Intermittent good behaviour keeps us holding on

Intermittent “good behaviour” can keep a couple from getting needed help for their marriage.  I see this all the time, and I know it’s extremely difficult to break the cycle.

Basically, it looks like this: 

  1. One spouse is either doing something that’s harmful to the other or to the marriage, or they’re refusing to do something that’s necessary for the good of other or the marriage
  2. BUT, every so often, the person does the right thing. 

That moment of doing what is right, that intermittent good behaviour, is done just often enough to keep hope alive. It’s a lot like starving someone to near death and then giving them just enough to keep them marginally alive. When they’re about to crawl off to find food on their own (or just to die and get it over with) an extra large portion of food is presented, possibly with promises of more regular feeding. However, those promises are short lived, and soon it’s back to limiting.

What I hate about this, and yes, I use that strong work intentionally, is that it keeps many marriages that could be healed from getting help until it’s too late. The problem is kept hidden, and nothing is done about the underlying issues. It just keeps going, tearing up the victim and the marriage. What is being rationed is not really the issue. It’s often sex, but it can also be affection, respect, time together, or many, many other things that are needed for a healthy marriage. Regardless of what is rationed, the harm is the same.

Let me suggest that keeping someone on the edge of starvation isn’t done accidentally; it takes a lot of careful reading of the situation and acting neither too soon nor too late. I’m sure some do it less than fully intentionally, and I suspect for some it’s such a habit it’s almost automatic. But it’s never a coincidence or accident, and it’s not going to get better on its own. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to act, and the sooner the better.  A great place to start is with the book Boundaries in Marriage .

OTOH, if you’re guilty of doing this to your bride, please know you’re killing her love for you and destroying your marriage and any children you have. This is an extremely cruel thing to do, and you need to stop immediately. If you can’t stop, get help – please.

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One Comment on “Intermittent good behaviour keeps us holding on

  1. Basically this boils down to manipulation and it reveals insecurity and a lack of trust in the Lord. Reminds me of Proverbs 3:5-8.

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.

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