To the Newly Married: It Is Too Early to Quit!

null.png

Not infrequently I hear from a newly married person, “We have been married for less than a year but it isn’t working. I am ready to call it quits." But that’s an unwise conclusion. In a marriage so young, there are no habitual, chronic marital problems. If there is nothing immoral or illegal, then the reason for the problems is rooted in honest misunderstandings.

Oh, sure, the fights are ugly. The reactions to each other border on wicked but the reason for the negativity—the unloving and disrespectful reactions—is an immature interpretation of the other person. Because of a lack of wisdom on how to interpret the other’s reaction, since male and female react to conflict differently, one’s ignorance drives one to conclude the marriage isn’t working.

This frightens the newly married. Suddenly, they feel totally powerless to “get through” to the person they just married at the altar! Not knowing how to make the other understand them, they yell louder as though their screaming will help. When that doesn’t work, they enter panic mode and resort to extreme tactics. They question, “Did I make a mistake in marrying this person?” Commonly the male flees and the female chases.

He stonewalls and withdraws. She could never imagine doing what he is doing and therefore concludes that this proves he is a control freak who does not love her.

When he’s around, she escalates her criticisms and complaints. He could never imagine saying what she is saying and concludes that this proves that he married a control freak who does not respect him.

When these thoughts combine with personal insecurities and unloving and disrespectful comments, they trigger flare-ups that exhaust the couple. They feel they cannot go on. They want to quit. They believe they made a mistake in marrying.

However, in almost all cases this is due to an honest misunderstanding, not evil will. The marriage is too young for bitterness to set in. Yes, there could be potential long-term problems, but it is premature to draw that conclusion. Among the newly married one can only speculate and project. One does not know for a fact the other has a chronic problem such as online shopping or workaholism.

However, there are newly married people writing me like this wife:

I believe my marriage is over. I am honestly not sure if my husband ever loved me. We have been married less than a year. I got pregnant soon after we married. Recently my husband stopped wearing his ring and went to the bar after work while I was in the emergency room for a pregnancy related health issue. He started drinking again and it's just gotten worse and worse. He has changed, opened his own bank account. I really think there is someone else. He leaves on the weekends. He won't respond to texts and doesn't want to talk. I am trying to be obedient to God and pray my way through this, but what do I do now??? This is physically killing me.

I wrote to her, "It is too early for his bitterness. I think he is immaturely and stupidly trying to make a statement: 'Don’t treat me this way.’ Obviously, he is failing to decode your heart. You are crying out for love but he interprets you as disrespectful. True? How can you better represent yourself during this time so that he does not misinterpret you?"

I continued, "He is posturing to make a statement, would be my prediction. In the process, he will lose you due to his foolishness and childishness. But he is ignorant of a woman’s heart. He takes your actions and words too much at face value."

I concluded by challenging her, "Ask him if he is doing what he is doing because he feels disrespected and dishonored.”

She quickly responded: “Wow. I’m really blown away at how well you interpreted that from the little bit of information you had…. He has told me that he can’t get over words I’ve said to him during this time.”

If you are a newlywed who can relate to the wife who wrote me, consider writing a note to your husband such as this:

I have reacted to you in the wrong ways. Truth is, I need your manly strength and understanding heart. However, when I feel vulnerable I can react in ways that feel disrespectful to you and end up dishonoring you. That is not my intent but I can only imagine how hurtful that is to you.

I know this sounds odd to you but I am crying out for your love and for your reassurance that you love me. I am not saying that I do not respect you, but do you love me? Your thoughts of me matter big time. Can we begin again? I know I will fail you, as you will fail me, but both of us have goodwill. We must remind ourselves that we have goodwill even though we differ. During our fights we need to remind ourselves that we are allies, not enemies. Allies have arguments but they do not declare war on each other. I am so sorry if you felt I am your enemy. That is totally wrong of me. I need you. I need your strength. Respectfully yours.

But stay away from placing blame on him. He is too insecure and unknowing at this point to hear what you are trying to say to him.

Be positive. Let him know you need his strength. And, apologize for the disrespect. Right now this is the best approach to help him let go of his rigidity.

Get ready for him to say something hurtful. He might agree with your note saying, “Well, you are exactly right but it is too late. I am sick and tired of this.”

Don’t take his words at face value. It is not too late. He is immaturely blurting out information like he might do toward his mother. Stay unprovoked at that moment. He is pouting and testing. Stay positive and friendly. He’ll come around. He is far more afraid of you than you can imagine. Not afraid of you physically but afraid of your ability to say things to him that he cannot counter. So, he leaves. He probably fears your tongue. Yes, women can vent with each other and instinctively know why they have erupted, but a young man with the one woman he romantically loves does not instinctively know this. He concludes, “She despises me. I cannot believe this. How could this be?”

The situation spins out of control real quick, putting you on the Crazy Cycle: Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love. This is why God reveals in Ephesians 5:33 that a husband must love his wife and a wife must put on respect toward her husband. God commands this to counter the husband’s tendency to react in unloving ways (most often when feeling disrespected) and for her proclivity to react with disrespect (most often when feeling unloved).

This is the problem. Each misrepresents him/herself.

When we misrepresent ourselves, we will be misinterpreted. On the other hand, when we do not attack the other as an unloving and disrespectful human being, and hold back from reacting in ways that feel hostile and contemptuous to the other, the marriage will be okay.

-Dr. E