The world is pressuring us and our kids more than ever. We all feel it, we all talk about it. We know it’s a not a healthy thing.
When we retreat from the world to our homes, do we get a break from that pressure? Or do we just transfer that pressure to the ones we love the most?
Sometimes pressure is good. I work well under a little bit of pressure. Like oh, it’s 5:00 and I haven’t thought about dinner! Pressure! And somehow I go careening through the kitchen and come up with something knowing that there’s no more time to procrastinate.
Speaking of dinner, I love my pressure cooker. That’s where pressure does amazing things. Yum yum.
But applying pressure on our relationships does not yield delicious results. Even subtle pressure is damaging and can throw a relationship in the opposite direction you’re trying to go.
Joe and I have struggled with pressure in the area of emotional intimacy. Ah yes, that thing that women just love. Tell me all your feelings, baby. Honey what’s wrong? Why are you so distant today? Are you mad at me? Can’t we just talk? Why don’t you want to talk? TALK TO ME.
Joe doesn’t want to talk. He won’t open up. He won’t tell me anything. I’ve been at this game for twenty or so years so I could think of a million other questions if he doesn’t start talking.
We call this game hide-and- seek and we played it incessantly when we first got married. Matthew Clark calls it the clam and the crow bar. One person is hiding and the other person will do whatever means necessary to pry the other open.
Even when I asked kindly, gently, sweetly, Joe knew that underneath it was old-fashioned pressure, so he backed off and pushed me away. So I applied more pressure, and he pushed me away more, and the circle went ‘round.
Until I realized that Joe didn’t like this game. Applying pressure would not produce the kind of emotional intimacy I wanted.
I shouldn’t treat him like he was a dog and supposed to Sit! Stay! Speak! on command. And the more questions I asked, the less likely he was going to Speak! on command.
It’s not that he didn’t want to talk to me, turns out.
He loved being close to me, he totally trusted me with his feelings. But it was difficult for him. Some of this was a man thing, but in our situation it was related to his past and the abuse he suffered growing up. He is especially sensitive to not having his own space and autonomy. It doesn’t take much at all to make him feel trapped. And I didn’t realize that me applying pressure only increased his feelings of being trapped.
Revelation 3:20 talks about Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
Always pursuing us, always there waiting with open arms- but never forcing His way in. Do we treat our spouse that way? Pursuing a Christ-centered marriage includes following Jesus’ example of unconditional, gentle love.
When I gave Joe space to breathe is when he felt safe enough to come close. Letting go of that pressure was a huge part in growing us closer together!