Mark: It was my anger. No, it wasn’t expressed outwardly. I wasn’t raging or blowing my top. Instead the anger was simmering inside of me. I was building a case in my heart against Jill. Everyday I operated as the prosecuting attorney who focused on my own perceived “evidence” to make my case. In fact, that’s how my affair started…long before there was another woman in the picture. My heart was tangled up in anger.
Jill: It was my criticism. It wasn’t always expressed verbally. Instead it came out in non-verbal ways that caused a “creeping separateness” in my heart with my husband. My heart was tangled up in criticism.
Mark: Heart surgery was desperately needed for me to rest my case against Jill. I had to admit my anger, ask God for forgiveness, and then submit myself fully to Him. I had to come face to face with my unrealistic expectations. I had to trust that the places where marriage was hard and my flesh wanted to “resign” were actually designed by God to refine me.
Jill: Heart surgery was desperately needed for me to come face to face with my criticism. Pride was mixed in there too. I had to admit both, recognize the damage they were doing to me on the inside, ask God for forgiveness, and then submit my head and my heart to God. I had to replace pride with humility and criticism with grace.
Mark: These days of walking out God’s redemptive healing in our marriage we have the privilege of walking side by side with hurting couples. They are in all kinds of stages of conflict and healing, but many times they are stuck and don’t understand why they can’t move forward. When that happens it’s because one or both of them have some untangling work that need to be done in their heart.
Jill: Our hearts get tangled up so easily. In fact, nearly daily I find myself needing to deal with even the tiniest of tangles that threaten to move me away from Mark instead of towards him. In order to keep our marriage healthy, we have to become expert untanglers. Need some practical strategies? Here are four:
- Don’t resign. Refine. Too often we want to give up or announce that this is too hard. Then we want to announce that “marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” This quickly moves to “we’re not made for each other.” Don’t even let the devil get a foothold because that is a slippery slope that will not help you or your marriage. Marriage is hard work. It’s hard relational work and it’s hard internal work. When things get hard, the response needs to be, “God, what do you need me to see?” or “Lord, what is my blind spot here? How am I contributing to the dysfunction here?” or “What am I feeding in my heart? Anger? Criticism? Pride? Unrealistic expectations? Defensiveness? Minimizing?”Ask the tough questions that help you get to the root of what is going on inside of you. This refines–or matures–you!
- Don’t blame. Claim. We recently met with a couple who is healing from his infidelity. He’s made amends. He’s rebuilding trust. She can’t seem to let go of the hurt. Her anger is tangling her up so much that they are unable to move forward and heal any further. She continues to blame him for the mess they’re in instead of claiming the steps of healing that have already happened.
- Forgive. You will never feel like forgiving. You will have to choose to forgive. Forgiveness is far more about untangling your heart than it is about untangling a relationship. It’s about cleaning out the clutter in your heart so you’re free to love, trust, and engage once again.
- Don’t fixate. Focus. Focus on the root of what is going on in your heart rather than fixating on what your partner did to frustrate you. Familiarize yourself with common heart issues like self-righteousness (thinking I’m right), pride (thinking I’m better), unforgiveness, insecurity, demanding my way, control, anger, criticism, and more. We all have “signature sins.” These are places where our flesh takes over and we want things our way forgetting that “God’s way” even exists.
Mark: Many of our marriage challenges can be resolved by dealing with the tangled mess in our heart. That applies to the big stuff we trip over relationally and the little stuff we deal with on a daily basis. Allow God to use this stuff to make you a better person.
What about you? What do you need to deal with that’s going on inside your head and your heart?