They’d have liked spirited dialogue about his mom, date nights, home routines, different parenting styles, irritating personality quirks. They’d have given anything to make progress on individual past trauma, and it’s impact on the relationship.
When “virtue projectors” passed through their devastated lives, they would have loved it if those simplistic solutions actually worked.
“Not make a big deal about the fact he just bought his boss an expensive watch with money we don’t have and hid it from me? Ignore that the purchase actually sits at the bottom of the financial and emotional improprieties he’s committed this year alone? So just ignore all that and just love on him and pray for him and believe in him and all my doings will change him? Wow. Give me more of that miracle water, please.”
Not a single wounded spouse would hate it if simplistic solutions actually worked. They’ve been through enough and relief would be welcome.
But they know the truth. It’s time Christians got on board with it too.
Averse to Marriage Conflict: What Christians Need to Accept
Christians need to understand, that for many, the unrepentant destructive behavior wasn’t even the hardest part. The hardest part was the unwillingness of a partner to address and change the harmful patterns.
The devastating part was realizing they were alone, that their spouse did not value them or what they shared enough to work on themselves and the relationship. The sadness that their spouse did not even love themselves enough to reflect, take responsibility and heal.
Spouses who escaped dangerous marriages held marriage in high regard. They were ready to support and fight alongside their spouse. And many did: they put their lives, bodies, and souls on the line.
But they didn’t win. Because the fight wasn’t theirs to begin with.
So they got (or were given) life-saving divorces. Not because they “couldn’t handle the heat” of regular growth-related issues between two honoring spouses. But they grew to understand whose fight it was – where they ended and where their spouse began.
They escaped because they accepted you couldn’t support someone who was checked out of their own life. They exited because it was the only real option left on the table: to consider the impacts and toll of the chronic hardheartedness on themselves and their children. They had to fight the fight no one could fight for them—the battle for their own lives.
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