By Rob Furlong
Throughout the history of the human race poets, scholars, authors and philosophers have grappled with this reality: men and women are struggle to understand one another, particularly so in the marriage relationship.
There is a fairly straightforward answer to be found, however, in the account of Adam and Eve when they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
As a result of their disobedience we discover that they are alienated from each other – their nakedness is now a source of shame to them and so they sew fig leaves together in a pathetic attempt to cover it up. They also hide themselves from God when He comes looking for them in the Garden of Eden and when He confronts them with their disobedience they quickly pass the blame on to another. What we observe is a lot of fear, shame and lies being told and this characterises much of the struggle between men and women to this day. If a couple want to break out of a destructive pattern like this, then it will require courage from both of them to confront the problem and to find new ways of relating.
Couples need to find the courage to listen to each other! We often think of courage as being willing to speak up on an issue or to assert how we really feel about something. But choosing to listen to how our partner feels also requires enormous courage. Why?
To begin with, when you choose to listen to the other person they may tell you something that you do not wish to hear. For example: why they are so unhappy in the relationship, why they "clam up" in disagreements each time you explode in anger, how when you flirt with the opposite sex it causes them to become fearful and possessive. In such times, just like Adam and Eve, we are confronted with the reality of our own nakedness and our default position is to try and hide our failings with poor excuses or by ignoring what the other person is saying completely.
I have spoken with couples where one of them is guilty of abuse of the other, whether physical or emotional. And rather than have the courage to listen to how their husband or wife feels they make excuses – "She deserved a beating, she made me angry" or "He is so weak and insipid I have to make the decisions!" But courage says, "I will dare to listen to my partner and confront the truth about myself...and commit to doing what it takes to change."
Communicating well with each other requires courage! It is all too easy to make assumptions in our relationships and this inevitably leads to unnecessary misunderstanding, confusion and hurt. Early in our dating relationship Karen went on a two-week break and told me not to feel that I had to be in contact with her all the time. Taking this literally I made no contact with her at all! However, after receiving a letter (this was before emails and mobile phones) with a PS that said, "This is my third letter to you and I haven't received one from you yet", I quickly got the hint! I was unsure of what Karen was really saying when she left for that holiday but instead of assuming that I knew, I should have found the courage to ask her some questions to clarify what she was really saying as well as telling her that I was going to miss her and that I wouldn't mind being in contact from time to time. Communicating well in a relationship requires a lot of courage because sometimes you will have to ask uncomfortable questions and express how you really feel...but you can also avoid a lot of misunderstanding!
To forgive each other also requires courage. As humans it is more comfortable for us to nurse our hurts rather than to be courageous and forgive, after all, "it was their fault!" To refuse to forgive is to keep the other person imprisoned by our hatred and to also lock ourselves up in our own bitterness. But when forgiveness is courageously given both parties are set free.
Many relationships have floundered
because of a lack of courage - may you find the courage to apply these principles to your marriage today!