Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.
As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”
So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.
One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.
After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.
Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”
“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.
I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.
The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.
Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.
But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.
Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.
Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.
Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.
So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.
What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?
Some of these questions might be helpful for them:
- What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
- What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
- Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
- Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
- What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
- The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?
By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.