I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father growing up. He was like a stranger to me in many ways because he was a workaholic pastor who wasn’t home much.
When he was, he didn’t know how to reach out or connect with me.
When I got married, I brought both a fear of connection and an obsessive need for connection into the marriage. That’s because my issues with my father distorted my view of all men, complicating matters with my husband.
In a lot of ways, the only view I had of men was through the eyes of my messy married mother. She always made it crystal clear to me and my siblings just how discontented she was in her marriage as well as how much her man was disappointing her.
I internalized this to mean that …
Men could not be trusted
It’s very important to get the upper hand with men.
This gave me a huge need to protect myself by avoiding conflict, but I could just as quickly turn and attack my husband as well.
It was as if I was running from him whenever I sensed he was displeased with me or wanted to argue, but then running at him whenever I feared he wasn’t going to back away from an argument.
Anyone who knows my husband well, also knows how colossal his courage is. He rarely backs away in situations where most stay comfortably on the sidelines.
But he’s also got this colossal courage that can sometimes propel him toward trouble, especially with me!
I can see now how much this is about him fighting for what he believes is right in both scenarios, not because he doesn’t care but because he cares so much!
As you might imagine, it took a lot of years for us to figure out how to navigate conflict constructively with our “issues” in play. Notwithstanding, the occasional “I’m-so-exhausted-I-don’t-want-to-be-constructive” kind of fight every now and then!
I didn’t realize my bad attitude overnight nor quickly. God revealed to me these issues a little here, a little there over a series of years and through a variety of, mostly, difficult and painful experiences.
Yes, pain and difficulty can be a good thing in the hands of our good God!
God worked with the small amount of willingness I gave Him at each juncture. And in time, I came to realize that my dad was doing the best he knew how to do. My dad just didn’t know how to connect with me because his own father was physically abusive and disconnected from him.
God showed me over time that it’s always was my job to forgive, in particular, my dad.
And I’m so grateful I did this because I was able to truly connect with him in the last few years of his life. Not only that but, after his passing, my ability to grieve our relationship was no longer hindered by lingering regrets or unresolved resentments either.
Thankfully, my husband also worked on what God was revealing to him about his own issues, adding momentum to God’s redemption of our story.
Here’s what I would like to say to you …
Whether you have “father issues” or not, please be open to what God wants to reveal to you and heal in your life.
If you’re experiencing problems in marriage, you’ve “got issues”—whether they’re due to your issues, your spouse’s, or both!
So get the process started by praying a prayer like the one found in Psalm 139:23-24, personalizing it in ways that invite and welcome God’s illumination …
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (NLT)
As God reveals your issues to you, surrender them to Him, one by one. Then get busy doing the work God asks you to do.
If you do, I’m certain you won’t regret it!
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Messy Marriage