Soul Care and Marital Conflict:
Actions that Bless Your Soul and Bless Your Spouse
Timothy Hibma, MSW, ACSW

People develop physically from infancy to adulthood in generally predictable ways. Not all people achieve emotional and spiritual maturity however. Many people deny the existence of soul that part of us that among other things can only be filled and satisfied with God. People who deny the existence of God and soul can only look to their thoughts and to their relationships with others for meaning and comfort. Mature Christians look to their relationship with and consciousness of the presence of God for the root and core of their identity and personal strength. One's relationships with people are of secondary importance in the Christian's self-definition.

Marriage is a gift from God. It is modeled after the wonderful fellowship that God experiences in the Trinity. Within the Trinity, we sense complete love, willful submission, precious value, and unique ability all intending to build up God and those who God loves. Would that all marriage partners had these Godly characteristics! What understanding, contentment and joy we would find together. The challenge we all face is "finding" God and practicing the presence of Jesus Christ.

Marriage is risky. God knows about risking rejection and disappointment in loving. Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 27:37). The only way that a marriage is going to stay healthy and loving is if two people continually and freely choose to keep their vows to each other. This is a tall order when most marriages are made up of broken and needy people. We often feel too needy for the strengths and qualities of others to be able to sufficiently self-soothe and be able to be in a continually giving posture with our spouse. We too often look to our spouse to make up for the emotional and physical deprivations of our past. We all need more resources than our spouse to meet our needs.

Our number one resource for identify, love, attention, grace, forgiveness, and strength is God. Many of us have studied God well. Knowledge is fine but what we really need is the immediate sense of the presence of God. This calls on us to bless our souls by sensing God through meditation, imagery, song, quietness, et cetera. Since God is invisible, we have to make him "visible" in ways that honor God and are meaningful to us. The writer of Psalms 91:4 states of God, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." We need to find our own substitutes for "feathers...wings...shield...rampart" to convey to ourselves God's attributes of comfort, protection, strength, presence, et cetera. Some of my patients have used the imagery of a dove to represent to them God's peace. They let the "dove" mystically enter their body and dwell within them. Some have used the imagery of being present in a lighthouse to represent to them the steadfast strength of God in the midst of life's pressures and conflicts. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 states, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

The second resource for our needs is the body of Christ - his people in the church. Lewis Smedes has written of the need married people have for support from others. He states on page 80 of his book Caring and Commitment, "We need to get inside a community of real people, honest people, who are willing to let us see how they struggled against the odds to keep their commitments. Who keep struggling because they keep hope alive together. And who keep hope alive because they keep on caring enough to want to be hopeful....The trick is to find a real community, not an insider's club. Not a group that makes believe it is a community just because everyone recites the same creed. But a community where people care enough to give each other permission to be strugglers, wounded strugglers, who are hanging on their commitments by their fingernails. A community that cares enough to permit people to fail helps people dare to reveal their own struggles, including their failures as well as successes." Congregations of all denominations need to develop and nurture "struggler's care groups."

If you bless your souls with the loving presence of God and others, you may have sufficient strength to be a true lover to your spouse. You will have sufficient inner strength from your beliefs to be able to be empathic to your spouse. You will be able to listen to your spouse's criticism of you with the intent of learning why what your spouse wants from you is important to him/her. You will be able to give your spouse understanding even if you may not be willing or able to give your spouse everything that he/she wants from you. These are the actions that bless your soul and refresh your spouse.

:: back ::