Mar 062013 7 Responses

How To Handle Friction in Marriage

The earth’s surface is in constant motion. Immense rigid plates are always moving. Some are moving away from each other, others are running into each other, and many are sliding underneath one another with a constant force.

When two plates are in contact with each other, the contact is not smooth. Friction builds. Energy is stored. Eventually, the energy is released resulting in an earthquake. Many are never felt. Some result in a gentle rumble. And a few terrify anyone who experiences them.

Plate tectonics not only explains earthquakes, it serves as a good explanation of marriage—immense, rigid people always in motion often running into each other resulting in friction. (See: Jenny’s List of What Makes a Marriage Work)

It cannot be avoided. As much as we like to think we are moving in the same direction, and as much as we should seek to move in the same direction, we cannot be of the same mind or motivation on every issue. We are different people with different experiences, passions, expectations, and desires. On a regular basis the direction I am going and the direction my wife is going are not parallel. The result is friction.

Left unchanged, friction will build until it is released. Preferably it is released with regularity in small spats but on occasion it builds until it is expressed in a tremendous outburst.

When it comes to handling friction we have several options:

Some try to avoid it. Just as some of the earth’s plates are moving away from each other, many couples are in the process of moving away from one another. The good news is these couples don’t have much friction. The bad news is they don’t have much of anything. Two people who are moving emotionally away from one another will soon literally move away from one another. The marriage will end because there will be no connection. This is why most marriages do not experience a great deal of fighting before a divorce. They are moving in opposite directions so they have nothing to fight about. While avoiding friction is appealing, it is a dangerous solution which never results in a healthy marriage. (See: I Know Who Is In Charge of Your Family)

Some try to ignore it. As earthquakes are a part of life, many couples have come to believe they are also a part of marriage so they do nothing about it. They ignore the issues which cause friction, allowing energy to build. Most of the time the energy is released in minor fights, but on occasion enough energy builds for an all out explosion which terrifies all who are around. This is the common state of most marriages. Some couples go through a major earthquake or two and return to the first option and start moving apart. Others enter into a repeating cycle of colliding into one another, letting the friction build, and having another explosion. The result is contention, instability, and the ever looming question of “when will the next seismic event occur?” Thankfully there is another option.

Some do something about it. Collisions cannot be avoided in marriage. While we can, and should, do everything in our power to move in the same direction as our spouses, we cannot do so on every issue. We must expect some friction to exist.  However, we have been given something to ease the friction—mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” The giving and receiving of mercy eases the friction. It is what allows us to deal with the difficult issues of life without a great explosion. It is what gives us the courage to move toward each other instead of away from each other. It is what makes marriage possible.

The daily giving and receiving of mercy between spouses is vital for a happy marriage.

Without mercy, friction will build. Some will be tempted to avoid conflict. Some will resign themselves to believing continuous explosions are unavoidable. All will suffer because of the tension which exists.

There is a better way. (See: Can You Tell Your Spouse the Truth?)

Each day, we need to remind ourselves of these two truths:

I need to give mercy. I cannot expect anyone to be perfect, including my spouse. Failure on the part of my spouse is not a sign that they do not love me; it is a reminder they are a fallible human being. They deserve the best I have to offer which includes mercy. If I can offer mercy to anyone, my spouse deserves it first. (See: 5 Keys to Save Your Marriage)

I need to receive mercy. I am not perfect. I cannot be perfect. I will fail every day. I need to be quick to admit my faults and receive mercy from others, including my spouse. Receiving mercy is not a sign of weakness, but a recognition of my true need.

Mercy is God’s gift to couples, making marriage possible. Without mercy, friction is sure to destroy. With mercy, anything can be endured.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”


7 Responses to How To Handle Friction in Marriage
  1. [...] I think this is what he meant by “Blessed are the pure in heart.” As mercy is...
  2. [...] Give and receive mercy. We can never make peace apart from mercy. Mercy must be received because we ar...
  3. […] Mercy gives us extreme patience and kindness with ourselves and our spouses when discussing difficul...
  4. […] Marriage reveals our sinfulness. Marriage and parenting are the two avenues in which God most ofte...
  5. […] Mercy. Rarely does mercy have anything to do with the object to which we need to give mercy. It mos...

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