Treading Hallowed Ground
A Brief Commentary on One Element of Verbal Marital Dysfunction
By Mark and Lisa Raborn
The prelude to matrimonial bliss is traditionally guarded by mutual intimations of heart-felt sentiments, including love, commitment, and a perpetual pledge of monogamous solidarity. Indeed, it could be stated, with some measure of confidence, that the oath of faithfulness to each other, though often unspoken, is the portion of the relationship in which we are most vulnerable and, when violated, the singular event that will most rapidly contribute to the deterioration of the bond between two people. But, is faithfulness isolated to themes of sexual infidelity; or, is there other ways by which couples are unfaithful to their marriage vow?
I submit that as stewards of Christ’s love there are numerous ways couples violate their common sanctity of trust and encroach upon the ‘hallowed ground’ of their relationship, without necessarily seeking or lusting for another. How, you ask, can one be unfaithful having had no genuine inclination toward another?
It was only a short time ago that I was talking with a friend’s wife and, as the conversation matured, her monologue devolved from a simple complaint of her husband’s inability to provide “enough” things for their family to a streaming critique of his lack of bedroom skills. How, I thought at the time, could this young lady volunteer such hurtful information about the single most important person in her life…her husband? Never mind the poor judgment of relating unsavory characteristics to one of his friends. What did this verbal betrayal suggest about their relationship?
In another instance, a certain man complained that his wife was “dumb” and about as desirable as “a bale of hay”. How did their relationship fall into such disrepair that he could speak about his wife in this manner? Where is the loyalty? Would an enemy speak any less of one’s character? Where are those dreamy wisps of frivolity and ardor that once entwined their hearts?
If one cannot trust the ‘love of one’s life,’ to exalt their perception to others, who can they trust? Surely, a person that will betray the trust of their spouse will also betray their friend. The Apostle Paul addressed both spouses in a marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33) and instructed them to love and respect each other: to establish a unique foundation of adoration and reverence that they might mirror Christ’s love for the church.
Words of betrayal coming from the person closest to our heart violate the relationship just as an adulterous affair impales the bond between two people. While both instances are desecrations that plunder the connectedness of two spirits, a recurring pattern of communication that belittles one’s spouse, especially to others, is to tread a path that imperils not only your relationship with your family, but with Christ, as well. If I attempted to elevate myself at the expense of my wife’s reputation; or, if I sacrificed her trust with idle words to another, it is hardly less of a shame than had I broached the fires of adultery. Both actions defile the trust necessary to nurture a healthy, productive, Christian relationship.
Aside from the marital consequences of verbal infidelity, what does such behavior model to one’s children? If one spouse speaks poorly of the other in front of their children, how does it affect the loyalties of those children? How does it affect their sense of security in the home? How does it impact your witness to them and, for that matter, your witness to others? Indeed, the dysfunction multiplies when we speak ill of our loved ones. We compromise our effectiveness not only to achieve Christ’s will for our life, but to be an example for others to follow in their Christian walk.
If a marriage is to blessed to the point it greatly enhances the quality of life for both spouses, consider Paul’s comparison to the relationship between Christ and the church: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.” “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies…for no man ever hated his own flesh.” (Ephesians 5: 25 and 28-29 KJV)
Indeed, it would hardly seem ‘in-character’ for Christ to speak poorly of the church, or for the church to speak disparagingly of Christ. Though they are separate and distinct, they are one ‘flesh’ with a common purpose for the salvation of lost souls.
So life should be between husband and wife: united, for better or for worse, to achieve common goals: to accomplish Christ’s purpose for their life, and to experience His saving grace.
The oft-quoted verse wherein Christ says, a “house divided against itself shall not stand” (Mathew 12:25 KJV) is equally applicable to the marriage relationship and should serve as something of an admonishment to those who carelessly, and needlessly, speak perversely of their loved ones. Ill-spoken words from one’s spouse are a cancer to our relationships and a plague upon one’s personal peace. God, help us to be mindful of dismissing the trust, companionship and faithfulness of our spouse through malevolent verbal incontinence. Amen