After this experience, I realized that we all have emotional holes created by living in a world with deficiencies. Only love can fill the holes that were created by a lack of love. This quest for love was created by design and not by some mistake. It is how God motivates us to seek Him so that we will allow Him to convert us. It is also partially what motivates us to seek a spouse and create a family. Our spouse’s love helps fill our emotional holes. This is healthy and how it is supposed to be. It is what helps keep families together.
We instinctively know that our emotional needs are satisfied with love. Consequently, it is only natural for us to look to our spouse to fill all our emotional holes. However, this is one of the greatest mistake couples make and is the cause of much marital discord.
Our spouses cannot satisfy all our emotional needs. Even if our husband or wife fawned over us all day, they could not completely fill our void. They can’t fix it. But God can. God is love, and He is the only source that can fill all our deficiencies. We cannot realistically expect our spouses, who have their own emotional deficiencies to deal with, to have such an abundance of love that it can overflow and fill us up completely as well. However, that is what we often expect.
After a while, we each realize that we still have some emotional holes that our spouse has not completely filled. Marriage is not the panacea that resolves all our emotional needs. We do not ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Marriage is not the eternal bliss we fantasized. So, we blame our partner. After all, if we expect our mate to meet all our needs, and we still have emotional deficiencies that have not yet been satisfied, then it must be our spouse’s fault, right? It is easy to blame our mate. We are all imperfect, so there is plenty an unhappy partner can point to as the “cause” of their disappointment.
Of course, one spouse’s disenchantment and anger usually feed into the other’s disappointment as well, creating a downward spiral of unhappiness. Consequently, because our spouse is not satisfying all our needs, we too often start to look elsewhere for other things to fill the void in our lives: work, sports, friends, children, thrills, pornography, and possibly even affairs. Instead of questioning and correcting our false assumption, we rationalize our misbehavior by thinking we married the wrong person and look for someone else to do the impossible task of making us happy.
Instead of focusing on our spouse’s deficiencies, we need to look inside ourselves to figure out why some particular thing is so upsetting to us. After all, there are many things that are not right in the world, so why is this particular thing so important?
Are you upset with what your spouse said because it reflected poorly on you in front of others? Why is it such a big deal that he forgot that special occasion? Do you feel you are not valued? Why are you upset when you don’t know where she is when you come home? Do you feel a lack of control of the situation, or do you feel abandoned?
Being upset is like physical pain. Both serve as red flags, warning us that something is not right with ourselves. By repeating this exercise, we soon learn to recognize our personal hot buttons, and we are better able to identify the true source of our pain. Usually, it is associated with disappointments while growing up. A fear of abandonment may come from a parent’s death, divorce, or neglect. A fear of not being valued may come from overly demanding or highly critical parents. A fear of loss of control may come from associating our pain with the helplessness of childhood.
Too often, people subconsciously project their anger at and disappointment in their parents onto their spouses. It is an interesting phenomenon that individuals often marry someone similar to the parent with whom they have an unresolved emotional conflict. It is as if they are striving to resolve these early childhood issues vicariously through their spouse. This, of course, does not lead to a harmonious marriage.
Just as there are no perfect spouses, there are no perfect parents. Until we resolve the emotional issues created by a lack of feeling completely love in childhood, we will continue to repeat our dysfunctional behavior over and over again, just as in the movie Groundhogs Day. Albert Einstein quipped that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Instead of going through life blaming our spouse for our unfulfilled emotional needs, we need to try a new approach. God is the solution. God is love, and only He can fill those emotional black holes from childhood with enough love to heal our souls. Love casts out fear and empowers us to forgive. We cannot do it alone. We all need God in order to forgive and live full and happy lives.
When we feel God’s love and acceptance, we no longer stumble into our emotional holes because they are filled. We no longer overreact when someone pushes one of our hot buttons because the pain is gone or at least diminished. God, then, empowers us to be able to “be there” for our spouse while our spouse deals with their own particular issues. Thus, God can use one spouse to strengthen the other when they go through difficult times.
