Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Careful; I’m writing cautiously. Do I have a great marriage with my wife Barbara? I think that I do, and I think that she believes it too.
Marriage isn’t about perfect action or always correct speech. A great marriage can recover, growing in depth through difficulty. If a couple has the confidence that no matter the problem, the intensity of the argument, and the difference in personalities, the relationship will endure.
If the argument, the intensity, the differences can be unleashed through unfailing commitment then any problem can be fixed. So, back to my original thought that a great marriage recovers no matter the pain of the conflict.
As a pastor, I have listened to many couples argue. Yelling, cursing, name-calling, and accusations. Those who heal go deep enough to get at the issue while those who don’t, stop yelling, seemingly make-up, only to start the argument later.
The problem wasn’t fixed. They did not go deep enough. They avoided the problem.
Healing means suffering, enduring the pain of “problem admission” and forgiving your spouse of his or her issues. Also, having the commitment to stay, no matter the words or the actions.
Years back, an author wrote:
The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human suffering.
Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree. We will go to extreme lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is sensible. While avoiding our problems, we build elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.
The neurosis itself becomes the biggest problem. True to form, many will then attempt to avoid this pain, building layer upon layer of neurosis. Fortunately, some possess the courage to face their neuroses, to learn to experience legitimate suffering (Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled).
Those having the courage to admit craziness can heal. A marriage that assumes neurosis and pays the suffering price of honesty can mature.
All good psychology has its roots in Biblical wisdom. The Bible doesn’t use the word “neurosis” or “psychosis” or “crazy.” It sums them all up with the word “sin.” Paul writes that all have sinned – become neurotic, psychotic, and crazy – and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Admit you are nuts, feel the pain, and have a conversation about the real issue. Any relationship, including your marriage, can heal.
I’ve said to some couples, “Your marriage can’t survive dealing with the issues that you have, so compromise and learn to live with one another.”
I have never claimed to be a great counselor.
My reasoning for this “crazy” advice is that I knew the couple would be better off staying together than getting a divorce. I sensed their neurosis, so deeply layered that they didn’t have the energy, commitment, or ability to get at the truth. That getting at the truth would mean a change of life or a detachment from something so familiar and tightly held that the price of freedom couldn’t or wouldn’t be paid.
Jesus taught about the pain of truth when he told the Rich Young Ruler, “Go and sell everything that you have and come and follow me.” The Rich Young Ruler proved the pain-truth-crazy-theory when “…he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18).
I pray that you will admit you are crazy. That you will pay the price of freedom, as ultimate peace lays in confession.