Updated: Oct 29, 2018
They drove each other crazy before they were married, now they just drive each other up the wall. How did it happen? The answer lies in Eden.
In the Beginning.
Eve looked adoringly into Adam's eyes, her love for him threatening to completely overwhelm her. She couldn't imagine life being any other way.
Fast forward one week.
The panorama was totally different. The very first man and woman had seen their eternally bright future together come crashing down. One bite of the forbidden fruit and the world they knew vanished forever. Post-Fall, they faced a future of striving, thorns and struggles. Even the way they related to each other had changed. Gone was the perfect ease and total understanding they had before.
If they were to ever regain pieces of Eden, at least in their marriage, they were going to have to do something they never had to do before...they were going to have to work at it.
Authority and Influence
Understanding what happened to Adam and Eve's relationship at the Fall is key to understanding how the enemy still tries to divide husband and wives today. To prevent husbands and wives from standing back to back and fighting against his schemes, the enemy has propagated the lie that our enemy is in fact our spouse. One of the strategies he uses to keep couples in a constant state of conflict is to pervert a husband and wife's god-given roles.
Adam's role and spiritual DNA centers around authority.
Before I go any further, a word about authority— for those who have experienced the harshness of mishandled authority, I can understand how the very word might make you cringe. But please hear me out. We are talking about a pure, holy authority here— the type that is totally unselfish and doesn't seek to lord it over others, but is rooted in love. The ultimate aim of such authority is to guide and protect. It is strong and gentle at the same time— the kind of authority that Jesus (the "Lion and the Lamb") demonstrated. Another factor that may have colored your perception of authority is the lie that many have been fed, that authority implies "hierarchy" and therefore has overtones of inequality. We have been taught to believe that the leader, the one in a position of authority, has more value. This is not the case with Biblical authority. Jesus, the greatest authority figure of all, took on the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:7). He understood that to be in a position of authority is to serve. Before the fall, you could not find a more complete example of an "equally-yoked" couple. They were two valuable sides of the same coin.
Eve's role and spiritual DNA centers around influence.
Now, I am not trying to imply that Adam doesn't carry any degree of influence or that Eve doesn't possess a measure of authority, but rather, that there are traits that are more prominent in each one (otherwise how would a mother have the authority to discipline her children, or a father be able to teach them?)
The serpent went to Eve first because he knew that she carried influence. He knew that to get to Adam he was going to have to go through her. Time and time again in the Bible, we see how women have used their God-given influence, either for good or evil. Abigail used her influence to save David from committing a grave sin, but Delilah used her influence to destroy Sampson. Jezebel used her influence to plot and kill, while Esther used hers to save her nation. Godly influence is powerful. It was originally created to have a positive effect- to encourage, warn, nurture and guide.
The Battle Begins
After the Fall, the enemy quickly got to work corrupting these two traits— authority and influence— to turn Adam and Eve against one another.
When you pervert authority, it becomes domination. When you pervert influence, it becomes control.
The agent behind this dysfunction is usually fear— each spouse wants or needs something but fears not getting it. He needs to be respected, but fears his wife using manipulation to control him. She craves his love and understanding but is afraid of being dominated and treated harshly. When those needs are not met, often husbands and wives respond to each other in a way that reinforces their spouses fear, creating a vicious cycle.
(Note: for a more comprehensive explanation of the "Crazy Cycle," the book Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is a wonderful resource).
The authority/influence dilemma can also be directly correlated to the roles Adam and Eve played in the Fall. After Eve led her husband into temptation, it created a breach in his ability to trust her influence. And when Adam blamed Eve, he effectively removed his covering from her. Even today, husbands and wives continue to feel the effects of the Fall in their relationships. Marriages require work to prosper and must be vigilantly guarded against the lies of the enemy:
"You have to force him to change his actions. If you don't he will hurt you."
"You have to keep her in line. If you don't she will manipulate you."
"He doesn't care about you. The only way to get the message across is by nagging."
"She wants to clip your wings, to have everything her way. Don't give in man."
So how can spouses "take back Eden" in their marriage and restore godly authority and influence? Now that you understand how and why the enemy tries to exploit marriages, here are some practical questions you can ask yourself next time you are faced with a potential conflict:
1) Is there some kind of fear I am dealing with due to an unmet need, and,
2) Am I being tempted to use my authority/influence in a negative way?
Your honest answer might sound something like;
"Yes, I am afraid in this situation that my husband is not being loving toward me. I feel tempted to disrespect him so that he 'gets it'". or,
"Yes, I want to avoid my wife's disrespect right now and I fear she is trying to control me. I am tempted to act in an unloving way toward her to make her stop."
Lastly, ask God to reveal to you any deception at work. Ask him to reveal any misunderstandings you may have and to show you your spouse's heart. Most of the time, a godly man or woman's intentions are not malicious. In spite of their shortcomings, they don't desire to harm the other, just to make ourselves understood. Ask God to show you where your spouse may be fearful of not having a need met, or may be coming from a place of pain or woundedness.
Your next step is to do battle in the spirit. For spiritual warfare strategies, see "Fight More to Love Better."