According the Bible, Satan prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but many times, he probably doesn’t have to do that much. I wonder if sometimes Satan sits back and laughs at us.
Marriage can be extremely messy. As sinners we can do dumb things in marriage—we hurt one another; we make false assumptions and then miscommunicate; we manipulate or say mean things to our spouse; we think less about serving and more about being served. We don’t always follow God’s Word or advice from godly leaders. We put our hopes in the world or each other more than we put hope in God.
We don’t need Satan to ruin our marriage. We do plenty of unhelpful things on our own to ruin our marriages. I’m sure Satan enjoys having a front row seat, watching our folly and foolishness.
What does he see?
The Battlefield of Marriage
1. Spouses live in the flesh and not in the Spirit (Galatians 5).
Picture a fight. You and your spouse are arguing about something big or small; and at just the right moment, you are faced with a decision. It’s the moment that I’ve heard some call the watershed moment—the point at which you pick a path to follow. You can satisfy your sinful flesh or follow the lead of the Spirit. You go down the path of a nasty fight or honor your spouse by admitting your wrong. Which do you typically choose?
2. No sex in the marriage (1 Corinthians 7).
If you are fighting, the last thing you want to do is to be intimate with each other, right? Conflict is a barrier to intimacy in marriage. The two are not one, but two. One of God’s purposes for sex is to foster “oneness” or unity (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 6) in your marriage. Couples who don’t have regular sex are allowing a barrier to come between them. No sex in marriage means the couples is less unified.
3. A husband is consumed by pornography (1 Thessalonians 4).
This causes him to be distracted from his wife’s beauty. Sometimes he gets drawn in by a pop-up. More often, he simply gives-in to lust (Galatians 5:13) and aggressively pursues it. She discovers it. It quickly shatters trust in the marriage. She is devastated and she asks questions like, “Am I not desirable?” “Why would he look at other women when he has me?” Worst of all, “Is there something fundamentally wrong with me?”
4. Lofty, sky-high expectations.
I’ve seen men crushed under the weight of their wives’ perfectionistic expectations. The husband says things like, “She expects me to be a holy man.” He constantly feels like a failure, and therefore has little to no incentive to actually work at the marriage. She beats him up (verbally, not physically) because (in the words of one spouse I counseled) “nothing else seems to work to get him to do anything.”
5. Nuclear war (Romans 1:28-32).
You go head-to-head every night. You have nasty, mean, tears-evoking, loud-screaming, door-slamming fights. Sometimes it gets physical. And you are weary…very, very weary…because you don’t know how to stop the fights, yet you are tired of dealing with nuclear war every night of your life.
6. Avoidance and withdrawal (Ephesians 4:26-27).
The most basic response to any difficulty is the famous fight or flight response. In marriage, the flight response often looks like avoiding your spouse. Maybe you live in the same house, but you live separate lives. After a fight, you avoid one another rather than doing the hard work of dealing with each other. Or, maybe you hide at work in order to avoid the marriage. You are really good at your job, so you often get praise and affirmation at work, but never at home. Is it any surprise that you like being at work more, especially when home is a war zone all of the time?
7. Hate speech (James 4:1).
In the heat of conflict, we say things that we all regret. I have a friend who calls this stupid talk. Things come out of my mouth, and the moment it launches from my lips, I regret having said it. I wish I could pull it back and stuff back into my mouth. Sadly, I ignore the maxim, “Not everything that comes to my mind needs to come out of my mouth.”
8. Weak boundaries.
The husband flirts with a woman at work by saying nice things to her. He finds her attractive. He finds ways to go out of his way to encourage her, and sadly, he doesn’t ever demonstrate the same kind of deliberateness with his spouse. There is no physical, immoral interactions, but his verbal affirmations and emotional flirting goes beyond what would safely be deemed as platonic. Wives are cable of doing this, too. Often times, in retaliation to the husband’s careless boundaries.
9. Work-idolatry (James 4:4-5).
You love your job and you pour yourself into it, to the detriment of your family. You rationalize, “They need me at work” or “She doesn’t understand the pressure I’m under at work.” If you were honest, you work matters more than your family. You cherish your job more than you do your wife and kids.
10. Lying (Colossians 3:9).
Lying can destroy trust in a marriage. A spouse lies because he is trapped and doesn’t want to have his sin exposed. For example, a husband who has been secretly having an extra-marital affair….of course he is embarrassed for anyone to find out. He is emotionally and spiritually immature—in a word, you married someone with poor character.
Sad, isn’t it, to see so much foolishness? This is the typical battlefield of bad marriage. This is why we put our hope not in ourselves, but in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is sinners such as these that Jesus came to save (Mark 10:43-45).
Join the Conversation
“What marriage maladies would you add to this list?”