Ever known someone who seems able to push all your buttons? Maybe a neighbor, co-worker, family member—even your spouse? They often do or say something that elicits a repeat negative response in you. You may even catch yourself thinking, He/she just brings out the worst in me! So how does this cycle of conflict get started? Where does it come from?
Quite simply, we are imperfect people born to imperfect people. We are broken. And, in the case of married couples, our brokenness marries our spouse’s brokenness.
We all come into marriage with varying levels of hurt from significant people in our lives. The sum total of the hurt from our parents or significant others can sear messages into the very core of who we are, messages like “you don’t measure up,” “you’re not smart enough,” or “you’re not attractive enough.” These hurtful messages are lies. (Because God doesn’t make junk.)
Often the lies written on our hearts lead us to respond negatively when a spouse pushes that old familiar button, even unintentionally. And our negative response serves to underline a lie our spouse believes, which leads to another negative response. The lies and negative responses create a cycle, or chase, that we can’t seem to free ourselves from.
ACTION STEP 3: RESPECT AND LOVE
The great news is that we don’t have to live in a cycle of hurting each other by holding on to the lies we’ve heard in the past. We can live in a marriage that adjusts into a cycle of Respect and Love.
First, let’s define the “negative chase.”
THE NEGATIVE CHASE
To understand the negative chase cycle, we need to discover four things that have happened in past conflict(s):
- Our own negative response (e.g., feeling defensive; see diagram above) because of …
- The lie written on our hearts (e.g., “I am inadequate”).
- Our spouse’s negative response (e.g., withdrawal) because of …
- The lie written on our spouse’s heart (e.g., “I don’t measure up”).
The next step is to discover and start to live out a different kind of chase—a “positive chase” of love and respect.
THE POSITIVE CHASE
In order to understand a more positive chase, we need to discover four things:
- The truth about ourselves (e.g., “I am not inadequate; I’m fearfully and wonderfully made”).
- Our own positive response to the truth (e.g., remaining non-defensive even when feeling inadequate).
- The truth about our spouse (e.g., he/she is a child of God).
- Our spouse’s positive response to the truth (e.g., staying connected when tempted to withdraw).
There’s more to it of course, but recognizing lies written on our hearts, and the negative chase that can result, is the first step toward replacing them with God’s truth and a healthier, more positive cycle.
For more in-depth information on how to help the couples in your church get out of a negative cycle and into a positive cycle of love and respect, check out the new book, Your Best Us by Ted Lowe at YourBestUs.com. In this insightful yet practical book, you’ll find four steps to improving your marriage in order to find Your Best Us.
This article is an adaptation from Your Best Us.