It’s no surprise that marriage is under assault. Younger marriages end when one or both feel unhappy or unfulfilled. Longer-term marriages dissolve once the kids are out of the house and there’s no “good” reason to stay together. Even seniors are leaving their marriages, unable to tolerate more of the decades-long turmoil or misery. Whatever the stage of your relationship, there are enemies of your marriage you must overcome.

If you would grade your marriage an A, simply review these challenges and keep your defenses strong against them. If your marriage is troubled or on the brink of failing, it’s almost certain one or more of these issues is at play.

Let’s look at some of the enemies of your marriage you must overcome if you are to have a successful relationship.

  1. Your Sinful Human Nature

You married a sinner. And your spouse married a sinner too. There are no other people available to marry. And two sinners uniting in marriage is a setup for disaster. Take away every other enemy your marriage is facing, and your own sinful nature would be more than enough to destroy it. Selfishness, bitterness, manipulation, anger, contempt, fear, apathy–and the list goes on.

95% of the people who contact me about their troubled marriage are focused on the behavior they wish their spouse would change. Yes, some marriages are toxic. If that’s you, please get some help! But you can’t change your spouse. Your sinful nature is enough to destroy your marriage. What’s it like to be married to you?

And if the enemy can’t get you to focus on your spouse’s faults, he’ll get you to wallow in your own self-contempt. That’s not what this is about. It’s about being honest about your own heart and becoming the spouse God needs you to be in this season of your marriage.

  1. Your Parent’s Relationship

You learned things about marriage long before you knew you were learning them. You grew up in a sinful household. Perhaps 10% of your parent’s marriage was troubled, or it might have been 95%. But you learned things about communication, emotions, intimacy, sex, conflict, parenting, money, male/female roles, dealing with extended family, and more that greatly affect your relationship today.

Consider the mental templates you brought to your own marriage. Some of them may have been very good. But which aspects of those templates are less than healthy? You don’t get healthy mental templates simply by saying “I’ll do better,” or “I won’t do that.” They don’t change by prayer alone. The negative aspects of your parent’s relationship only lose their ability to damage you as you bring them into the light and intentionally learn new ways of doing and being.

  1. Pornography

If you or your spouse have watched porn it IS affecting your marriage. And that’s the case for the majority of marriages today, even Christian marriages. Porn gives your brain the message that you can get your “needs” met without giving of yourself, without doing the hard work of relationship-building. It presents a grossly skewed view of male/female roles and of sexuality. It separates sex from emotional and spiritual intimacy and harms a person’s ability to bond with a live human being.

You can find freedom from pornography. But this is also about much more than just sex. Even if neither of you is watching porn right now, the unconscious assumptions porn builds into your brain are hard to overcome. Porn is a true monster. It’s one that you absolutely can gain the victory over! But that also involves doing the deep heart work not only to stop the behavior, but to learn new things about human beings, sex, relationships, men and women, marriage, etc.

  1. Church “Band-Aids”

There’s a lot of marriage help available for Christians in the form of books, podcasts, conferences, etc. For every marriage that is helped, blessings on you! And there are also many marriages that are not helped, and too often even damaged by the superficial way much of this material is presented. It too often leaves struggling people believing something is wrong with them if they can’t make these simple platitudes work. And sadly there is some Christian teaching on marriage that is just plain wrong.

There are some things I wish the church would teach about marriage that become especially important in our culture today. As a whole, the body of Christ needs to do a much better job of addressing things such as power dynamics in marriage, building true intimacy, healthy boundaries in marriage, and how to handle truly toxic relationships.

  1. The Kingdom of Darkness

We are in a world at war. Satan knows that there’s perhaps no earthly factor that makes a bigger difference in your sense of wholeness than the quality of your marriage. God intended marriage to be an object lesson, a demonstration of the intimacy He desires to have with His children both now and eternally. So of course Satan attacks marriages–both directly and through cultural distortions and mistruths.

Seeing Satan as the ultimate enemy of your marriage allows you to fight for your marriage rather than against your spouse. This does not excuse any bad behavior by either you or your spouse, but it can help direct your energies in the right direction.

I’d encourage you to seek God’s perspective in this process, and focus on learning healthy ways to pray about your troubled marriage.

Your Turn: What do you see as the biggest enemy of your marriage right now? What kind of emotional state does that idea stir up in you? Leave a comment below.

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