Are We Choking Our Spouses: Loosening the Grip


Hanging a rose out to dry can give it the appearance of life, but in reality it is choked out and dead. We’ll be discussing something very similar in this blog post. I have only been married for seven years, but what I’ve learned in this time I want to share with soon-to-be-weds, newlyweds and oldly-weds. I am constantly involved in some kind of counseling with couples and one or two issues continually come up. One person doesn’t see it as too much of a big deal and the other sees it as the end of the world. One person wants more and the other wants less. One person doesn’t think the other needs it, nor do they desire it for themselves. One wishes the other would take more, and allow them to have their own. I’m talking about space. Before I was married I heard someone say, “We’re married, why does he need friends? They had their time.” This made me never want to be married. Who would want to be with someone who didn’t respect their time or their past?

Lo and behold I got married. My wife and I used to be awful about this respect of space! One of us would go out and the other would call constantly having to know what the other was doing. Any time apart was never really time apart, because technology kept us constantly connected. It’s not that we hated each other or needed to be far from the other, but we just didn’t know how to let go. I don’t know if the issue was trust, insecurity or being needy. Whatever it was, it wasn’t healthy. Dr. Orbuch, author of the book “Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great” says, “When individuals have their own friends, their own set of interests, when they are able to define themselves not by their spouse or relationship, that makes them happier and less bored.”

In my counseling I like to use the phrase “whole single person.” When you are a whole single person and do not define yourself by your connection with another then you are ready to join another and become one flesh. If a person is never a whole single person then when they become one flesh with another they cannot separate themselves from the other, and any attempt by the other person to exercise their independence will be met with resistance. The inability to be a whole single person may stem from anxiety having grown up in a household where parents were severely detached or exhibited a bipolar parenting style.

As Christians we often look to passages like Ephesians 5:22-33 but we only see it on the surface. At least I’m guilty of doing such an injustice to a beautiful passage about putting the other before self. In verse 28 we are told that husbands are to love their wives as their own flesh and that if we love our wives then we love ourselves. We are not told to only give what we expect to be given, but rather that we are to love our wives as we love ourselves. We do not deprive ourselves of things we need. So, why would we deprive our wives? I know a lot of overbearing husbands who don’t allow their wives to go to the mall with girlfriends or even to do the grocery shopping without the husband’s watchful eye. Proverbs 19:13 may have been talking about a woman being a constant dripping, but this applies to males equally. When we refuse the flower we’ve been entrusted with sunlight, water and fertile ground then we choke it out and we take the beauty away. The same goes for our spouses. My wife needs her time and I have to respect that. Likewise, I desire for my time and interests to be respected.

Verse 33 speaks to both the man and the woman but what the woman is told goes far beyond what the worldly wife offers to her husband. “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) This word for respect goes back to verse 21 where we’re told to be subject to one another in the fear (respect) of Christ. Wives are to look to their husbands not as someone to control, but rather as verse 22 says, “Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” It is not popular in our society to treat our spouses the same way we would treat the Lord. Even amongst the church, we say, “Well, they don’t deserve it.” I don’t see anything about “deserve” in the text. None of us deserve salvation and yet God graciously hands it to us if we are obedient.

Relationships are not about controlling one another, but rather subjection, love and respect. If we love and respect one another then we also will respect one another’s time. In a federally funded unpublished study space and respect of time is listed as more important to the relationship than a good sex life, and women tend to be less happy with the amount of alone time they receive.

So, here are some ideas of areas we can focus on in order to build trust and a strong relationship:

  1. Devote certain days to one another.
  2. Offer to take on responsibilities the other would usually have in order to free them up.
  3. Focus on making time together special.
  4. When time is requested, respond by telling the other what you can get done while they are gone.
  5. If you are the one who is anxious about alone time, take time for yourself if only to allow your mate see you breathe.
  6. Keep no secrets about where you go and what you do.
  7. Only refuse alone time if a pressing matter is at hand.

We never begin a marriage intending to choke our spouses, but it can happen even with the best intentions. With these simple tips I believe we can make our marriages stronger and build stronger bonds.

“…for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,” (Ephesians 5:29)