THE defences are down. In marriage we do not seek to protect ourselves from our partner, nor are we constantly looking over our shoulder or eyeing each other suspiciously. We are at one and have surrendered to each other in trust and mutual delight. Neither of us is perfect and on occasion we will unintentionally hurt our most precious human friend and companion. Thoughtlessness, lack of sensitivity, selfishness or forgetfulness will cause damage, the extent of which we may be unaware and, almost certainly, not readily able to assess. If our spouse is open and ready of expression, we will learn right away what has gone wrong and be able to explain and put right, and probably to apologise.

If we have caused hurt before or if the hurt is deep and serious, the process of restoration and healing will take longer. Humility, a willingness to listen and to speak, and prayer, will help a great deal. If our spouse is less communicative, the hurt may lie unhealed and may cause unusual distancing of one partner from another. This is a danger signal and it is best to close the gap early by one means or another—for example, by a direct question in a warm and concerned way by the offender—“Please, tell me what has gone wrong. I want to help”.

Take Care!

Words are spoken thoughts but can easily become weapons. Then we have to deal with consequences. Don’t try to make excuses for yourself and certainly do not make things worse by firing a second salvo when you are called to account. Apply balm and healing as soon as possible. Quarrels and severe altercations can result in estrangement and protracted pain for both parties. Apologies, prayer and tenderness are far better than drawing battle lines—‘Sorry! let’s start all over again.’

‘For Real’

But sometimes there is physical violence by one party or the other. Sometimes the violence is repeated. It is a disgraceful thing to use violence against one’s partner, especially by the man against the woman, though it is sometimes the other way round. In cases of repeated violence, it is not at all uncommon for the injured person to suffer in silence or to succumb to fear because of the threatening behaviour of the offender, particularly if the offender is not in the Truth. This is an age of violence which is often portrayed on TV and video programmes. Loud voices and shouting as a normal means of communication are assaults by words which can lead to physical expressions of the same kind. Victims may think that these things are ‘normal’ and simply have to be tolerated. This is not so. Help is needed—for both parties—and it is best for the injured person to find a strong, confidential and compassionate couple in whom to confide. Pray about it first and then confide. God will ensure that help will be forthcoming.

If you are the offender, don’t excuse yourself, but take the Christlike path. “He did no violence”. And, he knows when we are violent and we shall be called to account in due course. If you find it difficult to control yourself, whether provoked or not, you need help. Start by abandoning media programmes, books, magazines and habits by which you are aroused or ‘educated’. Get on your knees and pray. Open your Bible and read as though it was for your life—which it is. Take a reliable brother into your confidence and tell him everything, and listen to what he has to say.

Surely, Not Now!

If it did not happen, it would be unthinkable. Yet, in the most intimate and loving association created by God for our comfort and joy, violence is not unknown. This is humiliating and degrading to the one who is hurt, and shameful in the one who causes it. As Paul would say, “Brethren, these things ought not to be”. If you are being hurt in this way, then seek help and do not simply accept such treatment as something to be endured. Should you be the offender, you need warning and repentance, and spiritual help from someone who is reliable and helpful, and maybe, some professional treatment or guidance. Eternal life does not come by such behaviour.

Sometimes there is physical or sexual abuse by a parent or other adult. This is serious and needs to be dealt with. If you have suffered in this way, you may well need help and you should confide in a trustworthy couple who will be able to deal with all concerned and find the appropriate kind of help. Do not suffer in silence.

We Are Vulnerable

Our minds are our most precious possession. They are our receiving stations for divine counsel. God’s word is food for the mind. Thereby we gain spiritual health. But minds can be misused, abused and manipulated. In marriage we exercise a considerable influence on each other. That is why expressions of love and affection are so powerful for our good, and evil words and works are so harmful. By a wicked inversion of what marriage is all about, one partner—equally husband or wife—can seek to take possession of the other’s mind and bring it into subjection by threat, hard words, scorn, assumed superiority, denigration, biting criticism or persistent unwillingness to forgive or to help. If we are guilty of any of these things, we need to take stock of ourselves. Our minds are polluted. Are we cowards? Bullies? Those who delight in evil? Or are we feeling inferior and by our behaviour are seeking to ‘be on top’. These are dark and destructive things and we too will be destroyed if we do not repent.

The Remedy

On our knees we should read and reread Philippians 4:8,9 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Then, confess everything to God—without holding back—and ask for help to practise what we have read. You will discover that it works—wonderfully.