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Friday, March 28, 2014

Rejected By Your Spouse

Rejection is a part of life (especially for a writer!). You'll find rejection in employment, in business, in acquaintanceship, even in friendship.

But you should never, ever find it in marriage.

The reason is simple - rejection hurts, and in a marriage your guard is not supposed to be up. You're vulnerable to hurt, by design.

And yet, it happens. A few of the common circumstances are -

Respect for a homemaker - a stay-at-home spouse is and easy target for rejection masquerading as disrespect. The 'rejecting' spouse is in a position of power, and can define he relative worth of the contribution of each, and often rejects the contribution of the homemaker through dismissal and criticism.

Religious involvement - rejection can work both sides of the street. The spouse with what is perceived as lesser (or inferior) faith is often marginalized in the marriage, and worse, in the family. Likewise, the mate who's on fire for Christ can become a figure of ridicule, and efforts to invoke feelings of self-consciousness and guilt ("I wish you spent as much time with ME as you spend with Jesus!").

Sex - probably the area in which rejection is most common. Husbands 'lose interest' in their wives as the years pass (but would be delighted to get the attention of a 21-year-old), and wives often shut their husbands out for emotional and physical reasons.

But the specific reasons aren't important, and going into them can provide as much ammunition to support the rejecting spouse's view as it helps to clear the air.

No, the problem is rejection itself.

Rejection is something that you can't dismiss with an apology, except in the immediate aftermath of delivering the rejection - "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that, I shouldn't have said it" has a very limited shelf life.

Once the window of opportunity for apology has passed, damage starts - and continues. When you reject your spouse, you've delivered an opinion from the one person whose words can make or break their life. Literally.

You have that power.

The unresolved rejection burrows deep, like rust on steel - or like a cancer. It colors everything. It calls into question one's very worth, when it comes from one's mate.

And it can't be 'fixed'. A husband who rejects his wife sexually, and then comes back a few months later saying "I was wrong" is likely to be viewed with some skepticism.

"He's going to manfully do his Scriptural duty. Yee-ha. Close your eyes and think of England."

Or less charitably,

"His secretary gave him the cold shoulder."

Restoring the physical relationship to what it was is impossible. It's broken. Restoring it to something functional is possible - with a lot of work, and even more grace.

Rejecting a homemaker's contribution can be addressed a little bit more effectively, by switching roles for a week. Or even a day. The 'working' spouse will look on their job as something of a vacation after that, and is likely to offer an abject apology.

Which one is bound to accept, but there will always be the thought : "He did it once...will he do it again?"

Rejection's a game-changer. It changes us.

And never for the better.


  1. You know, Andrew ... sadly, I think we are prone to elevate our spouses too much ... idolizing them, in a sense. The same is probably true of close friends, family members. When we do that ... that is when comments hurt. We must be intentional in only elevating God ... and that's not an easy task ... but it's freedom.

    1. I think you're right, Shelli. We put people too high, and when they lose their balance and fall, they can land on us.

      We have to call them to a high responsibility, without looking to them instead of God.