Rick and I discovered a show this weekend called “Marriage Test”. Five couples shared a home, for a few days, with the guidance of two marriage counselors. Some of them came off as headstrong and unchangeable until the facilitating couple starting asking questions about their parents. The coolest, hardest ones seemed to break the most when discussing mom or dad issues.
I’ve always known that we are deeply affected by negative circumstances from the past, especially when initiated by our parents. This part of the show made me realize, though, just how profoundly that pain can scar us.
The one couple was on the verge of divorce; their marriage was a mess. He had been cheating with various women and showed no interest in his wife. She had little self-esteem and felt out of control of her life. She turned to food for comfort. When asked to describe their mothers, individually, they both ended up in tears when recalling traumatic experiences induced by their mothers. Unless they deal with that pain and move on from it, their marriage will not survive.
It reminds me of a part of the past I have struggled to overcome. I grew up in a family that reacted without discussing. I felt like we gingerly walked around on eggshells out of fear that we would anger my father. He was six feet six inches tall and looked like John Wayne. With his booming voice and stern demeanor, my brother and I turned into quiet little angels when he stepped through the door of our home..
My father left my mother forty years ago and passed away almost twenty-five years ago. I find that even after thirty-two years of marriage, I occasionally have moments that I hesitate to tell Rick about something stupid I’ve done. I’m afraid of his reaction.
I have to tell you, except for the year-and-a-half of our marriage crisis, Rick has NEVER reacted to me in a hostile manner, said critical words to me, or raised his voice to me. The hesitation on my part still stems from the first sixteen years of my life when I learned to keep my mouth quiet so as not to anger my father. Early in my marriage I rarely voiced my opinion, and that was a big factor that led to our marital problems. I have learned to overcome that, yet there are STILL times I have to remind myself that I’m married to Rick, not my father.
I wonder if something happened in the childhood of Cain that would cause him to kill his brother, Abel. Yes, he was jealous of his brother, but could some of his jealously have stemmed from unequal treatment by his parents, Adam and Eve? This parent-child influence goes back to the beginning of time.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” NIV
The King James Version says “Provoke not your children to wrath.”
I sometimes worry about what baggage I have laid on my children. No matter how well we think we do as parents, we are not perfect. The best things we can do for our children, though, are to show them we love them, say “I’m sorry” when we do make mistakes, and show them how to live their lives according to God’s will.
That same advice holds for our marriages. We must also recognize the areas of our past that may have a hold on us. We have to forgive our parents and ourselves. If we don’t, we take those feelings into our marriage relationships. Acknowledging the issues is a huge step forward to healing.
Our bondage to our past is all in our mind. It’s over and done with, but we still choose to dwell on it and allow it to affect us. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
We have the power to take negative thoughts captive. 2Corinthians 10:5 – “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
So you see, you have the ability within yourself to overcome the strongholds of your past, the baggage you carry. It’s not real anymore so stop thinking about it and allowing it to ruin your life and your marriage. Forgive and forget. It may take a lot of work breaking some of those thoughts that have become habit, but it will be worth it. Seek God, He will help you.
Any thought that is not in accordance with God’s will (and allowing your past to hold you prisoner) needs to be dealt with if you want to live the amazing life He has planned for you and experience the healthy marriage you deserve.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – author unknown