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Interlocking neuroses

We just finished our first night of the marriage course.  Difficult to gauge how people found it.  It's tricky making out feedback when their jaws are on the floor.  Not in a good way either.  I think our whole 'Marriage feels like death' schtick was a bit heavy for a first night.

The heaviest moment (in more ways than one) was the showing of this video below.

It was to illustrate a point about interlocking neuroses (which I blogged about here).  Every marriage has them.  But this example puts some real flesh on the concept.


All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh.  (Eph 2:3)

and the two will become one flesh.  (Eph 5:31)

The cravings of your flesh are one thing.  Uniting flesh with another sinner multiplies the gratification strategies.

So then, as part of homework for this week - answer these questions:

What are your cravings?

How do you manipulate your spouse to gratify them?

What are your spouse's cravings?

How do you allow them to flourish?


0 thoughts on “Interlocking neuroses

  1. Otepoti

    I'm OK with doing the first two questions, but the second two not so much. I'm inclined to appoint myself my spouse's spiritual overseer as it is. That sort of examination could go toxic real quick.

    It's tempting to skip from the first two (uncomfortable) questions to the second two - they're the "for fun" questions, aren't they?

    Log, eye, speck. I don't get past this.

  2. Missy

    Glenn, I guess my criticism - or better put, opinion - would be that marriage doesn't FEEL like death. Well... actually, if it's done wrong, it does feel like death.

    If it's done right, it IS death that feels like life.

    Sorry that they don't get the encouraging point in that yet, but you're talking to many individuals that more likely than not need encouragement and had very different expectations. It'll sink in. :)

  3. codepoke


    I've been way too busy to read lately, much less to comment and I've used that condition as an excuse to keep my opinion to myself. I hate giving unpleasant opinions.

    I look at this post and I look at your post on the Spirit and Jesus praying for us, and I see mirror images of the same unhelpful idealism. In this post you lay out the dangers of addiction/codependency, and you're right. In that post you lay out the wonders of the Lord's magnificent, living work for us, and you're right. But both posts are clouds without rain for the poor lady who really does need to believe there's life after saying no to her husband, or the poor gentleman who really needs to find a voice with his Lord. They both set up impossible barriers, one because the dragon is too large to face with such meager encouragement and the other because the White Knight saves too perfectly to be approached.

    This post says it much better than I'm able, if you can overlook the fact it's about computer programming and wade through the jargon.

  4. Heather

    I'm still processing this post. Having not been at your meeting, I'd be cautious in offering too much opinion.

    But this does look like a pretty hard-hitting topic for a first night. Or even a second.

    Otepoti has a good point (if I understand correctly).

    Evaluation of one's self in light of scripture is good and necessary.

    Evaluation of one's spouse's faults (even if the point is to alter my own behavior) may be pushing things a little too far as it can be oh so tempting to start nit-picking or demanding a certain level of performance instead of the desired result of helping him/her to move closer to Christ. I am responsible to not contribute to known weaknesses, however, so there should at least be an awareness.

    I dunno Glen. Usually I love your stuff....

    I'd have to respectfully disagree with codepoke on his opinion of the prayer post. I've been that person who agonized over whether the Lord actually heard me. To the point of questioning whether I had ever been saved. For months on end.

    It is excruciating when a breaking heart cries out and the voice just seems to bounce back off a brick wall. But that doesn't mean God isn't listening or that He doesn't care. Sometimes He's quiet so that *I* will realize that I really do want Him to comfort me. And I'm motivated to keep pounding on the door until He does answer.

    And it is a tremendous comfort during those times to know that even though it seemed as though the Father had turned a deaf ear toward me, He certainly listens to His beloved Son, for who's sake I'm loved. In this, I believe it is a matter of walking by faith rather than by sight.

  5. Glen

    Otepoti and Heather - you're right, the second two questions take away from everything I said in the first half of the session: That you're the only one who can change.

    If it was a one-to-one situation then I guess you challenge 'Half Ton's' wife to ask herself why *she* allows sin to reign - but, yes, as a blanket question for everyone it just becomes an excuse to point out 'specks'.

    Missy, (obviously I'm just highlighting the starkest 3 minutes of the evening here) but in general I think we did just need to be more encouraging- especially to begin with.

    I'd say there are many situations where it feels like death - biting your tongue when you want to lash back, leading if you're a man, letting him if you're a woman - but I'd say it feel like the right kind of death. The resurrection through crucifixion kind of death.

    Code - I agree with your assessment of this post. If this is all that's said to the wife then, yes "the poor lady... really does need to believe there’s life after saying no to her husband." And there's no sign of that life here in this post. It's definitely something we tried to address over the night and will seek to redress over the course.

    I'm not convinced in your assessment of the prayer post. It's not everything to be said about prayer but the Spirit of the Son praying in you already is, I think, a good place to start.

    Thanks everyone for feedback - it'll definitely help the course. Already I'm writing a section called "The Gospel in Ephesians 5" as an encouragement for next week.

    Gav - have you told me the jelly bean in the jar story before?? intrigued...

  6. Missy

    I see what you mean, Glen, but I don't agree with you on what "death" is. Like for instance, biting your tongue when you want to lash back. I don't see that as death, but self-control over a very much alive sinful nature. However, not feeling the need to lash back anymore - is what I have in mind when I think death to self. Training in self-control helps, but it's more than that. I don't imagine Jesus quashing sinful desires and biting His tongue, but rather not having them in the first place. Instead of simply biting my tongue, my practice has always been to exert some self-control over my emotions, then tell my husband something like, "Just a few moments ago, I had it in my mind to tell you off." And we talk about my sinful attitude.

