(Image Credit: The Library of Congress)
Here’s the scenario.
You’re arguing about something with your spouse.
The argument escalates.
For some reason one or both of you are abnormally upset about something that seemingly should not warrant such heated discussion.
How did this happen? Why did this happen? And why does this keep happening?
The answers lie in two very important truths about men and women.
The first is that men want to be, and believe that they should be, respected.
The second is that women want to be, and believe that they should be, loved.
When a man doesn’t feel respected by his wife, he tends to act unloving towards her. And when a woman doesn’t feel loved by her husband, she tends to disrespect him. He’s hurt because he doesn’t feel respected and she’s hurt because she doesn’t feel loved.
And that’s where the cycle begins. Hurt people, hurt people.
When one or both parties are hurt, the blinding nature of hurt keeps them from seeing that the issue being argued about isn’t really the issue. The real issue is an absence of love and/or respect. This is why a husband and wife can fight so vehemently about something so trivial. Because somewhere during the course of the conversation, someone was hurt by a lack of love or respect, and that hurt raised the intensity level considerably.
The only way out of this vicious cycle is for one of the two parties to lay down their right to the love or respect that they are not getting, so they can address the other person’s hurt and give them the love or respect that they want. The reason people fight is because they want something, but they don’t get it (James 4:1-2). If one of the parties fighting, gives up what they want and focuses on giving the other person what they want, the fight can no longer continue.
A man can say, “Wait a second. Hold on. I realize now that you’re hurt because you don’t feel loved by me. I’m so sorry for hurting you and for not loving you well. Please forgive me. I’m sorry I allowed this conversation to get out of hand, when the issue was not really what we were even arguing about, but rather the fact that I wasn’t loving you.”
A woman can say, “Wait a second. I realize now that you’re hurt because you don’t feel respected by me. I’m so sorry for hurting you and for disrespecting you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry I allowed this conversation to get out of hand, when the issue was not really what we were even arguing about, but rather the fact that I wasn’t respecting you.”
I know what you’re thinking. That’s extremely difficult to do in the moment. And you’re right. It is.
Apart from Christ, it seems impossible. The good news is that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). We can trust in the power of the gospel to save us from sin’s power to keep us reacting in a vicious cycle.