I spent a day this week at the beach with my daughter and three of her four children–we left the baby at home. When we arrived it looked like a storm might blow in, so my oldest granddaughter suggested we pray that God would take the clouds away. Ah, the faith of a child! The clouds left, and we had a picture perfect day, weather-wise.
But something was wrong, very wrong. We noticed the News van in the parking lot at the 27th Avenue ramp where we always go. When we got down on the beach, we noticed the red flag waving on the lifeguard station, the police helicopter hovering up and down the beach, and the Coast Guard boat speeding back and forth beyond the waves.
They were obviously in search of someone–but who?
My daughter walked to the lifeguard to find out, and it wasn’t what we wanted to hear. He told us to keep the children close and away from the surf as a precaution. Apparently, the night before a 17-year-old boy from GA had been swimming with friends when he disappeared. They had been searching for him ever since.
Of course, we didn’t say a word to the children–they didn’t even notice. But we kept a watchful eye on the surf hoping and praying that they would find him, but not where we were. That would be an image we would never be able to shake, and we were grateful God answered our prayers yet again; They found the boy about two miles north of us within a few minutes of our arrival, but we didn’t hear about it until a hour or two later.
This horribly sad story could have been easily avoided.
You see, most people who aren’t from Florida don’t realize how dangerous rip-currents can be. A good, strong swimmer can drown just as easily as one who isn’t. Why? Because when the strong current grabs ahold of you it pulls you quickly out to sea. Many panic and become exhausted trying to swim back to shore against the current. The smart thing to do is swim parallel to the shore until you breakaway from the currents pull. Then, you’re free to swim back to the shore. If only he had understood this, he most likely would still be here.
In marriage we are often caught up in similar rip-currents.
What are they? These rip-currents are hot topics you know are going to pull the conversation into an emotional panic. They can be different in each marriage, but here are a few they could be:
- Finances – how to manage them
- Raising children – how to train them
- Faith issues – how to love God and where to put down roots
- Relating with friends who are of the opposite sex – how to not cross the line into emotional intimacy
- Hobbies – how much time to spend on them
- Annoying/concerning habits – how to help your spouse desire change
- Health issues – how to help your spouse become and stay healthy
- Trust issues – how to believe the best of your spouse, and how to help your spouse trust you
Every marriage has one or more rip-currents with which they have to swim on a regular basis. The experienced swimmers (those married for years) are in as much danger as the novice ones (those newlyweds) and need to be aware of the danger and what to do to avoid being pulled into a nasty situation that could threaten the life of your marriage.
How To Avoid The Rip-Currents of Conflict
First of all, admit that you know how to push your spouse’s buttons. If you’re upset with them about one thing, don’t allow yourself to push any of these buttons in retaliation. This is immature and will not help your relationship grow. It may feel good in the moment, but know that regret always follows. This is like pushing your spouse into the dangerous waters of a rip-current. Don’t do it.
Secondly, seek help in how you should handle the topic. Most likely you have a friend who is stronger in this area. Seek their counsel. It may be they have the rescue tools to help pull you out of the rip-current. Be sure to also seek the answers in God’s Word:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Thirdly, be willing to take the time needed to swim in the deep and not rush to a solution. When you do it usually only makes matters worse. And it will wear you both down physically and emotionally. Many times conflicts occur late at night when you are both exhausted already. This is not the time to try and make a dash for a resolution. Instead, you may need to agree to sleep and discuss it more in the morning. If this isn’t possible, then purpose to stay alert and engaged in what you’re spouse is saying. Resist the temptation to be thinking about your next point and miss fully understanding your spouse’s view.
Finally, once you’ve listened to what your spouse has to say, repeat back what you heard them say to be sure you were listening rightly. The goal in any conflict isn’t to win, but to understand. If you are not willing to come alongside your spouse in the conflict and help swim in parallel together, then you will never break free of the rip-tide. Don’t let this happen! Marriage isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Just like those who have been caught in a rip-tide and safely broken free from it’s pull, they are usually quick to jump right back in the ocean to swim, surf and have fun, because despite the risk–it’s worth it.
What issues have been like rip-currents in your marriage? How have you learned to avoid them?