Most people think marriage is about the future. For some, marriage is a way to escape their past. They think, “I want to find a person who will take me as far from my past as I can possibly get.” That’s what I thought when I married Karen.
But subconsciously, God has wired us the opposite of that kind of thinking. We naturally seek a person who will walk us back to our past so we can be healed.
To illustrate this, I want to tell you the story of Dr. Harville Hendrix. He’s a best-selling author and psychologist who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show multiple times.
For years, Dr. Hendrix was the professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern Methodist University. During that period—during the 1970s—he divorced his wife after 16 years of marriage. He was scheduled to teach a graduate class on marriage on the day his divorce was finalized.
Several years later, Hendrix remarried. Early in their relationship, his new wife, the psychologist Helen LaKelly Hunt, asked him the obvious question: “You were the marriage guy. Why did you divorce?”
Hendrix didn’t have a good answer. In fact, that question had been haunting him for years. Hendrix and Hunt were both writers and researchers, so together they started looking into it. They wanted to figure out what makes couples fight.
That’s something Karen and I asked ourselves early in our marriage, too. Why do we keep fighting so much?
After eight years of research, Hendrix and Hunt came to a conclusion, which they shared in their best-selling book Getting the Love You Want. The reason we fight is that we are all wounded from our past. Subconsciously, we are all looking for a spouse who has the best chance of healing us.
Most of our fights happen because husbands and wives are unaware of this. Subconsciously, we are attracted to people who push our buttons. Why? Because addressing those issues is part of the healing process. Conflict happens when healing and growth are taking place in a relationship.
In other words, couples fight because they are in the process of healing each other. But they don’t always understand what is happening.
Karen and I fought all the time because we were constantly pressing each other’s buttons and irritating each other’s wounds. We wounded each other until finally we began to heal each other. What resulted in that change from wounding to healing?
First, we both had to admit that we were broken. I personally had to drop my tough exterior and admit I had deep wounds from my past.
Then we stopped blaming each other and stopped attacking each other. This is essential to healing. We had to allow ourselves the opportunity to complain without worrying about being attacked for it.
Once we could let go of that fear of attack, we communicated better. We became a safe place for each other. Karen helped me walk through my past and recover the emotions I’d been ignoring or hiding all those years.
I helped Karen find strength and confidence when she was insecure. Many women are wounded from feeling they aren’t valued. I committed myself to nourishing and cherishing her.
Then one day, years later, Karen and I woke up and our wounds were gone.
We are opposites in so many ways. Originally, that led to conflict. Drs. Hendrix and Hunt found that we are wired to seek someone who generates that conflict so we can heal each other.
Thankfully, God designed marriage to be a healing journey. He can heal your marriage too.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today