Marriage, Part Four

On this week’s podcast, the fourth part of our ongoing Marriage series, Dan and Becky Allender continue talking about the idea of a couple cleaving together, by looking at the contempt and bitterness that can take root and create so much division in a relationship.

Dan: “It doesn’t come easily for any couple, and if it does, it’s not true cleaving. Cleaving implies a kind of holding on together, an element of, ‘We are in the midst of a storm, and we’re going to have to hold to each other and to our hearts in order to have a union.’ There are too many forces, too many winds blowing, too much division, if we allow ourselves to just sort of function in life and go along with the path that is before you.”

Dan and Becky reflect on a story—about a boat that began to drive a wedge into their relationship—that offers a clear image of how seeds of contempt can impede true union in marriage. For even the beginning of resolution to be possible, they had to look beyond the surface problem—the unused boat sitting in their driveway—to the deeper issues that were at the root of the division. They learned to pray together more intentionally, in a way that invited the kingdom of God into their relationship, and to acknowledge the warfare that was continually threatening to drive them apart.

Becky: “We learned how to not be against each other, and to see that there were other forces coming against us as a couple—a spirit of division, or a spirit of violence. We began to be kinder on behalf of the other person and kinder to each other.”

That kindness turned out to be a crucial factor in Dan and Becky being able to cleave together. Becky showed the vulnerability of naming the bitterness that she felt, and Dan was able to begin to see how they had been creating heartache in each other.

Dan: “Kindness opened the door as we dealt with the contempt that was growing between us with regard to this one issue. And having that deep desire—conscious intent—to say we really do commit to a contempt-free marriage. We’ve said that to one another many times.”

Kindness opened the door as we dealt with the contempt growing between us.

Over time, Dan and Becky have learned to remind each other that they are not enemies, but that they have a mutual enemy with whom they are at war together. Growing in kindness and loyalty toward each other has required the deep work of looking at their own stories, families of origin, and relational patterns.

Becky: “When you actually weep for yourself, and then seeing and hearing other people’s lives and their sorrows, that allowed me to speak up more, it allowed me to validate more things about my heart and the hearts of others, it allowed me to understand my shortcomings and be kinder to myself. It’s been such a sweet healing process that began with understanding the role I had had in my family. […] I see the goodness of God more and more. So much change is possible, so much healing continues to unfold.”

Dan: “The very nature of what it means to cleave together is that you grow in delight. Contempt will always be a war, but it’s not meant to be something that impedes your ability to be at rest with one another, to be able to delight, and to be in awe of one another. That framework of awe and gratitude—and delight as the word that holds both awe and gratitude together—that’s the design of God.”

Next week, Dan and Becky will continue our Marriage series by talking about the idea of weaving together, developing a level of unity and “one-fleshness” that is only possible after the hard work of leaving and cleaving.