Passive doesn’t equal peace.
What are the magic words in marriage? Some people try “I love you,” or “That dress makes you look so thin,” or my personal favourite, “Honey, I brought home chocolate.” But many guys think they’ve hit the relationship jackpot when they utter, “Anything you want is fine with me, honey.”
That sounds sacrificial and giving, but does it really bring magic? Imagine living with someone who gave you everything you want, all the time.
Okay, granted, maybe that does sound idyllic. But I think it would wear on most people after a while. You didn’t marry a robot; you married a person. A marriage where no one shares his or her opinions is awfully dull. It’s like a lifelong luncheon with your boss or with the older ladies from church. Everything’s all very polite, but there’s no heart.
And the heart of marriage is two very different people joining together. My husband will never understand what chartreuse is, and I will never understand the lure of shoot ‘em up video games. The differences are hard-wired. And where there are differences, there will be conflict.
Aren’t we supposed to be gracious and giving in marriage? Of course! However, there’s a difference between keeping the peace and making peace, and sometimes, if we’re too focused on former, we miss out on real peace.
Look at it this way: Egypt and Israel are technically at peace, but an Israeli walking in Cairo would likely feel even more uncomfortable than most males in a scrapbooking store.
Germany and Great Britain, on the other hand, were once mortal enemies but are now great friends. They’re part of the same political union. They share business and culture and trade. Hopefully in your marriage you can find oneness without needing to resort to blitzkrieg or carpet bombing, but sometimes pushing through our issues is exactly what is needed.
Jesus told us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. A peacekeeper stands around with a gun and stares people down if they make a move. He maintains the status quo. He doesn’t rock the boat.
A peacemaker, on the other hand, is someone who strives to create true intimacy. You don’t want to just live in a house where no one is killing each other; you want to live in a house where you feel like you’re one with your wife — united in mind and thought. That means if tension comes up, you face it head on.
Let’s say she feels upset because you bought her bubble bath for the third anniversary in a row, and she thinks you have the romantic quotient of a slug. You, on the other hand, think she doesn’t appreciate what you do for the family.
She starts crying, “You never put any effort in. Everything else gets your attention but me!” What’s the loving thing to do now? Some guys give up there, grunt and leave the room. Others launch into a full-blown defense, listing every nice thing they’ve ever done, before retreating in anger.
Neither approach really works because you still end angry. Talking through why she feels unloved—even if it makes you uncomfortable—can open doors to you sharing how you sometimes feel neglected. Listening and then repeating what was said back to each other, acknowledging the feelings, and then looking for solutions is much easier if we don’t run scared every time there’s a disagreement.
Some problems, though, aren’t solved with conversation alone. She spends money too freely, and you’re worried about the budget bottom line. Your credit card bills are running up, and she doesn’t want to control her spending. Perhaps you’ve found out she’s texting a co-worker. Maybe she’s been so hurt in the past that she has shut down sexually. You’ve talked with her about these things but she has no interest in addressing them. What do you do?
The Bible talks at length about how to confront people who sinning, specifically in Matthew 18. You go to them first, and if they don’t listen, you bring two or three others along. If your wife is involved in something that cannot be tolerated—either because it endangers her own spiritual life or because it endangers the marriage—you need to get some help, either from a pastor, a counsellor, or a mentor couple. Yes, it may make your wife uncomfortable, and yes, things may feel worse for a while. But the only way through to the other side is often to go through the hard work of confronting sin.
Sure, some things we let go. But saying, “it’s no big deal,” or even excusing sin isn’t going to build peace in your marriage. If there’s something huge in your marriage that will only get worse, saying nothing and letting it fester won’t create intimacy; it will build walls.
It’s your choice. Are you going to fight for peace, or are you going to settle for a lack of conflict? Sometimes, to find real peace, you have to fight.