What it Looks Like to Open Up in Marriage
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (HCSB)
It was late August and the breeze brought the scent of fresh earth and cut grass. I walked from room to room, prying open windows and used boxes to prop the doors open. We had just moved to a tiny Nebraska town and our 120-year-old Victorian needed to open up. It had been closed for months. The air within was stale and stuffy at best.
As I wandered from room to room, feeling the cool breeze on my skin, I realized marriage sometimes feels like this house. Familiar, comfortable, yet tight and wholly uncomfortable. And the very idea of opening a door to my husband feels like a vulnerable and risky move. Keeping the storm windows shut feels like a much safer venture. Especially after a fight or misunderstanding or hurt feelings. Keeping everything sealed feels much softer. During times of conflict our hearts close up, it curls itself into a tight ball. A closed heart is stuffed with selfishness, faulty assumptions, and judgment.
More often than not fear tells us it’s better to stay stuffed and closed than risk your pride. Pride tells you to wait for your spouse to make the first move. The dark side of pride sows the seeds for the weeds of conflict to take root at your front door. Pride doesn’t want to lose arguments. Pride doesn’t want to apologize. Pride doesn’t want to consider the other person. It seeks self-preservation at all costs, which left unchecked will crack the very foundation of your marriage. It settles quietly into the cracks and beckons a slamming door.
The Bible says pride only breeds quarrels. If left unchecked, it leads to the loss of intimacy. Yet the exact opposite of pride is the fresh breeze of humility. In the book of Philippians, Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. (2:3). According to Greek word studies, the Greek word for selfish ambition is eritheia, meaning to act for one’s own gain, regardless of the strife it causes.
Vain conceit is demonstrated when we project the attitude that we are always right. The Greek word for vain conceit is kenodoxia, meaning that you are excessively proud of your own opinion.
We need to open up. When conflict arrives, my initial response is to lock, seal and bolt shut the doors of my heart. I don’t want to be wrong, I don’t want my hurt to be seen. But the truth is, I need a fresh breeze of humility and a new perspective that comes with it. Humility renders grace.
But what does it look like? It does the following:
I choose to focus on you.
I choose to open the doors and windows.
I choose to open up.
I choose to reach toward you.
I choose to give you my full attention.
I choose to assume the best about you.
I choose to forgive you.
I choose to understand your perspective before you understand mine.
I choose to forgive you.
To open up is a practice and it feels counterintuitive when we’d rather stay hidden and closed. But to reach out in vulnerability wins the victory of humility and brings the gift of freedom in your marriage. The next time there’s conflict and everything feels too tight, too stuffy, remember to open up.
Heather Riggleman calls Nebraska home (Hey, it’s not for everyone) with her three kids and husband of 20 years. She writes to bring bold truths to marriage, career, mental health, faith, relationships, celebration and heartache. Heather is a former national award-winning journalist and is the author of Mama Needs a Time Out and Let’s Talk About Prayer. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com.
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