In prep for a presentation next week I have been reviewing Dan Allender’s”The Wounded Heart.” While I’m not a fan of his approach in this book (it’s too much at once for those with PTSD), I do think he has many, many nuggets of truth. Here’s one on p. 41:
Let me state an important observation: I have never worked with an abused man or woman who did not hate or mistrust the hunger for intimacy. In most victims, the essence of the battle is a hatred of their hunger for love and a strong distaste for any passion that might lead to a vulnerable expression of desire….The enemy, or so it feels, is the passion to be lovingly pursued and nourishingly touched by a person whose heart is utterly disposed to do us good. Such people (if they exist at all) are rare; it is therefore easier to hate the hunger than to wait expectantly for the day of satisfaction.
I see this love/hate/fear theme in many troubled marriages–even those where abuse is absent. When we desire this nourishment from someone “utterly disposed to do us good” and then continually wake to the realization that the person we married is not–no, cannot–disposed to do us good in the way we dream, we often feel rejected and invalidated because it seems to us the person is holding out on us. In response to these fears, we have one of several choices:
- Demand/pursue via criticism, complaint, accusation, suggestion, etc. that the person give what they are withholding: perfect validation and intimacy
- Withdraw into coldness, self-hatred, workaholism, fantasy, etc. to avoid the intimacy that is present in the marriage because it is not what we think it should be
- Actively pursue the dream of intimacy with others, or
- Daily die to the dream that the other will make us fully secure and happy WHILE continuing to offer unconditional intimacy, support, validation of the other in order to better provide sacrificial love AND yet still communicating (without demand) clearly our requests for how the other can love us well or what behaviors they should stop that are hurtful.
As you can see the 4th is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. The first 3 are much easier choices. They require less of us and maintain our all/nothing view of self and the world. The truth is we can only approach the 4th position if we place our trust in God to sustain us in a broken world. And therein lies the problem. It is hard for us humans to trust an unseen God, especially when our experience with the seen world tells us that love is conditional, that we are not valued, etc.
What’s the answer then? There is no one answer. But am I willing today to do one thing where I trust the Lord and show love/civility to the other as a creature made in the image of God. If I can answer yes, then I need to find another human being (since we are made for community) to help me discern what that love might look like today (hint: it may not look anything like what my spouse thinks it should look like).