Is Your Marriage a Rolex Look-Alike?
Fred Antonelli, Ph.D., LPCMH

With every new morning Lisa hopes, “Maybe this will be the day that he’ll recognize my feelings and consider what I see to be the issues that are putting distance between us.” My mind races as I reflect on how he considers other people’s opinions and needs but seems to invalidate mine. “Lord, help me with my resentment and feelings of insecurity and anger. God, please do something!”

These are raw feelings that often come out in my office while counseling marital couples. As Christians, we would naturally think that if Christ were placed in the center of this couple’s lives, then the ability to identify and communicate their issues would be much easier. But these comments do come from Christian couples, even couples who are in the ministry. How does a husband and wife stay spiritually, emotionally, and passionately connected in a relationship where the electricity seems to be shutting down little by little? Here are a few pointers that may help.

Genuineness
Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s a great Rolex look-alike, looks like the real thing, doesn’t it?” Yea, maybe, but it’s not “the real (genuine) thing!” Too many Christians have weakened their partnership and, consequently, allowed the enemy to rob them of the rich spiritual (genuine) character that God intended for a marital union. A key to experiencing a genuine, real and trustworthy marital partnership is to not base the relationship on merely what “I can get out of it” to meet my needs and desires. Rather, what is it that I am “depositing into it” that would help make the union genuine, real and trustworthy! The number one crucial factor in allowing this to take place is understanding that my relationship with my wife/husband hinges on my relationship with Christ! If my relationship with Christ is not honest and meaningful, then I won’t be able to provide the second crucial ingredient that successfully sustains a marital relationship, the ability to provide an atmosphere of both security and significance! Where these four factors exist – genuineness, an intimate relationship with Christ, security and significance, the marital partnership becomes limitless in its ability to connect the spiritual, emotional and passionate needs of the other.

Taking Personal Ownership
One of the paramount reasons for ongoing misunderstandings and frustrations in the marital relationship is not taking personal ownership (responsibility) for “my part” in the misunderstandings and frustrations. If neither realize that by not asking the Lord, “to what degree am I responsible for the dissension that my spouse feels toward me,” then only continued distance will be the result. Guess what God was looking for in Genesis 3:11 when He asked Adam, “have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” You’ve got it, “personal ownership!” In classic form, Adam in verse twelve passed the buck (transferred responsibility), “The woman gave me from the tree and I ate.” Eve figured “if he can do it so can I,” so she passed the blame on to the serpent, “He deceived me and I ate.” From that time to this, nothing has really changed! By taking personal ownership on “my part” of what my spouse perceived of me will then lay the ground work for the Holy Spirit to take us on a journey that will eventually lead to the (cause) of just why we tend to transfer our actions and responses to one another rather than want to own up to them. This process is normally walked through with a clinical “Christian” therapist or pastor who is trained to identify certain obstacles that obstruct us from taking on that personal ownership. If we don’t face this challenge in our marital union, then it will eventually lead to distance between the partnership, which will lead to resentment, which will lead to the ultimate killer, emotional abandonment! It’s in the stage of emotional abandonment when most couples experience either affairs, divorce or both! When “personal ownership” is not addressed, the eventual outcome is needs unmet. It is here where the enemy begins to lay his insidious trap for marital destruction.

Symptoms/Cause
“Dean communicates through screaming and yelling at me! When I try to express my opinion, he turns everything I say around and I become confused and frustrated! It’s like he always has to be right!” One would think that Dean’s problem is that he screams, yells and manipulates in order to intimidate and get his way. Actually, that’s not Dean’s problem at all, that’s merely “symptoms” of a much deeper cause that is controlling Dean’s behavior. It’s possible that his root cause is pent-up anger that he carries toward his father as a result of the way Dean witnessed his father verbally abuse his mother. Consequently, for Dean to see the need to …

  1. find out just where his anger is coming from,
  2. want to journey with the Holy Spirit through the ways his anger has been personally and martially destructive, and
  3. allow Christ to walk him through the stages of forgiveness (forgiving his father) … will directly address “the cause” of Dean’s anger, thus greatly reducing or eliminating the “symptoms.”

Jesus vividly points out to us a case of symptoms/cause with the rich young ruler, in Matthew 19:16-24. Symptoms: a desire for eternal life, while at the same time having a rigidity to the Law … living a life of works and wanting another “good thing” to do in order to attain that eternal life and finally, possessing a pride and self-righteousness that he was unaware of. Cause: an unwillingness to exchange his earthly riches (“… the love of money…” 1 Timothy 6:10) for a heavenly treasure. The good news is, if we decide to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the cause of the issue that is infecting the marital relationship, the damaging symptoms will dissipate as a result of the ongoing healing power of Christ!

Dr. Willard Harley, author of the popular book, His Needs, Her Needs, made a powerful statement concerning the marital union: “Successful marriages require skill-skill in caring for the one you promised to cherish throughout life.”(1) I would only add that in order to connect the spiritual, emotional and passionate needs of the marital partnership, we must be open to both acknowledge “our own” inborn self-centeredness and then be willing to walk that out through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is just a Rolex look-alike.

1. Willard F. Harley, Jr.: His Needs, Her Needs (Grand Rapids, MI, 1986), pg 16

From: The Elim Herald. August, 2003

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