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How to Process Pain in Your Marriage (Part 1)

What we decide to do with the pain we experience every day is critical. If we hold onto it and try to heal ourselves then bad things happen.

To quote Wesley from the classic movie, A Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness.

Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Now that may seem a bit harsh or an over-exaggeration, but there is also a lot of truth in that statement. Life is filled with sweet moments and joy, but it is also filled with lots of opportunities to experience pain.

Like many of you, or if we’re being honest, like ALL of you, we have experienced pain in our marriage. More specifically, we have experienced pain directly from our spouse. The person in our lives who is the closest to us. They sleep in our same bed, live in our home, eat with us, go lots of places with us, and on and on. No person is closer to you in life than your spouse.

Is it any wonder that they can cause you deep pain? Most of the time it’s unintentional, but when you’re struggling or even in crisis it can be intentional. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to handle the pain inflicted upon you by someone who promised NOT to do that?

As you might expect, there are two directions we can go to process our pain. One way is how God directs and guides us, and the other way is how the world, the flesh, and the enemy directs us. One way is more difficult, but carries the promise of blessing and healing. The other way is easier at first, but carries great consequences and even more pain later.

So let’s look at the way the world, the flesh, and the enemy encourages us to handle our pain. Fill in the blank ______ with a pain moment in your life related to your spouse. Like the other day, my wife had some expectations for me while our friends were over visiting. Not only did I not meet those expectations, which were in truth very reasonable I might add, but I went the opposite route. I did my own thing and worked on a pet-project even after she gently reminded me three times to stop. As you might imagine she was hurt by my actions. I caused her pain.

Here’s the wrong way to process that pain. Just like Adam and Eve so long ago, we think we can do things on our own apart from God. We believe the lie from the enemy that we can heal our own pain. So we will turn to a combination of three basic options to do that.

  • Something – an addiction is a non-relational way to meet relational needs.

  • Someone – trying to find intimacy before achieving a sense of wholeness on your own.

  • Self – trying hard enough to be liked an accepted.

A few examples of Something: Various addictions like technology/media, shopping, drugs or alcohol, sex or pornography, etc.

A few examples of Someone: Any relationship you seek outside your spouse for love, affection, or attention. This leads to emotional or physical affairs.

A few examples of Self: This shows up in things like gaining worth or value from performance, people-pleasing, co-dependent relationships, pursuing achievement and success at an unhealthy level, etc.

As you’ve most likely experienced, these three options will deliver temporary pain relief, but not lasting healing. Using these options will inevitably lead to things like pride, fear, anger, insecurity, a need for control, or isolation.

God warned us about this. In the 10 big commandments He tells us “Do not have other gods besides me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them.” Exodus 20:3-5a

Whether it’s something, someone, or self, they all fall into the category of a ‘Little god’. This is anything we exalt above God or trust in other than God to heal our hearts. In the end, they are deceptive, they don’t initially demand our worship so we don’t think we’re bowing to them, and they can provide immediate relief from your pain.

In our next article we will discuss option two, how to look to God for healing and comfort in our pain. For now, prayerfully consider the area in your life where you are pursuing temporary pain-relief. Pray and ask the Lord to show you what they are. Make a list and simply ask God to forgive you for following a ‘little god.’


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