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Thursday, June 17, 2010
This is the “what if” that started me on this series, so I’ll begin with it.

I posted back here on the importance of focusing on what you give instead of what you get in your marriage relationship. I emphasized the that we should examine biblical instructions on marriage with an eye to what it calls for us to do (what you give to your spouse) instead of what it calls for our spouse to do (what you get form your spouse).  This is without doubt the scriptural intention and the best way to build intimacy and trust in your marriage, as you both discover the joy of giving and meeting each other's needs.

While I do believe in this the ideal concept, it begs the question:

 What happens when only one spouse takes a surrendered marriage to heart and therefore does most or all the giving/surrendering in the relationship?
I have several responses to this particular what-if.

1.  You can’t push on a rope

Ever hear of the expression, “You can’t push on a rope?” It is used to describe the fact that some things only work in one direction. Pushing a rope only ends in frustration and you might just wind up with a tangled mess. Pulling it, however, will cause the entire rope to move smoothly in the directly you want. In a surrendered marriage there is a definite push-pull dynamic.

It can be tempting at times to push your spouse toward their appropriate roles and actions in your marriage, using the biblical bridal paradigm principles as a club to get what you want. At times he may want to push her into submission or she will want to push him to lead, either more strongly or more lovingly. The fact is, however, that as with a rope, pushing your spouse rarely works. Truthfully, pushing often has the opposite of the desired effect.

So how do you pull instead of push your spouse to engage more fully in their part of the bridal paradigm?
  • Speak into that which you want to see rise up, rather than complaining about what you see as missing or wrong. 
  • Use appreciation and gratitude for every small step in the right direction.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you might be doing that is pushing your spouse and possibly causing an undesirable counter-reaction
  • Look for unmet needs in your spouse. Most men need to feel respected, admired, trusted and desired to be “pulled” toward their position of loving leadership. For a woman, things like affection, attention/time, genuine concern and romantic engagement will draw her toward more fully offering her submission.
 2.  One-sided Giving Is Not Sustainable

A husband can lead his wife with Christ-like love, concern and affection without her walking in surrender to his authority, but it’s unlikely to be sustainable for the long term unless she eventually moves toward proper biblical alignment. Likewise, a wife can be submissive toward her husband, respecting and affirming him, showing deference toward him, but unless he eventually begins to place himself in proper biblical alignment by lovingly leading her, eventually her submission will wane.

Even with the best of intentions, a one-sided bridal paradigm marriage is unsustainable. Frustration and resentment will eventually get a foothold and inevitably cause problems down the road.

So what do you do if you find yourself in a one-sided situation? First of all, go back to number one, above. Do all in your power to create an atmosphere that inspires your spouse toward their biblically dictated attitude and actions. Work to pull and not push. When that fails, you have to move on to number 3, below.

3.  Personal Integrity

Having just spoken to the lon-term unsustainability of trying to do the bridal paradigm alone, nevertheless let me encourage you to be true to who you are and to what you believe. If you believe in the bridal paradigm, that there is a God-designed order to marriage, that the love relationship Jesus has with the church is the best template for marriage, then don’t let go of that belief. Whether your spouse “gets it” or not, whether they are actively pursuing a surrendered marriage or not, don’t give up on what you hold true.

I call this the pursuit of personal integrity.

I understand that it can be difficult to stand strong in the bridal paradigm if you don’t have the support of your spouse. Here are a few thoughts on things you can do to do when the going gets tough on your own.
  • Pray. Really. I believe in the power of prayer. Pray for your spouse. Pray for divine insight. Pray for your own role in your marriage.
  • Realize that God is mostly interested in the hearts of those involved not the actions (this is true for you and for your spouse). Yes, what you do matters, but most of all God wants you stay close to him and to keep your heart in the right place, to keep your integrity intact.
  • Realize that there will be ups and downs in the journey to surrender. Appreciate and be thankful for progress and don’t beat yourself of your spouse up over struggles. Let grace abound, and realize that it will all help build a stronger marriage in the end.
  • There is no room for abuse of any kind. Period. By encouraging you to keep your heart surrendered, I’m not talking about making yourself a doormat either.
In my next two posts I’ll separately address what you can do as a husband or wife whose spouse hasn’t yet joined you on the journey to surrender.  And don't forget to ask your own "what-if" questions by comment or email.

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