The same Scriptures that provide us with the positive protocols about which we have written also delineates five practices that we should avoid in order to glorify God in our marriages and enhance a joyful relationship.
In this essay we will consider the protocol found in Galatians 5:15. It says this: “Do not consume one another.” Let me suggest six ways that couples typical say or do that contributes to consuming one another. The first one is angry outbursts. Angry outbursts have a deleterious impact in several ways. They provoke anger in your mate. The anger may be a defensive anger, an anger of disgust or a retaliatory anger. For example, Jim and Sally sat in the counselor’s office attempting to provide their counselor an understanding of how their marriage demise had spiraled. As Jim was reporting an incident for the sake of illustration, Sally responded with defensive anger. Immediately Jim shut down and withdrew. Angry outbursts diminish affection, cooperation and hope that things can ever change.
A second way we consume one another is by an attitude of demandingness. Demandingness is often the outgrowth of unmet expectations. It is not unusual to hear in the counseling office an accusation that sounds something like this. “You are supposed to be the provider for this family (which often means I expect you to enable us to live at the level of our peers) and I am not to put up with your feeble attempts.” Or, a husband may say, “I thought when I married you that you were supposed to be available for my sexual needs. I did not see where the Bible limits that to once a week and if we are going to make it you will have to get with the program.” Now these illustrations may be simplified and overstated, but they are examples (and will be heard at times in counseling).
A third way of consuming one another is by sheer selfishness. Yes, demandingness is a form of selfishness, but this is more pervasive. What is in view here is a self-centeredness that touches all of life. Sometimes this is a malady of which the individual is totally unaware. For example, a person who was raised with the proverbial “silver spoon” in the mouth may well develop a self-centeredness that not only impacts the mate directly, but also impacts every other relationship. This person’s mate finds him/herself energy drained in attempts to manage the collateral damage with the children, the Sunday School class and even with his/her friends. The mate is consumed in the process.
Yet another practice that is consuming is sulking. The mate of a sulker finds him/herself consumed with the task of figuring out what is generating the displeasure of the mate this time. Often these attempts elicit some the anger response discussed above further exasperating the consuming of the mate.
No one appreciates being manipulated. But when manipulation is characteristic of a mate, it becomes consuming. If this trait is a character trait, it will often go unnoticed in courtship, but once engaged in living intimately it will surface. I once had a young couple in counseling where this is exactly what happened. The wife said, “If I had caught on to this when we were dating I would have broken the relationship. It takes all my effort to be alert to your tricks.
Lastly, we can consume one another by distrusting. In a relationship in which trust is absent, mates find themselves consumed with being self-protective. If I am not trustworthy, my mate is consumed by me. Her/his conscious energy is poured into the action of discernment.
So, when Paul writes, “Do not consume one another”, we once again have instruction from the hand of God as to how to live within the church and especially within the marriage in a manner that contributes to our happiness as an outgrowth of glorifying God.