“Who are you …. and what have you done with my spouse?”
Have you ever wondered if you and your spouse are under spiritual attack or if your spouse is just a jerk? Before you said I do, your spouse seemed perfect — except for a few tiny dings and scratches. But after a few months (or years), all you can see is the imperfections in your relationship:
- Your spouse isn’t as kind or oving toward you as they used to be.
- They know which of your buttons to push and the worst time to push them.
- You’re afraid to bring up any tough issues because it leads to conflict.
- You have a low-grade irritation with your spouse most of the time.
- Your husband or wife doesn’t meet your needs.
- You try to stay positive and focus on their needs and interests, but you’re faking it.
- You blame one person for every issue; either it’s your fault or their fault.
“I didn’t sign up for this,” you say. The marriage feels defective, and there’s no warranty or “return policy.” You don’t want to form the words aloud, but inside your head you’re saying, My spouse is a jerk.
Then a friend suggests that there could be a bigger issue: spiritual warfare. Satan is attacking your marriage, and you need to rebuke him and pray for protection. A spiritual battle needs to be fought in the spiritual realm.
So, which is it? And what should you do?
Acknowledge two truths
We can spend a lot of emotional energy trying to determine if it’s a spiritual attack or just an everyday marriage issue. But does it really matter?
Two things are true:
- Satan has your marriage on his radar and wants to mess it up.
- Your spouse is human — and so are you.
Yes, you’re under attack. And yes, growing in marriage is a process and takes serious work. Both things are true at the same time. If that’s accurate, your strategy should always involve a two-pronged approach:
- Pray for protection.
- Work on your relationship.
It’s not one or the other. Both things occur simultaneously, so our response should deal with them together.
Make conflict a trigger
We know that prayer should be our first response to everything that happens in our lives and marriages. But in the heat of the battle, it’s often our last response. We’re emotionally involved and focused on the conflict. That’s OK, because it’s happening in real time and needs to be dealt with in real time.
What if we made that conflict a trigger to ask God for wisdom, right at the beginning? That doesn’t mean dropping to your knees and spending 10 minutes in prayer. It’s just a simple acknowledgement and connection with God for wisdom during the conflict. It’s saying, “OK, I’m frustrated (or angry or discouraged or afraid). Help me think clearly and see my spouse through Your eyes. Block the Enemy in our marriage.” This acknowledges the reality of Satan’s plan as well as the process of growing our relationship.
Philippians 4:6 tells us that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known to God.” The word “everything” is pretty clear; prayer should be a component in dealing with every marital challenge, no matter how big or small.
“With thanksgiving” gives us a practical way to keep our perspective about our spouse. While we’re taking our spouse before God in prayer, we can ask for a spirit of gratefulness. It might seem tough to be grateful for the spouse who’s irritating us. Through prayer, God can give us a thankful spirit that we might not have on our own. It might not happen right away, but that’s OK. We don’t have to fake it; we’re giving God “permission” to work on our attitude.
Pray for your marriage
Dealing with the spiritual side of our marriage simply means consistently inviting God into our relationship. We talk to Him about what we’re thinking and feeling. And ask Him to do His work.
Here are some practical suggestions to make prayer a meaningful and powerful tool:
- Don’t pray “fix-it” prayers about your spouse. Be honest with God about what you’re feeling, but simply ask Him to do His work in your spouse — and in you.
- Ask God to give you the confidence that He’s capable of working in your lives.
- Don’t give God a timetable; His schedule might not match your desires.
- Pray for spiritual protection for you and your spouse.
- Pray for God to bring the right people into your spouse’s life — the ones who can come alongside and help them grow.
- Pray for empathy, the ability to see through your spouse’s eyes. It doesn’t mean you agree with them on everything; it means you’re seeking to understand.
- Pray that your communication skills will grow.
Get on the same team
When you’re frustrated with each other, it’s easy to assume that the other person is the problem. That’s a no-win situation, because you’re convinced that things won’t get better until the other person changes — and they’re assuming the same thing.
Instead of making your spouse the enemy, make the current issue the enemy. Find a time when there are no emotional issues and discuss how you can become partners in solving these issues when they occur. It’s not a panacea for every problem, but it puts you on the same team. Joining forces multiplies your strength in solving problems.
Work on yourself first
Here’s the biggest practical issue: The only person you can change is yourself. You can pray for your spouse, influence them and use logic with them — but you can’t force them to change. If that’s what you’re waiting for, you’ll end up continually frustrated.
Instead, work on becoming a better person and spouse. That’s something you can control. If you grow, your capacity to invest in your marriage grows.
Make regular investments in your marriage
Finally, don’t forget regular maintenance on your relationship. Just as your car needs regular oil changes, your marriage needs consistent tune-ups. Read a marriage book, attend a seminar or take a course together at least once a year. It’s a way of catching little problems before they grow into big problems. That’s why Solomon said, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)
If the problems are already big, look for professional help (such as what’s available through Focus on the Family). If I have a sore throat, I might take care of it on my own. But if I had a brain tumor, I seek out the best professional I can find — a seasoned, trained expert.
The key to a healthy marriage is to recognize the reality of Satan’s attacks, as well as the challenges of normal communication and growth issues. Both are taking place all the time, so look for solutions that deal with both aspects simultaneously.
Focus on the solutions, not the problems. Then let God do His work!Y