Jokes about marriage tend to center around his v. her scenarios – that all men do this, and all women are like this and never the twain shall meet. What we forget too often is that the battle lines aren’t drawn that way. The husband isn’t pitted against the wife and we aren’t at war with each other. We are allies. We’re on the same side. And our enemy is whatever wants to break our marriage alliance and get us to surrender. Our enemy is selfishness, pride, arrogance, unwillingness to submit to each other, to put each other first. It’s lust and greed and ego. The enemy is seeking people outside our marriage for those things we should be getting from our spouse. And the battle is the two of you together, against these things. When my husband is losing against these things, I am losing.
As with any war, we assess our resources. War is always about resources and strategy. It’s about knowing our strengths and our weaknesses, honestly evaluating what and where we need to attack and to defend. It’s about outlasting the enemy, refuelling, making alliances with others who want the same outcome, others who will hold the line with us and not run away at first sign of defeat.
When I attack my husband, I am attacking myself. When I make fun of him or point out his flaws to my friends or family, I am giving the enemy a way into our strongholds. When I betray him, I am setting myself up as his enemy, and aligning myself with my own enemy. As wives, we often find ourselves second guessing our husbands. Women tend to think they know better. Men tend to think they know better. It becomes this chaotic mess when people don’t listen to each other, digging in their heels, turning their backs when their allies need them most. The enemy doesn’t even need to do anything; we just turn on each other and are easily defeated.
There’s this great, gut wrenching scene in Braveheart when Robert the Bruce betrays William Wallace. Mel Gibson, notwithstanding, the acting is brilliant. The looks on their faces – when Wallace realizes what happened and the Bruce realizes he made the wrong decision – absolutely broke my heart.
This is what we do to each other. In small ways and in big ways, we force each other to retreat but at what cost? In marriages, we start to become immune to that look – that wild-eyed disbelief that someone you trusted, someone you held close and adored could have thrown away your alliance, your commitment to be on your side, come what may. It doesn’t register in your brain – it shouldn’t register in your brain. It’s completely inconceivable. But over time we let it sink in and we let it be. It’s a war, people. It’s a battle of my will – but not against my husband’s will. But against something much bigger and more dangerous. Our enemy prowls seeking whom he may devour. He wants us to fail. He wants us to stop trusting each other. He wants us to make selfish decisions. He wants us to claim our rights in an arrogant, entitled way. He wants us to obsess and hold grudges, to keep an account of every way we hurt each other and whatever imbalance of equality we perceive. He wants us to have a contingency plan, a back door exit, an emergency slide so that should the war not go well, we can hightail it out of there and save ourselves. But the truth is there is no saving yourself. You both win or you both lose. There is no “my” side and “his” side. Except on our bed.
The beautiful thing about Braveheart of course is that Robert the Bruce comes around in the scene between him and his father, a decrepit corrupt old man, a true picture of what happens to us in our bitterness and our scrambling for power driven by greed and ego and pride. These things are our enemies, with no place in our marriages. I don’t ever want to entertain betrayal or look for an escape path. I’d rather die a thousand painful deaths than turn on my beloved. I pray the day I feel otherwise that my heart would break in two and I would remember these words I write. “I will never be on the wrong side again.”