I’ve seen it many times. A young couple is engaged, and it’s obvious to the world that they deeply love each other. They gaze into each other’s eyes with that somewhat disturbing, glazed over, “I’m oblivious to the world and everything else”, look. They hold hands, give each other buckets of affection, and love doing even the most mundane tasks together.
But then, after they get married, something changes. The spark starts to fade. They argue about stupid things, like whose turn it is to clean up the dog vomit in the living room. Sometimes I’ll hear couples say to each other, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” which is really just another way of saying, “I really don’t like being around you.”
One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Feist, captured this sad truth really well in her song “The Bad In Each Other”.
And a good man, and a good woman // Can’t find the good in each other // And a good man, and a good woman // Will bring out the worst in the other? // The bad in each other
I think that Feist nailed it on the head. On their own, a man or woman can be nice, patient, unselfish, and gracious. But when you bring that same man and woman together in marriage, something inside of them detonates. Suddenly they’re at each other’s throats, calling each other names, and giving each other the cold shoulder.
Why in the world does this happen? Why do a good man and a good woman bring out the worst in each other? James 4:1 makes it crystal clear:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
Every married couple should expect fights and quarrels. Why? Because all of us have passions that are at war within us. There is an all out, no holds barred, low blows allowed, fight taking place within us. Our sin is at war within us.
And you know what? I find this knowledge to be incredibly helpful. It helps me understand why Jen and I have conflicts. It helps me understand why every married couple has conflicts. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t involve a long psychological investigation. The cause of all fights and quarrels is the sinful passions that are at war within us.
Knowing this information gives me hope. If the cause of my fights and quarrels is my own sin, then Jesus can help me, because he came to rescue sinners. He came to save sinners and change sinners. There is no marriage beyond the restoring power of Jesus Christ. There is no relationship that is damaged beyond Christ’s reconciling power.
As Paul Tripp says in his book What Did You Expect??, “There is hope for your marriage because God is in the middle of your circumstances, and he is using them to mold you into what he created you to be.”
We should expect to argue and fight with our spouse. It’s what sinners do. And we should also expect to receive power from Jesus to overcome the arguments and fights. That’s what Jesus does.