    It's one of my pet peeves, the idea of a marriage being about suppressing who we are, instead of bringing it all into the light to sharpen one another. I think that a marriage such as that is one thing God uses to bring about our death to self.

  7. Heather


    I believe Glen's point was that access to genuine spiritual fruit (ie self control) is only possible when we are daily taking up our cross with Christ and dying to self.

    There is no other way into life but to go through death.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding. I've got a lot on my mind lately.

  8. Missy

    Heather, thank you. I think what you said helps me to understand the nuance I am trying to express a little better.

    Denying self and taking up our cross is done in following Christ - bearing what we've been given in life to endure, knowing that God is good. It is not self-control, but leads to things such as that. Self-control, as a means toward this "death that is life" is merely legalism.

    Am I communicating my meaning any better?

  9. Heather


    I think I see what you mean. And yes, if it is my deepest desire to lash out and tear up my husband with my tongue--yet am having to wrestle myself to the ground to keep from doing it--then that sort of self-control is just a legalistic external straight-jacket.

    However, that lack of self-control also gives opportunity to be further humbled before the Lord as I see what I'm really like and what I actually have been forgiven of.

    Then, the next time such a situation shows up, I am less likely to have to fight so much to keep from saying ugly things because I can see ever more clearly how blind, lame and sick I am apart from the grace of God. I'm less likely to throw darts and more likely to fall on my knees and pray for the man I love.

  10. Missy

    "However, that lack of self-control also gives opportunity to be further humbled before the Lord as I see what I’m really like and what I actually have been forgiven of."

    Exactly! So why act like I have self-control? Practice it, yes, because it is right and moral to do so, but don't pretend like I have it. Also, I must remember that practicing what it is like to be dead to self is not being dead to self. Being dead to self is to be hidden in Christ, to be grafted into his branches and not my own. It's more passive than active. When I am dead to self in this way, the fruit grows not because I am "trying" but because it just does - a result of who I am as a branch on His vine. Does a vine say to itself, "I want to grow some grapes. So I'm going to practice/pretend to be a grape." No! The vine does nothing more than stay with the vine.

  11. Otepoti

    All the commenting action happens while I'm asleep!

    Gav, dear, if the jellybean story is preying on your mind, go ahead and tell it.

    Glen, I think your model of interlocking neuroses or co-dependency is unhelpful even if true. That is, it makes the same sort of sense to the theory of marriage as Dawkin's Selfish Gene theory does to the purpose of life.

    And I think your specific example, the Jack Sprat couple, is egregiously unfair.

    The mistake I think you're making is to assume that marriage is the most important thing about a married person. It's not, since in heaven we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.

    And the second mistake is to assume that a marriage might not be flourishing in its spiritual dimension even in the presence of sinful tendencies.

    Who's to say that this couple weren't being mutually helpful and comforting and spiritually useful, even as one partner allowed the other to overeat? (Not me! I'm traditionally built - the difference is only one of degree.)

    As I see it, the devil had to work fairly hard here to chip away at a Christian marriage, by perverting good things - an abundance of tasty food (mmm, cinnamon pinwheels!) and a service ethic on the part of the wife. And even then he couldn't (as far as we know) pervert the most important part of the marriage.

    The "assisted suicide" slight in the video was unspeakably unfair. There's a world of difference, as any fule no.

    Best to you all.

  12. Glen

    Ok, not my most popular post.

    I'm very sympathetic to Missy's concerns - dying = being hidden in Christ. It's something that's already happened. The fruit of it is hopefully a change in desires. I'm definitely not saying that 'marriage feels like death' in order to say that marriage is about suppressing our 'real' desires or anything. It's just a way of saying marriage feels hard at times. And that Jesus said all of life is cross-shaped so we shouldn't be too surprised.

    All that Missy says about avoiding legalism etc I'm totally on board with.

    Otepoti, I'm totally with you on marriage not being the most important thing - it was the point I made last night directly before introducing interlocking neuroses. It's when you invest in marriage as your own private heaven that you become unable to challenge any dysfunctions that arise. Only when you stop trying to make 'cosying up' the be all and end all do you have the sense of perspective to start challenging the patterns you've fallen into.

    I also think it's kudos to this couple that they eventually did fight some massive battles and keep the weight off. But clearly there were big problems to be addressed here. And the point is not to highlight *this* couple but to say that we're all susceptible to allowing these patterns.

    Glad for all the feedback guys...

  13. Otepoti

    There are two pieces of marriage advice that I dish out, sometimes even when asked. One is that, there will certainly be times when the promise is the only thing keeping you from walking - but that's alright. That's what the promise is for./

    The second is that you should treat your spouse as well as you treat the family cat - once a day you should stroke him and tell him he's a beautiful boy. This reduces male stress disorders.



  14. Missy

    Yes, Glen, I see your point and agree. I have a lot of difficulty expressing what I know I mean. ;)

    I think what is critical for me to remember is that yielding to Christ IS death to self, while yielding to my spouse is not. I think, in light of what you know of my church background, you might understand how this concept is important to me for maintaining an unlegalistic stance.

    I think I understand a little more of your scope with your further explanations, and I like it. It's a hard teaching, though.

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