The Hidden Danger in Many Christian Marriage Books

Relationship Design

dangerI realize I’m treading on sacred ground with this post, but I believe it is ground that must be treaded.
There are several popular and helpful works in the Christian marriage-help book world, The Five Love Languages, His Needs Her Needs, Love and Respect, The Love Dare to name a few of the major players.
While each of these works has offered up help and support, and possibly even hope to thousands of people throughout the world – there’s an undercurrent found within the pages that may actually be causing more harm than help.
While I want to believe that this undercurrent may not be intended by the authors (at least a couple of them) – the way the message is interpreted and applied to relationships doesn’t address the larger issue that plagues far too many marriages. Although it is worth noting that this larger issue isn’t something that can be solved … only understood and experienced.
While we’re on the subject, marriage isn’t something to be solved either.
It seems that the marriage-help world tries to treat marriage as a problem to be solved.
There are problems in marriage, absolutely. But marriage itself is not the problem. There isn’t a solution for marriage. Marriage is meant to be experienced, survived, frustrated by, enjoyed, savored, fought for, and won or lost by everyone who ventures into it’s waters. It’s a fact of the union.
Marriage is not meant to be solved – it is to be chosen. And this choice is just a much a choice on day 5,548 as it is day 1.
So what is this undercurrent that I see in most of the marriage-help books in the Christian arena?
The premise of the approaches subtly (or even overtly) promote fusion. Or to use a less psychobabblish term – codependency – quid pro quo – tit for tat – give to get – score boarding – or perhaps flat out manipulation.
I will concede that the framework suggested in most of the works do a good job in providing a “language” to use to help address the differences between husband and wife. It is a better path forward to understand that love according to my self is best shown through service or giving of gifts more than the amount of quality time spent with my mate. However, when my language isn’t reciprocated, or it is flat out denied, everything gets stirred up on a much deeper level.
And it’s this level where the works fall flat.
They offer a bandaid, but they don’t fully address the wound.
Or more aptly put – the source of the wound.
It is here that we often get bogged down and begin to think there’s something going wrong with marriage – thus, something that needs to be solved.
But what if what most often happens in married life is actually normal?
Living life with another flawed human is fraught with danger. Disappointment. Frustration. Pain.
What happens when you master the skill of speaking your spouse’s love language yet they still seem to be in pre-K with yours? Or when you took the dare and your spouse says challenge non-accepted? Or you recognize your needs yet your spouse solely focus on their own? Or you show your husband respect yet he seems clueless when it comes to love?
The problem is we too often seek to feel better about ourselves through our reflection from others. While a reflected sense of self is how we develop and mature – it only gets us so far until we face the problem of trying to figure out how to manipulate the reflection to get it to display what we want it to show. Yet, married life has a sophisticated way of revealing ourselves and who we truly are – while at the same time offering us the opportunity to refine ourselves into a far deeper and better version of our self!
Regardless of the bandaids that are offered in the marriage help world (and I’m guilty of offering them as well) – marriage problems are meant to happen. I believe God expressly created and mandated the institution of marriage so that such a relationship could mature us into better humans.
Conflict in marriage is not something to be solved. It is meant to be lived through. Or even meant to be simply survived at times. But marriage is not a mystery that has a solution. It’s a relationship that offers a process!
It is self-development bootcamp. Bandaids will be necessary along the way. But they aren’t going to offer healing.
Marriage creates scars.
So how do you begin to see these scars as something that can be a source of pride? Something that makes us solid? Authentic? Real?
Or as Alessia Cara says … Scars to your beautiful?