Marriage minefields are fields where we have buried or hidden devices (memories) just below the surface. We actually move forward in life by frequently looking backward. Most day-to-day life is not filled with new revelation but memory. Memory helps us to find our way home after work. Memory is used daily in order to live life. Life without the ability to recall even the slightest, most mundane details or important ones would be disastrous.
When we have an issue in marriage, we quickly go to our memory bank and pull up a pleasant experience, a neutral experience or a negative experience. If we find ourselves connecting to a pain-filled memory, we can begin to sweat, experience an increased heart rate and be inundated with a flood of negative emotions. When this happens, we know we have connected to a memory minefield.
Some of our memories contain lies or misbeliefs and still others are inaccurate. It was not uncommon for John and Elizabeth (not their real names) to experience knock-down, drag-out arguments. In sheer frustration late one evening, John looked at Elizabeth and said, “That’s it; I’m out of here!” Immediately, Elizabeth went silent and fell to the floor in a fetal position, where she sobbed uncontrollably. Even though John ran immediately to his wife, knelt beside her, and desperately tried to console her, it was as if he had left. Elizabeth didn’t or couldn’t hear his voice or acknowledge his presence. John later discovered that when his wife was six years old, she overheard her parents fighting. Her father’s words rang out as he screamed, “That’s it; I’m out of here!” Elizabeth never saw her father again
John was not her father; he was her dedicated husband. However, when Elizabeth heard that same phrase, she immediately associated the words with her father’s words from her childhood. That former experience was automatically connected to the present experience. The characters were different, but in her mind the outcome would be the same. The deep, wrenching pain of loss she once associated with her father’s abandonment returned as if it was programmed for this exact moment. Everything in her being was telling her, “Now my husband is leaving me too.” The pain was unbearable, and those same feelings of abandonment returned with a vengeance.
Elizabeth was no longer fighting with John; she was wrestling with pain-filled memories planted in a minefield just below the surface. Was it the argument they needed to resolve, or was it Elizabeth’s past hurts that needed to be healed? From many stories like this one, I have come to believe that most relationship issues in the present have a connection to the past; therefore, what seem like marital issues are often individual issues. I am convinced that when Jesus heals our individual issues, sins, hurts, and disappointments, marriage relationship issues can also be healed. *
*Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak