Holy Tension In Marriage

The nature of tension brings with it the feeling of being “stretched.” Of course being stretched a little is different from being stretched a lot. A little stretching is good for us, a lot….not so much.

Think of our own bodies. Our bodies were created to withstand the tension of being stretched. When a person is no longer able to move around and stretch, the body begins to deteriorate. Our bodies were created to need movement and to operate at their highest potential through rest and “some pain.”

Good pain…the pain that comes from challenging the status quo…the pain that comes from certain disciplines because we would rather be doing something else… you know, something that brings temporary pleasure instead of long-term health and happiness. Like eating a donut.

And that’s why having holy tension in your marriage is a good thing.


We typically marry someone who is different from us…in many ways. And even those who marry someone with similar interests and personalities come into to a marriage with different life experiences…and so lies the tension.

I’ll never forget the day Nathan explained to me why he folded towels the way he did. Of course his mom did it the way he wanted me to do it, but there was also a good reason. He explained that it allowed for more towels to be put in any given space. And I felt the tension…

I fussed a little but gave into his logic. And I folded towels the way he wanted towels folded up until November of 2015. And then I decided to challenge the status quo of towel folding and showed him how I would like the towels to be folded in our new home.

Can you believe my husband simply said ok and started folding the towels the way I wanted without one spec of tension? I even tried to create some tension by reminding him how I had folded towels the way he wanted for 26 years. But he wasn’t going there…in fact, he didn’t even remember our first tense towel folding conversation! Go figure…

It’s safe to say, my husband no longer cared about such trivial matters.

In all seriousness, holy marriage tension is something we need to understand. And I hope to convey why…

First I will attempt to define my idea of holy marriage tension:

Holy marriage tension is a genuine and healthy desire for a marriage to be what God created it to be and will risk the safety of calm waters that’s really leading to a cliff the marriage won’t survive. In other words, holy tension is the courage to say, “If we keep heading in this direction, our marriage is not going to survive,” or in some cases, not rise up to the potential God created it for.

Typically there is one person in the marriage who is just content to be married. As long as they are fed, have a roof over their head and feels their sexual desires are being met, they think life is grand. (And no, this is not always the man…)

And then there’s the spouse whose dreams involve more than eating, having sex and sleeping…they actually want to grow as a person...mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually and in physical health. Please know I am not saying there aren’t marriages where both people want this or even each person wants it in some areas but not others. However, in our experience and hearing the experience of others, many times there is one spouse who feels frustrated over a “stagnant” or “dead” marriage. It might be that both people feel the frustration but one is ready to risk making a fuss about it.

A holy fuss that creates holy tension.

Holy marriage tension by doing things that create needless pain is the wrong kind of stretching and for some it will cause the marriage to break apart. Seeking temporary comfort in an affair, turning to a substance to self-medicate or just plain hardening your heart will not wake up a dead marriage or challenge a complacent one. This kind of tension can lead to the cliff that the marriage will not survive….

And yes, some marriages do survive…some marriages wake up to mercy and are healed…

but there is a much better way.

(I will forever sing the praises of God’s mercy for taking our mess of a marriage and turning it into what we have today. Not a perfect, tension free marriage but a marriage where both of us are committed to keep Jesus as our First Love. A marriage purposefully and joyfully loving one another and cheering one another on to become all God created us to be as individuals and a married couple.)

But for those who want the better way…not hardening your heart, not turning to another lover, not using a substance to dull the pain but you want to DO something, even as you pray…here are a few ideas:

-Ask for help. Ask for help from someone you trust and someone who can help you process what’s going on in our marriage.

-Tell your spouse you are concerned about the future of your marriage if something doesn’t change. Make no threats…no manipulations, just an honest, “I’m feeling unsure and fearful about the direction we are going in our marriage.”

-Ask your spouse what they think about your marriage relationship. Listen to their heart. If they seem to be oblivious, share gently what you think about it.

-Tell your spouse you want marriage counseling. If they are unwilling to go, go by yourself.

Most likely, if you are in a dead or dull marriage, these ideas will create tension. However, if you start here and you confront your spouse with tenderness, not anger, it can lead to some movement…and movement can be good and healthy if you understand that a gentle stretch is a good stretch.

Holy marriage tension is ultimately about fighting for intimacy and intimacy is something much bigger than having a care-free, comfortable marriage. God created each one of us for intimate relationship…to know that we are fully known and loved. And when we get settled in this truth with our Creator…that He knows us fully and loves us deeply, we take risks to help others know the same thing.  Sometimes that other is our spouse. Sometimes there is one spouse who is longing for intimacy with their spouse because they’ve tapped into how blessed it is with God. They want the same relationship with their spouse and they are willing to face the tension to say, “God has something better for us in our marriage relationship.”

It’s not easy…there is no perfect way or formula…but there are others who have gone before us who can help us, pray for us and cheer us on. They can share hope, offer wisdom and just sit with us. We’ve had others do it for us and we are now doing it with others…and it’s worth it. Asking for help was the best thing Nathan and I did after we fell off the cliff that could have ended our marriage…And if we can help prevent others from getting to the cliff, we can see a little less needless pain in families. And for those who have fallen off, we can pray for a miracle knowing God raises the dead.

Most of our marriage help had little to do with our marriage and had mostly to do with our individual relationships to God,  the One who created marriage. Though we benefited from learning some communication techniques about our tone and the timing of conversations, our greatest help came from asking God to heal our own hearts and show us how to love even as He loves. With both of us seeking God first, everything else began to fall in to place…for real.

“But seek First the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33









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