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Are You Frustrated in Your Marriage?

By Michael Desgrosseilliers, Elijah House PASTORAL COUNSELOR

Marjorie and I have been married for almost 37 years, despite our initial efforts to the contrary.

For the first several years of our marriage, I worked so hard to fix what I saw to be her deficiencies, and she worked so hard to fix mine. As you might imagine, our well-meaning diligence did not have a positive effect on our relationship. 

What do you think a couple gets in that situation—when they are each trying to fix the other person? A lot of frustration on both sides. 

Dealing With Bitter-Root Expectations in Your Marriage

Marjorie’s dad was unattached to her. She learned at an early age that she was expected to be a servant. She had to look good so he would look good. 

She is a really talented person, and when she was a child, her dad would brag on what an amazing daughter he had. This, and many other things, created a wound in her heart, and she grew up with a bitter-root expectation that the primary man in her life would expect perfection from her, like her father did. 

When she married me, I became the primary man in her life—and I also became the focus of her bitter-root expectation with her father. She didn’t realize her heart belief at the time, but this was essentially her attitude: “My father was this way, and I expect Michael to be this way too. It is not possible for him to be any other way.” 

A bitter-root expectation is like a bully in the spiritual realm. It pushes people around and tries to compel them to be and act exactly as the expectation says they will be and act. 

Unfortunately, a lot of what Marjorie was expecting from me came to pass because I reacted to what I sensed in the atmosphere. It was not her fault that I responded to this spiritual pressure; I was responsible for how I reacted to it—and react I did. 

You know the saying about pushing somebody’s buttons? Those buttons are tender spots made by wounds. Bitter-root expectations usually spring out of those tender places. 

What Causes Bitter-Root Expectations to Persist? 

Two primary problems cause bitter-root expectations to repeat—and potentially intensify—in a marriage. 

First, these expectations prevent us from seeing the other person’s heart. There is a lack of “in-to-me-see” (intimacy), which leads us to judge or condemn the other person regarding an issue. 

Second, we try to apply a fix to the issue according to logic and reason, which usually isn’t what the other person needs. This can be especially true with men, as we are typically more inclined to fixing a problem as it comes up, but that is hardly ever what a wife needs. 

What Brings Real Healing? 

Out of necessity, I learned early on at Elijah House that the only thing I could do to “fix” my marriage was deal with my bitter-root expectations. Even though I felt I knew what my wife needed to do to change—fixing her was not my responsibility. That was the Holy Spirit’s job. 

What was my responsibility was to love her unconditionally, to be patient and long-suffering with her (forgiving her when she hurt my heart), and to think the best of her. 

Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins. This does not mean sweeping them under the rug, but it means responding in forgiveness where forgiveness is needed and responding in compassion where compassion is needed. If we don’t respond that way to our spouse, the alternative is responding in condemnation. 

As her husband, my job is to love Marjorie with the type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and to trust the Holy Spirit to do whatever fixing needs to be done according to His timing. 

Figuring Out the “Why” 

When there is a problem in your marriage, first try to hear the other person’s heart. 

Following this, you and your spouse can open your hearts to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to show you the “why” behind the problem. Then He can also reveal the solution. That is the remedy, and though it may seem simplistic to two people who are frustrated with one another, it is highly successful. 

Ask yourself these important questions: 

1. Why is this happening? What is the issue behind the problem? 

2. What does the Holy Spirit say is the solution? (Not so you can try to fix the problem in your own strength, but so you can hear the Holy Spirit.) 

That is how I counsel couples in prayer ministry. If they cannot work together and one keeps interrupting the other, I will separate them so they each have a chance to express their heart and get to the “why.” 

When a couple is frustrated in their relationship, “What is the problem?” is not the main question. Everybody knows what the problem is—it’s usually pretty obvious. People are angry, resentful, bitter, afraid, and so forth. 

The more important question is “Why?” 

“Why am I struggling with this?” 

“Why do I keep reacting this way?” 

“What is going on behind the scenes? What is going on in my heart?” 

Resolution can finally come when we get to the reason behind the problem. 

If we try to figure out the “why” by ourselves, it is a lesson in futility. Two people in a marriage cannot reason out the answer by themselves, even though they often think they can (at least in the beginning). Instead, they need to rely on the Holy Spirit to speak to them. He is the only One who can help them. 

The Holy Spirit leads us to understanding because He brings all things into remembrance at the right time (John 14:26). He will convict the heart where it needs to be convicted, and He will also bring comfort and resolution. 

He might gently say, “There is a problem here. You have a hurt in your heart.” 

We are then convicted and realize, “Oh, You are right! I want to take care of this.” That is when healing can come. 

Relying on the Spirit is the most profound thing a couple can do to solve their marital issues. The husband relies on the Holy Spirit and works on his issues, and the wife relies on the Holy Spirit and works on her issues. 

Are You a Frustrated Wife? 

This can go either way, but in many cases, the wife can be more aware of what is going on in the husband than the husband is aware of what is going on in the wife or even in himself. Generally speaking, a woman’s spirit tends to be more awake. She can tell if her husband is acting out of wounding versus being who he really is, and this means there may be times when she is more frustrated. 

“This isn’t who he is.” 

“My husband is acting like this is true about him, but I know it is not true about him.” 

“I know my husband is gifted in this area, but he doesn’t believe me.” 

If you are a frustrated wife, the most powerful thing you can do for your husband is work on your own issues as you listen to the Holy Spirit. 

• Do you believe any lies—about yourself or about him? 


• Where are you wounded? 

• Do you have any bitter-root expectations that are pushing you to expect your husband to behave a certain way? 

Deal with those things, and love your husband well, according to 1 Corinthians 13. 

When I have been able to practice these steps with my wife, things work out well! When I have not been able to practice these steps with her, sometimes things work out less well. We are each responsible for our own stuff. 

Personally, I have found that the Holy Spirit is far more passionate for my wife’s healing than I ever could be…and vice versa.


God is with YOU

Years ago some friends of ours had a terrible house fire. Everyone was able to get out, but they ended up in different areas of the yard. The youngest thought her dad was still in the house and darted back into the flames. Dad had just come around the corner when his bride yelled to him that their youngest went back into the house looking for him. He ran into the flames, found her, and carried her out to safety. Both of them were badly burned. 

Dad and daughter were admitted into the burn unit for treatment. The following day, our friend’s wife was distraught with grief sitting next to his bed. He became conscious and saw her there, teary eyed and traumatized. He reached out and took her hand in his, looked her straight in the eye, and said, “God is with us.” 

Listen! A virgin will be pregnant, she will give birth to a Son, and he will be known as “Emmanuel,” which means in Hebrew, “God became one of us.” (Isa. 7:14 TPT)

Dear ones, our Emmanuel, Jesus, became one of us, and He is with us in more ways than we are aware of. What you are facing—whatever is pressing down upon you—will be met head on by our Emmanuel if you focus on Him. He does not leave you alone in trouble. 

The truth is this: “What we focus on we empower.” My friend’s bride felt the presence of God’s Spirit when her husband spoke to her. So, like my friend, I say to you, “God is with us.” 

Blessings to you and your family,

Bill Frisbie

Spiritual Director

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