Recently I walked out to our patio and started flailing my arms uncontrollably. I’m sure I looked like a fool. Why? Two words: spider web. As I stepped outside I felt that familiar, sticky feeling all over my arms and face. It’s just the worst.
In about 1.2 seconds I transitioned from a calm, collected, fully grown man into full-on, no-dignity, nearly-falling-on-the-ground panic monster. All of my childhood fears flooded back in a torrent of hysterical juking and jiving, kicking and chopping, all in hopes of finding (and squishing) one perpetrator: the spider.
I had flashbacks of Frodo in the caves leading to Mordor; except this time it was me entangled helplessly in Shelob’s web…and soon my epic quest would come to an abrupt and anti-climactic end.
You may know the feeling…You don’t know where the spider is, but you know without a doubt that it’s there somewhere. He could be in your hair, down the back of your shirt, or worse, crawling around on your skin… just waiting to sink his little spidery fangs into your unsuspecting dermis.
I never did find that spider, and for all I know he’s still lurking nearby. I guess it’s time to call the Orkin man.
Or maybe I’ll just stay inside… forever.
What does this have to do with marriage?
Problems in marriage present themselves like spiders sometimes. You feel their effects – their webs – but you can’t always pinpoint the cause. You feel like something’s wrong, but you don’t know the source of the problem. Some examples:
- Your communication just feels off; every conversation ends in an argument.
- Your sex-life has diminished or is nonexistent.
- You feel like your trust is fading and you’re not sure how to rebuild it.
- Maybe you feel indifferent toward each other; you don’t know why, but you just do.
Almost every married couple has faced or will face issues like these in their union. The thing is, they’re usually just symptoms of a greater problem.
Getting to the core
Where do these surface issues originate? What’s at the root?
More importantly, how do we face these issues and get through them in a biblical, constructive way? How do we keep from being overwhelmed, harmed, and eventually totally defeated by our marital struggles? How do we keep our covenant strong when we feel so weak?
While we can’t possibly diagnose every marital issue you or another reader may be experiencing, Selena and I have learned a few “honesty rules” that may help you find it’s root cause.
The opportunity to love is greatest when honesty abounds and nothing is hidden. Honesty (i.e. confessing sin to your spouse) can be difficult at first, but it’s uniquely liberating once established in your marriage.
I urge you to fight hard for an honest marriage. But building an honest marriage requires some ground rules.
Here are three.
Ground Rule #1: Never Lie
Selena and I have a rule: she can ask me anything and I’ll never lie. It sounds simple, but how many times do we downplay our sin so it doesn’t sound as bad as it really is? How often to we explain it away? I’m far from perfect on this, but it’s done wonders for her trust and my accountability. I find it relieving, actually.
The same goes for my close guy friends. AMA = Ask Me Anything. At any given moment I could get a text or a call from one of my guy friends and BOOM, honesty time.
Garbage in, garbage out. If you lie, everything breaks down. You must always be honest if you want to live in a marriage that is based on trust.
Ground Rule #2: Always Love
Neither of you will want to confess when you’ve made a mistake if you think you’re going to get beat up for it. Authentic accountability requires unrelenting love. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said the following in Luke 17:3-4:
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
We don’t repent just have it thrown in our faces; that’s humiliation. Confessing sin always requires humility, but never humiliation. This is Christ’s example throughout the New Testament. Jesus knows we’re sinners and he still loves us. As his ambassadors and followers, we’re called to extend the same grace he’s shown us.
Caveat: sin breaks things and causes pain. Forgiveness is often just the first step, but if there’s legitimate hurt because of sin, it’s vitally important that you get to the core issues, seek reconciliation, and start rebuilding trust. This may mean you go to counseling, seek pastoral care, or pursue reconciliation by some other means. The important thing is that you deal with the junk. Don’t keep it hidden.
Ground Rule #3: Remove Triggers
This one’s about being honest with yourself.
I have a close friend who is a recovering alcoholic. He knows that if he parks in the lot at a liquor store, he’s already in trouble. He can’t go anywhere near the stuff without being drawn in. The same goes with any addiction or recurring sin.
- Guys, if porn is a big issue for you and you always struggle when you’re alone at home, time to kill the internet connection.
- If spending is a big problem for you, time to cut up the credit cards.
- If you’re a habitual liar and you’re online accounts (Facebook, etc) are causing problems, time to give up the passwords and add some transparency (or, get rid of the accounts altogether).
All of the above may seem extreme, but addictions are no joke and sin’s even more serious. If you’re honestly struggling with something and don’t trust your own self-control, it’s probably time to remove triggers from the equation entirely.
We’ve written a ton on transparency, here are some articles I hope you find helpful:
- 4 Surprising Facets of Transparency in Marriage
- Slivers, Secrets, and Shame: Why Transparency in Marriage is an Absolute Must
- The “Phone Drop Test” Every Couple Should Consider
- 6 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage
- Fight Sexual Addiction Like a Man
- Is Your Facebook Life a Wedge in Your Marriage?
- Flat Tire Integrity
The spider. As I flailed about on our patio wildly, I would’ve given anything to find that stupid spider. Webs by themselves aren’t scary, but when they’re attached to a (presumably huge) insect, that’s another story.
Learn to detect the “webs” in your marriage by creating a culture of honesty between you and your spouse. Once you do, you can work through real-life issues in real-time instead of waiting until they eventually poison your marriage.
The result? A thriving, transparent, intimate, and honest marriage that, with God’s grace, will last an entire lifetime.