Before we seek to change our spouse, we need to let God change or convert us. Our quest for love is a God-inspired quest to find Him. We need to seek Him, and He will heal our soul with His love. Many persons with huge emotional scars feel resentment, yet in reality, they may have an advantage. The greater the emotional vacuum, the stronger the pull and motivation one has to find a source to fill it. God is this source. Many without crying needs go through life with little motivation to change. They miss out on discovering a more meaningful existence. Challenges often are blessings in disguise.
We come unto Christ by sacrificing our worst emotional fears on God’s alter and turning our whole heart and soul over to Him. We choose to follow Him and do the right thing in spite of the pain of our emotional fears. Feeling God’s love and acceptance empowers us to endure trying situations and enables us to forgive others. Once God fills our emotional holes, we are freed to love others more freely. By losing ourselves in Christ, we discover the love that we so desperately seek.
Love is interesting. The more we love others, the more we are loved in return. That is a key to feeling loved. To a great extent, love is a choice. So, when we feel unloved, we can escape this dungeon by choosing to look for the good in others, appreciate them, and open our hearts so our love for them can grow. It is often miraculous to observe how much more we are loved when we first love others. Of course, if you are in an abusive relationship, you should not blame yourself for the abuse you receive and should seriously consider leaving. You deserve to feel safe.
Too often, however, people feel that marriage is not worth the effort and are tempted to throw in the towel and quit when the martial relationship could have been saved. We deceive ourselves if we think we can become united with God, whom we do not see, when we do not even make sufficient effort to become unified with our spouse who is with us right now. I personally believe that God actually instituted marriage and commanded spouses to become one partially as a means to teach and train us to become at one with Him. Just as the Law of Moses was instituted to prepare the Israelites to accept Christ, likewise, marriage helps us learn how to become at one with God.
We may find that it is nearly impossible to reach our full potential and become unified with God unless we obtain marital unity, not simply because God dictates that spouses are to become one but because without a spouse, it may be too hard to learn the lessons we need to learn and become refined enough to become united with Him. The growth we achieve by making the sacrifices and investments needed for marital unity enables us to reach higher levels of spirituality than can be achieved in practically any other way.
When I was a young man in my early twenties, I stayed with my grandmother for about a week. She took this time alone with me to share some sage advice. She said that based on her decades of observation, all the problems in the world could be traced to one or a combination of these three issues: miscommunication, selfishness, and jealousy. Even though she couched this advice in universal terms regarding problems with humanity, she was tactfully trying to give me specific future marital advice.
As I have grown older, my observations have confirmed the truth expressed by my loving grandmother as she tried to pass on some wise advice to me so I would avoid unnecessary discord and heartbreak in marriage. I have learned that turning to God helps me see things more clearly and avoid miscommunications. I am more caring and less self-centered. Jealousy is eliminated, making me a much better spouse to live with. I hope that the growth and changes I have experienced by making God a partner in our marriage encourages others to hang in there and to turn to God for help.
Granted, however, some marriages and relationships are so unhealthy and denigrating that it is appropriate for a spouse to leave and end the relationship, but I am convinced that these are rare exceptions and that most people would be better off, from an eternal perspective, if they make the extra effort to work through their marital problems.
We all have emotional issues we need to work through. This is by design so we will be motivated enough to change, to seek God, and to hold our spouse and family tight to our hearts. It is not fair to expect our partner to solve all our problems, especially when we are probably the source of a lot of our mate’s challenges. Instead, we should look to God to fill our soul with his love so he will empower us to be there emotionally for our spouse when they need us. As we discover God’s love, we will find increased love for our mate, which will almost always be reciprocated.
It is phenomenal that God has given us an opportunity to develop personal relationships, to experience love and disappointment, joy and sadness, the whole spectrum of colorful emotions generated from our connection with other unique imperfect individuals. It is all valuable to me now that I look back on my life. All of it. The hard times and the fun times. It all is phenomenal. This is what life is all about. Sharing our treasured thoughts and feelings with someone else who values and appreciates them. That is why family and personal relationships are so important. That is why it is so important to maintain them and not let life’s disappointments separate and isolate us so we shrivel up and die emotionally.
In spite of the errors we make, God invites you and me to no longer remain isolated strangers, but to become fellow citizens in his kingdom. (Ephesians 2:19). He invites all his children to feel the warmth of his love and partake of communion with him and fellow believers in his household. His love never fails. His arms are still outstretched, welcoming us home.