Fear is one of the most destructive forces in an individual’s life, and one of the most destructive forces in marriage. Fear causes you to do the things that will make your fears come true. That’s why it never motivates right behavior.
When Karen and I first got married, we let fear guide us. I tried to hide my fear with macho behavior because I was afraid of failure. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak.
Meanwhile, Karen was filled with fear but didn’t even try to hide it. She was openly fearful of rejection, disconnection and abuse. She was afraid of not being valued.
Operating in fear leads us into what marriage expert Gary Smalley calls the “Fear Dance.” In his book, The DNA of Relationships, he writes that we all deal with core fears.
Women’s core fears are disconnection, not being heard, and losing love and appreciation. Men are afraid of helplessness, being controlled, failing and being disrespected. I completely agree with these designations.
According to Smalley, the steps of the Fear Dance go like this: I hurt. I want. I fear. I react. Then you hurt. You want. You fear. You react. Husbands and wives go into a cycle of fear that never ends. You’re in constant motion.
This is why some of couples’ worst fights occur when they’re feeling fear. To create a healthy marriage relationship, we have to understand and disarm that fear.
Our most basic fears—like the fear of rejection—come from our needs not being met, like our need for love. We close off our hearts and emotions to minimize pain.
Other fears are part of our design. God created us to have choice and so we fear being controlled. Some of the most controlling spouses act the way they do because they fear being controlled by others.
Fears also come from our past. When something damages you, it triggers tremendous fear in your life. Abuse, divorce, rejection…these are open wounds that we try to protect because we don’t want to experience them again.
To overcome fear, we have to admit that we are afraid and that our fears impact our decisions and behaviors. Open up to your spouse. Say “I’m afraid of this and I know it’s wrong. Help me deal with it.”
Then, take responsibility for your behavior. Say, “My fears caused me to do this and I know I was wrong. I repent.” Then, give those fears to God and trust Him. Only He can help you escape the Fear Dance.
It was only after I stopped the tough act and repented to Karen, and to God, that the light began to shine again in our relationship. We stopped the Fear Dance. I became vulnerable, and God began to heal our relationship.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today