What do you call it when someone turns against the team? Sometimes we say they’re a traitor, deserter, or even hypocrite. In medicine, it’s called autoimmunity: an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself.
What about in marriage, when one spouse turns on the other and begins attacking the team?
In Galatians, Paul uses some graphic imagery to make an emphatic point: Tearing at each other by biting and devouring has the same effect, relationally, as cannibalism: Consuming one of your own.
If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (5:15)
When a spouse does this, they’re cannibalizing their own marriage.
What does it look like to bite and devour — have I been cannibalizing my own marriage?
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added)
Wow, wow, wow – if we can get a visual of just how dangerous it is to live out of our flesh instead of our spirit, we’ll be able to see how much real damage we can do to our husbands, to ourselves, and to The Kingdom –it can change our hearts.
Marriage Cannibal: it’s a choice
No one is a cannibal on their wedding day. In fact, we’re the opposite of a marriage cannibal on that day! This change happens after the wedding and is triggered by who we listen to.
Marriage cannibals want you to expose all your husband’s mistakes, misdemeanors, and missteps. They tell you how right you are and how you deserve better. How unfair your circumstances are. All the while inching you closer to your flesh instead of The Spirit.
Is it intentional? Sometimes it is – sometimes women are so hurt over their own failed marriage(s) they can’t get beyond their own bitterness. They end up destroying any other marriage they come in contact with –misery loves company. And then there are some unwittingly used by Satan:
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 3:6)
… and they end up being out for themselves. They feel justified as they feed on the misery that you’re serving up from your marriage. They do this under the guise of helping and encouraging your situation, all the while sharpening your focus on the faults of your man. Their motive isn’t really solution-oriented, it just feels like it is because they’re giving you center stage of attention.
It doesn’t matter if the split for the responsibility of the conflict is 95% your fault and 5% your husband’s. A marriage cannibal will talk you away from any responsibility you have while simultaneously narrowing your focus on that 5% of his. Blame’s the name of the game.
The first marriage cannibal was Satan
He uses the same technique today that he used in the garden: Creating doubt through a perceived sense of lack. He wasn’t after Eve, he merely used a weakness of hers to reach his real target, Adam – divide then conquer.
Any advice or counsel that focuses on the faults of your man instead of the power of Christ’s grace, is underpinned by Satan’s methods. You’ll know them because they’ll appeal to your flesh – just like they did with Eve.
DIVIDED: Satan used a lie to shift Eve’s focus away from God’s truth so she’d doubt Adam, You won’t die! Then, as a liar does, he spins it bigger, God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.
AND: Eve doubts, The woman was convinced. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband.
CONQUERED: Adam yields, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened.
Satan achieved a “twofer” here:
- Division between husband and wife (Genesis 3:16)
- Division from God (Genesis 3:24)
Cannibalism of marriage: the movement
A true saying is that, it takes two to tango. It takes two to make the marriage work and two to break it down – but it only takes one to initiate divorce1. In the past, when it was just our husbands that had the freedom to initiate divorce, the divorce rates2 were low. However, when us wives got that same freedom, divorce rates skyrocketed3.
Unfortunately, it’s women that are leading the destruction of families – not men. (2 Tim 3:6-7)
When you listen to a marriage cannibal, you’ll end up distrusting God’s:
- Son (Hebrews 1:2)
- Message in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Power (Romans 4:17)
- Timing, and (2 Peter 3:8-9)
- Ability (Luke 1:37)
And you’ll believe that:
- The grace you’ve received from God through Christ is sufficient for your sin, but not for your husband’s. (Romans 3:21-26)
- The circumstances in your marriage are the exception and make your marriage harder than anyone else has ever experienced. So, therefore, you get a special dispensation of grace. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12)
- Your husband’s problems are not fixable, even by the Creator of the universe. (Ephesians 3:20)
- Your sins are smaller than his, and God doesn’t have as much work to do in you as He does in your husband – he’s holding you back from a good life and you want to be happy now. (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11)
- Your life will be better without your husband. You have to depend on your own ability to make that happen instead of waiting for God to make it happen. (Isaiah 43:19)
- We all need to talk to people about problems in our marriage from time to time. Choose wisely – choose one person. Choose as a last resort. Don’t choose a person as a replacement of the Holy Spirit, and if the advice doesn’t lead you to give the grace of Jesus Christ, choose someone else.
- God tells us to test fruit and He encourages us to test Him. Check the source – what does her own marriage look like? Examine the fruit in her marriage, she must be able to back it up with real experience. If she doesn’t have fruit yet or the fruit is suspect, choose someone else.
- After you’re done talking to her, do you hate your husband more? Or, love him more (or at the very least, hate him a little less)? Have they thrown gas on the sparks so your anger and self-pity are escalating to a consuming fire that needs to be fed? Or, have they helped you diminish the sparks by sprinkling the water of grace on them? If not, choose someone else.
- initiate divorce: “… 70-75% of divorces were initiated by women […] and is a rising trend.” –Michelle Langley (Incidentally, her research is part of why and when I started following trends and information about marriage) Her book is called, Women’s Infidelity, and was published in 2005.
- divorce rates: according to the National Center for Health, 50% of marriages in the United States now end in divorce with 80 percent of the initiation filed by women.
- divorce rates skyrocketed: “#25. Wives are the ones who most often file for divorce at 66% on average.” That figure has soared to nearly 75 percent in some years.