Saturday, September 10, 2011

Off The Table - Extreme Danger Ahead

“You’re just like your mother!”

“You’re just like your father!”

How many times have these phrases been hurled, not as a compliment, but as an expression of contempt?

In every relationship there are certain things that should be “off the table”. These are oHOHHsubjects or phrases or actions that are simply too inflammatory or hurtful. If I cross the line on these, I may do irreparable damage to the relationship, or at least break trust to an extent that it may be a long time before my partner is willing to let me get emotionally or physically close again.

Often, we toss out these remarks as reminders of past sins or failures with the intention to engender shame. But why would we do this to someone we supposedly care about?

I believe it is one way we try to control other people. When I am angry or upset, I am feeling a loss of control and my response is to try to gain it back. In my attempt to feel secure again, I may use maladaptive methods to manage my anxiety over this loss of power.

Every couple should talk about the issues in their lives that fall into this category and should agree to never tread on those tender places. To do so intentionally is simply unacceptable, sometimes even cruel, and may place the relationship in grave danger. I believe this can be especially helpful for those who are not yet married and desire to minimize potential hurt and conflict.

What are common things that should be 'off the table' for couples?
  • Threatening divorce
  • Foul or abusive language, cussing, insults
  • Rage (as opposed to anger)
  • Threatening abuse: physical, financial
  • Withholding affection for an extended time

If you have already crossed these boundaries in a relationship, intentionally or otherwise, it would be wise to humbly address your errors. It may be an opportunity for sincere repentance and apologies which opens the way for forgiveness and restoration. In some relationships these hurts might be so deep or the relationship so fragile that you may require the assistance of a pastor or counselor.

Psalm 139
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.    

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