Every marriage comes to a place of significant conflict. When this happens you have a choice to either go through it together or go around it separately. If you choose the first way you come through it with tighter oneness. If you choose the second way you don’t. You may kiss and make up and come back together again, and everything may look fine, but you have suffered loss.
Here you are going along as a couple and you encounter an in-law problem or a money problem or a power clash. It needs to be resolved; the problem is preventing your forward motion. Picture the situation as an actual 10-foot wall completely spanning the road you are traveling on. You can’t pass unless you deal with it. It is an obstacle that must be addressed one way or another. You can tackle it head-on, or you can part and do an end run around it, one to the left, one to the right.
The end-run method appears to work for a while. Raw emotions calm down with the passage of time. You say you’re sorry and make promises not to do it again, but you haven’t dealt with the issue—you only think you have. The relationship has suffered damage unawares—like an alcoholic whose complexion is getting red and sallow, and a smoker who has not yet noticed he is coughing a lot. The Bible notes these imperceptible deteriorations that come with all persistent sin:
“Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not” (Hosea 7:9).
Because you have not dealt with the obstacle—and because God loves you and wants your growth—the wall reappears farther down the road. Another holiday arrives, and with it, the in-law problem. If you once again do the end-run-followed-by-making-up routine, you will come together again but you’re less likely to put yourself into it wholeheartedly, because you don’t trust it as much. You hold back. You still think you’re going down the road as one.
God is going to bring that same issue back again until you either deal with it or are destroyed by it. If you tackle and overcome it together, closeness develops, with respect and appreciation—and even qualities you haven’t noticed in your spouse before. Affection happens.
After you have been victorious over the wall, another wall will come. But it will be a different one this time because you overcame the first one. But now you can conquer it together because you know it can be done, and you have learned how to, and you have learned how good it is.